How to grow dragon fruit in Perth

Growing dragon fruit in Perth

I love fresh dragon fruit! It is brimming with wonderful nutrients and is easy to grow. Also known as sweet pitahaya, is a stunning looking tropical fruit borne on arboreal cacti plants. Dragon fruit is a strange looking fruit resembling a magical dragon egg. Cut through the vibrant pinky red skin to reveal white or pink flesh speckled with tiny black seeds and a similar texture to a kiwi fruit.

Dragon fruit, like all exotic tropical fruits, is usually enjoyed when eaten fresh. The flesh is described as delicately sweet, crisp and refreshing. Dragon fruit can  also be used to make salads, fruit salads, jams, and as a garnish in cocktails.

If you have ever wondered how to grow dragon fruit in Perth then look no further. A relatively simple fruit to grow there are a few tricks to successfully growing dragon fruit in Perth, Western Australia but get these right and you will be laughing.

When to plant dragon fruit in Perth:
Dragon fruit grows on cactus plants which love warm, humid climates and needs very little water. They are subtropical plants which need at least six hours of sunlight per day. They will also grow well in a warm and sunny spot indoors. The dragon fruit prefers a dry tropical climate with an average temperature of 21–29°C, but it can withstand temperatures as high as 38–40°C and as low as 0°C for short periods. This means Western Australia has some ideal dragon fruit growing conditions.

The best time to plant dragon fruit cuttings in Perth, WA is April – May.

Types of dragon fruit in Western Australia:
The name dragon fruit is used to refer to several types of cacti that produce edible fruits. The most popular varieties of dragon fruit cacti are:

  • Hylocereus undatus –  white flesh with pink/red skin (most popular in Australia)
  • Hylocereus costaricensis –  purple/red flesh and pink/red skin. Also known as H. polyrhizus.
  • Hylocereus megalanthus  – white flesh with yellow skin

There are also named varieties available but the good news is that regardless of what type you get they all need the same basic growing conditions.

How to grow dragon fruit at home:
Because seedlings of dragon fruit are slow growing and unreliable for fruit production, dragon fruit propagation from existing dragon fruit plants is the easiest method of dragon fruit cultivation.

Once the roots have developed, the cuttings can be planted into well-drained or mounded soil beds up to 300mm high. Fertiliser should be included in the planting hole and then applied after the first month.

Cuttings are grown on a range of support systems. In Australia, vertical poles with horizontal arms or a grid at the top are commonly used.

You’ll need to wait between one and three years for fruit using this method.

How to grow dragon fruit in pots:
Growing dragon fruit in pots is a great idea, especially for those who live in cooler parts of Western Australia, planting dragon fruit in pots is smart move as you can move your plant to a warmer position whenever necessary (including into a greenhouse). In the right conditions, dragon fruit plants grow can grow quite tall and will put down aerial roots.

When choosing a pot, look for one that is about 250mm deep and 600mm wide. Fill it with good quality cacti potting soil that is a bit sandy and slightly acidic.

Dragon fruit plants are climbers so support them with a stake, trellis or something else to climb on.

When to harvest dragon fruit:
Dragon fruit growing season can commence fruiting about 12 -36 months after cutting plant-out (if plant-out is in April or early May while relatively warm conditions favour fast establishment).

Dragon fruit is productive in the warmer parts of Western Australia including Carnarvon from early February through to the end of July. However, July crops can be  substantially damaged by mature fruit splitting,  pruning regimes are required to discourage July fruit maturation.

Pick the mature fruit as soon as colouration is complete, preferably in the cool of the morning. Transfer immediately to the fridge to improve storage life (beyond 14 days in-store is achievable if stored properly).

Storing dragon fruit at home:
Store the dragon fruit in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Dragon fruit stores best at temperatures between 7 and 10 degrees Celsius. Store refrigerated fruit for up to three months. Scoop the pulp from the skin with a spoon once the dragon fruit has been cut.

Dragon fruit care and common problems:
Dragon fruit plant care is essential. Many pests are known to attack cacti including ants, caterpillars, mites, scale insects, beetles, slugs, borers, nematodes, fruit flies, mice, rats and birds. Netting may be required for dragon fruit to keep the birds away.

A watery rot is also a problem if conditions are too wet or the plant has suffered injury.

Notes:
One of the easiest ways to kill dragon fruit plants is by over-watering it. If you water the plant too often, you could cause the roots to rot.

Check out our other how to grow in Perth guides:

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