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dragon fruit seeds

How to Grow Dragon Fruit From Seed

Whether magenta and green or bright yellow, the vivid colors of a dragon fruit are hard to miss in a grocery store produce aisle. The fruit tastes mild and subtle, with many small, dark seeds adding a satisfying crunch. This exotic fruit hails from an equally exotic plant — a tropical form of cactus native to Central America.

If dragon fruit has intrigued you, the small seeds scattered throughout its flesh can be sprouted easily and grown into a dragon fruit plant of your own. Plants can begin flowering in as little as six to eight months, although container-grown plants may take up to two years to bear fruit. The good news is that once the plant is mature, you could see four to six fruiting cycles a year from a plant that is capable of bearing fruit for 20 to 30 years.

Starting the Seeds

To grow dragon fruit from seed, slice a dragon fruit in half and use a spoon to scrape out some seeds. Rinse the seeds. Pulp will cling to the seeds, and it’s fine to plant with it attached. Fill a cup or small pot with sterile seed starter or cactus soil mix. Moisten the soil but avoid saturating it with water. Use the spoon to mix the seed into the top quarter inch of soil. Mist if needed to ensure this layer is moist and then cover with a plastic sandwich bag or clear food wrap. The cover will retain moisture and warmth.

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Place the pot under a grow light or in a sunny window. Keep warm and lightly water when needed. The seeds will sprout within 30 days and perhaps much sooner. Thin the seedlings or separate them and give some to friends.

Growing Outdoors

Dragon fruit can grow in the ground in USDA zones 9 through 11, although they must be protected from frost in zone 9. Outdoor dragon fruit thrive in sunny spots or in filtered sun in intensely hot areas. Temperatures that exceed 100 will harm the plant and cause wilt. In areas that receive lots of rain, site the plant on a hill or small mound so water will drain away. Add composted manure or other organic material to planting holes along with some slow-release fertilizer to speed growth.

Growing in Containers

In cooler climates, dragon fruit are ideal for containers. They grow well in a greenhouse, sunroom or indoors placed about two feet away from a sunny south-facing window. Plant lights, such as LEDs on timers, can be used to supplement natural light if needed.

To grow as a container plant, transplant a seedling into a pot with good drainage and use a cactus soil mix or one you blend yourself of sand and potting soil. Add compost to either mix. When the young dragon fruit is six inches tall, move it into a pot that is 15 to 24 inches wide and at least 10 inches deep. Add a trellis or climbing pole to the pot and tie the plant to the support. Outdoor dragon fruits require similar supports, or an arbor, since this is a climbing plant.

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Fertilizing

Begin feeding at three months of age using a low-nitrogen cactus fertilizer or granular 8-4-12 palm fertilizer. Dragon fruit are light feeders, so apply fertilizer every two months only while the plant is actively growing. In cooler areas, the plant will become dormant in fall. Stop fertilizing then and water less frequently until growth resumes in the spring.

Pruning

Fall is the time to prune larger dragon fruit. Sterilize your pruning shears, then remove any decaying or dead foliage or stems. Also, trim to open up areas that are crowded to improve airflow. Left on their own, dragon fruit can grow 20 feet high, so annual pruning is a must. Growth can be vigorous, and mature indoor plants will ultimately need a 20-gallon container.

Pollinating and Harvesting

When the plant begins to flower, prepare for a treat. Buds develop for several weeks, then, when ready to bloom, they open for just one night. Their showy flowers are among the largest in the plant world and release an intoxicating scent. While some dragon fruit plants are self-pollinating, others depend on bats or moths for pollination. To ensure success, it’s best to have a cotton swab on hand and transfer the pollen yourself. Online tutorials show how. Done successfully, the fruit will follow. Leave fruit on the plant until its colors become vivid. When the fruit has a slight give, it is time to harvest and savor the tasty fruit of your labor.

How to Grow Your Own Dragon Fruit

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.

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.

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?

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, don’t miss these popular Thai fruits.

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Links below include affiliates. As an Amazon Associate, I receive a small commission on resulting purchases at no cost to the customer.