Certainly, there are tastier fruits, but none more gorgeous. Some preliminary research told me that dragon fruit grows on cacti, sort of a cactus tree. Need to know more? Looking at your fruit bowl askance? Me too, let’s go.
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Growing your own dragon fruit
In December 2007, I had the bright idea to grow my own dragon fruit. The plants don’t bear fruit for seven years.
“It’s ok,” I told Mother Nature.
“I have time”.
Fast-forward way too many years, and here’s what I’ve learned.
Growing dragon fruit in hot and cold climates
1. In a hot, humid, sunny climate (like Thailand)…
Here’s some not-at-all-surprising news: the dragon fruit seeds I planted on Koh Samui have grown about 1,000 times faster than those I tried to grow in “cold country with actual winter”. As a cactus of sorts, they’ll thrive on neglect as well. If you have warmth, humidity and sunshine outside (or anything approximating it inside), you’ll have great success.
2. Growing dragon fruit in a cold climate…
I also planted some seeds in a pot at home, too (about a million – you get a lot in a dragon fruit). My results, all these years later? It turns out I don’t live in a perpetually sunny, humid, tropical oasis.
While most of the seeds germinated right away, I ruthlessly culled the weak and, today, have three or four 10-inch long “cactus sticks”. They seem happy enough with my total neglect, though it seems unlikely they’ll ever fruit. In this environment, they’re just a curious-looking houseplant but it’s definitely been worth the experiment.
Sound good? Want to try growing your own dragon fruit? If I can do it, it’s definitely a novice gardening activity. Here’s how to grow your very own (or, get everything from this post in a free 12-page mini-guide).
How to grow your own dragon fruit?
1. Get a major head-start
To get a major head-start, begin with a dragon fruit plant. After twelve-plus years with my dragon fruit experiment (growing from seed with minimal sunlight), I basically have an extended dragon fruit cutting – do yourself a favour and skip the early stuff. (If you want to exactly replicate my methods, you would steal a piece of dragon fruit from a fruit plate at a hotel brunch and use those seeds. It’s free, but excruciatingly slow).
Otherwise, I recommend that you skip ahead and start with a cutting or a small plant. If you’re in “not tropical” conditions like me, this might save you a few years of wishful thinking.
2. Set it up for success
More than anything – your dragon fruit plant wants the sunshine its cactus-y heart deserves. If you can’t provide that at home, supplement with some fake sunshine to increase your success. I never provided this and, as such, we do not have a warm and loving relationship. It’s prickly =)
As a cactus, your dragon fruit wants really good drainage. It prefers mildly acidic soil, into which I chuck some earthworm castings (ph neutral) when I’m feeling generous.
More tips for success: In a warm-ish climate, with decent sunshine (real or fake) and regular doses of worm castings or other nutrients, you should have good success with growing dragon fruit in a container – give it good drainage as well. My results (poor) involved none of the above. Do as I say, not as I did!
3. Water sparingly!
I like to play God with my dragon fruit babies – days/weeks/months of neglect and total drought and then, one day, a tropical storm from a vengeful watering can. If you’ve set your dragon fruit up in a cactus pot with good drainage, it won’t suffer from an occasional watering – but don’t water too often.
(How do I know this? When your dragon fruit babies turn into rotten brown squoosh … you’ve Helicopter Parented them to death).
1 – Dragon Fruit Cuttings – Get a massive headstart and purchase a dragonfruit cutting, rather than starting from seeds. Cactus sellers on Amazon offer a huge variety of both sizes and species – choose from white, purple, red and yellow dragonfruit including rare varieties.
2 – LED Grow Light – Supplement your sunshine and bring the tropics home (especially in winter months).
3 – Dragon Fruit Art – Remind yourself where you’re headed with this venture; add some dragon fruit art.
4 – Worm Factory – Add another science project to your dragon fruit attempts. Dragon fruit plants are heavy feeders and will appreciate all the worm castings they can get.
5 – Elephant Watering Can – Water sparingly, but do so with style.
6 – Dragon Fruit Powder – Pretend it’s the future, and start using dragonfruit in your smoothies today.
7 – Moisture Meter – Over-watering is perhaps the quickest way to kill your dragonfruit. I use this moisture meter to keep all my houseplants happy; highly recommended.
8 – Dragon Fruit Watercolour Pillow – Add to the obsession, with a dragon fruit pillow, available with indoor or outdoor materials in a variety of sizes.
9 – Red Dragon Fruit Super Snacks – Fuel your gardening efforts with dragon fruit chips. Add them to granola, baking or eat them straight from the bag.
10 – Cactus Soil Mix – Make sure your dragon fruit babies have superb drainage or they’ll turn into rotten mush. A cactus and succulent soil mix is ideal.
11 – Easy-Draining Plastic Planters – I struggled to find indoor planters that were (A) attractive and (B) had good drainage. These pots pass both tests.
12 – Growing Tasty Tropical Plants – Start with growing dragon fruit, then use this book to add an entire farm: passion fruit, guava, vanilla beans and more.
13 – Dragon Fruit Face Mask – What’s a garden centre during covid without a fruity face mask?
14 – Push the Zone: The Good Guide to Growing Tropical Plants Beyond the Tropics – Does your heart live in the tropics but your body (and plants) definitely don’t? This book will teach you how to push the limits of your growing zone.
16 – Earth Worm Castings – While your worm factory gets going, it’s easy to start with a bag of worm castings. Totally organic.
Then what happens?
You get ready to make dragon fruit kombucha?
Or, depending on your environment, you might one day end up with a fruiting dragon fruit – or certainly a flowering one. With such runaway success, you’ll quickly outgrow the houseplant phase and will move into larger containers and a dragon fruit that requires trellises or structural support. Otherwise – you might find yourself staring at a 6″ cactus-runt in twelve years’ time, slightly bemused at your personal science projects.
Best of luck in growing dragon fruit; patience not included, but if you like bizarre side projects, growing dragon fruit is a good one (as is making dragon fruit kombucha and growing your own mangoes). Enjoy!
P.S. If you’d like to expand your tropical expertise in the realm of Thai plants and Thai fruit, don’t miss the posts below.