Dragon fruit is an exotic tropical fruit, which is also called pitaya, strawberry pear fruit ,or nanettika fruit. It belongs to the cactus species and Hylocereus genus. The tree is native to Mexico and parts of South and Central America. It is also cultivated in many Asian countries including Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Philippines, and other tropical parts of the world like Hawaiian islands, south China, and north Australia.
The fruit is grown in a lot of different varieties, both sweet and sour. The sweet plants have three subspecies. The first one has red skin and white pulp, the second one comes with red skin and red pulp, and the third one comes with yellow skin and white pulp. The dragon fruit is a tropical plant, so if you wish to cultivate it, you need to recreate similar atmospheric conditions which are either subtropical or semitropical. Otherwise, cultivation in a greenhouse is your safest bet.
First off, you need seeds. You can buy ready-to-plant seeds from a nursery, order them online, or you can use seeds directly from a dried dragon fruit. The seeds take about 10 to 15 days to germinate. The better way is to see if you can find some plant cuttings from a nursery and get on with your gardening activities. The following tips should guide you perfectly.
Site Selection and Preparation
Make sure that the site of cultivation has a good drainage facility. Sandy loam soil with high organic content is ideal for cultivating these trees. To prep the site, you need to mound rows of PVC or concrete poles with a frame attached to their top from which the plants can hang down. The poles must be mounded at least 300 mm away and they shouldn't be more than 2 m long. You must maintain at least a 3 m distance between two plants and make sure that you plant only 1 to 4 plants per pole. It is also important to use an organic fertilizer at the time of planting.
Irrigation and Nutrition
Once you are done planting the seeds, it is necessary that you water them regularly. Under tree sprinklers with 1 to 1.5 m wetting area are suitable for suffixing the plant's daily need of 80 liters of water. Avoid over-watering as it may cause fruit-splitting, flower-dropping, yellowing of the plants, and slow shoot development. Regular mulching around the plants is also important along with providing dynamic lifter and dolomite every alternate month (100 g per plant).
Pests and Diseases
Harsh sun can damage the plants and put all your efforts to waste. Excessive amount of direct sunlight can cause the plants to rot. This plant is also susceptible to various kinds of pest infestation and may be attacked by meat ants or ginger ants. To avoid this, regular fertilization with organic pesticides is very essential. To protect the fruits from birds, make sure you provide proper netting to the plants.
Pruning and Harvesting
Pruning is an important step that helps you remove the side shoots. You need to maintain at least 50 main branches of the plants to get a healthy canopy. Once you are done with pruning, you can expect the first fruit season after 15 to 18 months of cultivation. The fruit can be harvested approximately after 28 days or a month, when it starts to turn pink from green.
If stored in a cool temperature (ranging from 7 degrees to 10 degrees), the dragon fruit can stay fresh for more than two months. Not only does it taste great, but its nutritional value is also tremendous. The fruit is loaded with antioxidant properties, vitamin C, calcium, carotene, iron, vitamin B complex, and many other important vitamins and minerals, which makes it all the more healthy and refreshing for your body.
The plant blooms only at night, which can affect the process of pollination. In such a case, you may have to encourage its growth with the hand pollination technique.