How Quick Do Dragon Fruit Bushes Develop?

Dragon fruit (Hylocereus undatus), also referred to as pitaya or pitahaya, is a tropical cactus native to Latin and South America. This perennial vining cactus is hardy in USDA zones 10-11 however will be grown in containers and moved indoors for overwintering in cooler climates. This distinctive plant grows vigorously from cuttings, nevertheless it takes a little bit of persistence earlier than it begins to fruit.

Let’s dig into the progress levels of dragon fruit and what to anticipate at every part of improvement.

How Quick Do Dragon Fruits Develop?

With its broad, triangular green stems and elongated, spiky leaves, the dragon fruit plant bears nocturnal yellowish flowers and distinctive pink fruits with scaly, leathery skin.
This cactus can bear fruit inside one to a few years.

You possibly can count on fruit one to a few years after planting this cactus. In its native heat subtropical local weather, this cactus grows as much as one inch per day! If began from cuttings, it takes one to 2 years for the plant to start fruiting. The primary yr is usually dedicated to upward vegetative progress. Subsequent years are centered on manufacturing, with peak fruiting cycles starting three to 4 years after planting

This cactus can dwell for 10-20 years, producing as much as 220 kilos of fruit per plant in zones 9-12. In cooler zones, the cactus is usually grown in a container and have to be moved indoors for the winter. It might take longer and produce much less total as a result of dimension and temperature limitations.

Within the early years, these vines climb a trellis quickly after which increase right into a tree-like form on the high. After your plant reaches the highest of its trellis, you’ll be able to start “tipping” or “forcing” fruit. This easy methodology entails snipping off the guidelines of the vines to advertise flower bud formation. As a substitute of channeling its vitality into extra vegetative progress, the cactus will concentrate on producing flowers and fruit.

Development Phases of Dragon Fruit

This perennial cactus is thought for its ultra-sweet, vibrant fruits and super-fast progress. When you plant a chopping in your backyard, you should use a marker to trace the expansion on a picket trellis publish. 

The cactus will visibly develop in top every single day all through the summer time. This speedy progress culminates in a tree-like form on the high of the trellis. As soon as the plant has established ample vegetative progress, it begins producing floral buds and fruits. Nonetheless, you will need to change your upkeep, pruning, and fertilization practices relying on the plant’s stage of improvement.

Listed below are the important thing progress levels and what to do at every stage: 

Slicing or Seedling (1-2 Months)

Close-up of seedlings, which are vertical, elongated, succulent stems with thin white spines on the ribs.
Ranging from cuttings ensures constant progress and fruit high quality.

At this progress stage, these crops appear like unusual little inexperienced nubs with wavy edges. The easiest way to begin this plant is by chopping it or shopping for it from a longtime store-bought plant. It isn’t beneficial to begin from seed as a result of they take as much as 5 years to achieve maturity. Furthermore, seeds don’t at all times produce true-to-type varieties with probably the most coveted flavorful fruits. 

Rising from chopping ensures that you’ve the precise genetics because the mom plant. Cuttings are clones of the plant from which they’re taken. As you’ll be able to think about, bigger cuttings develop quicker than smaller ones. If potential, take a 7-12 inch lengthy stem chopping proper on the level the place the stems merge into woody nubs.

You should definitely establish the variability first and put together cuttings. This methodology is extraordinarily low-cost and means that you can propagate plenty of cacti without delay. Nonetheless, you will need to have entry to a mature plant with plenty of further foliage that may stand up to pruning.

Shopping for Seedlings

Close-up of dragon fruit plant seedlings in black pots in a garden center.
Choosing nursery crops ensures faster progress and earlier manufacturing.

Nursery crops are the subsequent most suitable choice in case you should not have entry to mature cacti. Some nurseries promote Hylocereus undatus as small or medium-sized crops. It’s possible you’ll have to discover a nursery that makes a speciality of succulents, cacti, or tropical crops. The crops needs to be clearly labeled with their cultivar. Make sure that the leaves are inexperienced, vibrant, and wholesome. Examine for any indicators of pests or illness (like orange dots indicating cactus rust) earlier than you’re taking the plant dwelling.

For the reason that crops arrive already rooted, you’ll be able to have a jumpstart to progress. Within the correct circumstances, established seedlings can develop as much as one inch per day, vigorously climbing their trellis! When you begin with a one to two-gallon potted plant, the expansion stage will speed up. It’s possible you’ll get fruit throughout the first yr!

It is very important transplant the younger cactus into a bigger pot (ideally, 20-25+ gallons) as quickly as potential. Use a bamboo or picket stake to maintain the cactus upright. It’s possible you’ll want twine or backyard tape to connect it to the trellis. It’s greatest to construct the trellis and plant the cactus on the similar time so that you don’t should transplant it once more. When transplanting, deal with the foundation ball gently, and make sure you hold the soil on the similar degree as within the container.

Roots and Stems (2-6 Months)

The leaf of the pitaya plant is elongated and spiky, with a deep green color.
Help and nourish younger crops for optimum progress.

As soon as a chopping or seedling is established, it begins constructing its root zone and rising its foliage. Don’t count on fruit from a child plant! Similar to people and animals, the plant should undergo a juvenile (vegetative) part the place it focuses solely on root and stem progress. At this level, it doesn’t have sufficient vitality and sources to commit to producing.

Pitayas don’t technically have true leaves; as an alternative, these wavy-edged inexperienced stems have a succulent texture and spines alongside the branches. You’ll discover that the stems type in increments. Each 12-18 inches, a stem will conjoin with the subsequent at a woody nub. These chunks or sections of stems appear like dangling sausage hyperlinks as they develop.

At this stage, it is very important present loads of vitamins. Use a slow-release all-purpose fertilizer on the time of planting. A better nitrogen ratio is fascinating to gas the vigorous progress that may ensue. Feed your crops often—as much as as soon as per week! Fish emulsion is a perfect natural fertilizer as a result of it promotes speedy progress with out risking fertilizer burn. 

Additionally it is crucial to maintain your plant upright. When you didn’t stake it firstly, it’s completely essential now. Proceed utilizing backyard tape or twine to connect the brand new stems to the stake so that they don’t flop over. Hold them pointed towards the sky!

Climbing Stage (7-18 Months)

The dragon fruit plant attached to a wooden support, features thick, fleshy green stems that are ribbed, supporting long, slender, and spiky leaves.
Watch your plant quickly climb trellises.

The vegetative progress continues with the speedy climbing stage. A plant with established roots and more and more extra stems can develop rather more shortly. This half is essential for the plant to construct its construction and climb its trellis.

When you use Epic Gardening founder Kevin’s trellising methodology, you’ll discover that the plant is quickly climbing alongside the vertical a part of the trellis. This stage continues till it reaches the higher sq. of the trellis and begins drooping over in a tree-like form.

YouTube video

You possibly can count on plenty of new inexperienced progress on this stage. Extra inexperienced stems imply extra floor space for photosynthesis. Like all crops, they use daylight, water, and carbon dioxide to provide sugars that gas progress. 

Photosynthesis occurs in chloroplasts, that are inexperienced cell organelles within the stems. Vibrant to darkish inexperienced coloration is an efficient signal that the plant is rising nicely. If the stems seem yellow or pale, they is probably not conducting photosynthesis correctly. This may be linked to underwatering, lack of daylight, or a nitrogen deficiency. 


Close-up of a gardener applying granular fertilizer to growing plants attached to a vertical support, with mulched soil.
Hold feeding with slow-release nitrogen fertilizer for vigorous progress.

Proceed offering the plant with slow-release all-purpose fertilizer with vital quantities of nitrogen. Nitrogen is vital for vegetative progress, however you don’t need to overdo it. Gradual-release natural fertilizers are excellent as a result of they progressively make vitamins out there to the plant over a very long time body. When you fertilized at planting, you might need to proceed side-dressing or making use of a liquid fish fertilizer each couple of weeks throughout the climbing stage.


Close-up of a gardener in a red and blue shirt, beige apron and blue gloves trimming leaves using pruning shears.
Prune facet shoots to spice up manufacturing and preserve plant well being.

Pruning can be excellent throughout the climbing stage. Similar to tomatoes or cucumbers, Hylocereus undatus produces “suckers” or facet shoots. These facet shoots can suck vitality away from manufacturing down the road. Pruning reduces extra vegetation and helps hold the plant tidy. It’s particularly essential within the fall, however you’ll be able to take away facet shoots all through the rising season.

Use sharp, sanitized shears to chop off any facet branches rising alongside the decrease components of the stem. These facet shoots shall be apparent as they emerge from the sides of the principle vine. It’s greatest to take away something shorter than six inches

This stage is full when the pitaya reaches the highest of its trellis. At this level, the cactus ought to start vining outward and drooping down, trying considerably like a cool unique tree. Necessary pruning and upkeep start as soon as the cactus has coated its trellis! Congrats—which means that the plant is mature and able to begin its reproductive part.

First Floral Buds (1-2 Years)

Close-up of a man's hand showing green to pink buds forming at the tips of the plant's stem.
Tip the stems to set off flower bud manufacturing and fruiting.

Lastly, your cactus has coated its trellis and matured sufficient to provide floral buds. Crucial factor to do at this stage is named “forcing.” Forcing, also referred to as tipping, is one of the best ways to make sure your plant shifts out of the vegetative part and into the reproductive part. 

Tipping means eradicating the rising ideas. Use sharp, sanitized shears to chop off one to 2 inches of progress on the terminal ends of every higher stem. Eradicating the following tips communicates to the plant, “Hey! You’re achieved with vegetative progress. It’s time to provide flower buds!” It’s greatest to tip your crops in mid-to-late summer time to arrange them for fruiting.

The seasonality of bud formation will depend on your rising zone and the climate. It may possibly occur any time, from late spring to early fall. Some crops undergo a number of flushes of progress, producing many harvests all year long. Nonetheless, within the first yr, don’t count on a large harvest. The juvenile cactus has simply shifted into maturity. Persistence is vital!

Floral buds can type wherever alongside the stem the place there’s a thorn. You’ll discover that the thorns begin trying like little warts. A wart is a constructive signal that flowers are on their manner. As soon as the primary flower buds type, they may grow to be fruit inside 35-70 days, relying on the variability. 

Flowers (30-35 Days After Budding)

The dragon fruit flower is large and showy, with vibrant colors ranging from white to yellow, and has multiple petals arranged in a star-like shape around prominent reproductive structures.
Look ahead to dazzling night-blooming flowers that sign dragon fruit progress.

Inside about one month of bud formation, flowers will start to open. Pitaya crops have a number of the most dazzling flowers within the plant kingdom! These night-blooming cacti typically bloom across the new moon or the total moon. 

The large blossoms normally open for less than 10-12 hours. Their ephemeral magnificence makes them further particular to witness, nevertheless it additionally makes pollination timing vital. It’s essential to watch your crops intently on this stage and hold reminders in your calendar to go exterior when the blossoms are opening.

The intense white flowers are naturally pollinated by bats within the wild. In your backyard, they might pollinate themselves or want somewhat assist. You should use somewhat paintbrush to switch pollen between blossoms. When you’ve got a self-fertile, self-pollinating selection, no human intervention is critical. These cultivars pollinate themselves.

About 4 to 5 days after the blossom closes, the flower will hold lifeless from the plant. Don’t fear! A lifeless flower normally signifies that pollination was profitable. The plant doesn’t want the blossom any longer. It needs to be changed with somewhat ball-like nub on the base of the withered flower. This nub will develop right into a fruit.

When you don’t discover any flowers, a number of points may very well be the trigger:

They want at the very least 6-8 hours of daylight per day. Indoor crops typically wrestle to obtain sufficient mild.

Nights beneath 65°F (18°C) will hinder blooming. This subtropical cactus wants very heat climate! A greenhouse could also be obligatory.

These cacti want extra water than your customary desert cactus.

The plant is probably not sufficiently old to provide blossoms and fruit but. Be affected person, as it will probably take a number of years for the plant to begin blooming.

Tipping is essential for dragon fruit cultivation as a result of it “forces” flowers.

Scale bugs and fungal infections.

Fruits (35-70 Days After Budding)

The dragon fruit on the tree is oval-shaped, with a vibrant pink skin covered in small scales.
Wait till fruits ripen totally earlier than harvesting for the perfect taste.

The complete means of flowering and fruiting can take as much as eight weeks. The pace of improvement will depend on the variability. ‘Vietnam White’ is among the quickest varieties to develop, and it is vitally beginner-friendly. 

This stage could be very apparent as a result of you will notice the warts on the base of the withered flowers rising bigger every single day. The fruits usually develop in an rectangular oval or pear form. Progressively, the skins change coloration from inexperienced to pink to vibrant fuschia

Don’t harvest till they’re totally ripe!

Ripening and Harvest

Close-up of a gardener in a plaid shirt harvesting dragon fruit with red pruning shears amidst lush, green tree stems.
Harvest earlier than wet climate impacts ripening.

Essentially the most thrilling stage is the ultimate ripening! You’ve fastidiously tended your cactus and anxiously awaited buds, flowers, and fruit to type. Because the pores and skin turns to shiny fuchsia, it’s important to watch them for peak ripeness.

Rising your personal pitaya is especially rewarding as a result of store-bought fruits usually lack taste. It’s because they’re harvested underripe. Hylocereus undatus is totally different from many different fruits as a result of it stops ripening as quickly as you decide it. In distinction, tomatoes and bananas proceed to ripen in your countertop as they’re uncovered to extra of the hormone ethylene. 

Finally, once you reduce them from the vine, they’re at their most ripeness. Persistence is important for the perfect taste.

The important thing indicators of ripeness embody:

  • Vibrant fuschia-pink to reddish pores and skin (relying on selection, uncommon varieties have yellow skins)
  • Slight softness or “give” when gently squeezed
  • Lowering quantities of inexperienced on the bracts (the dragon-tongue-shaped growths on the surface of the fruit)

To reap, use sharp pruners to chop every fruit on the base. It’s OK if it removes a small a part of the stem with it. You possibly can eat them instantly or refrigerate them. Many individuals consider chilled pitaya tastes even higher!

A Observe on Wet Climate: If there may be rain within the forecast and they’re near ripening, it’s greatest to reap as shortly as potential. You don’t need to go away partially ripened fruits out within the rain. They don’t ripen very nicely in wet climate.

It’s so much simpler to point out you ripe fruits than it’s to explain them. This video is amazingly useful for the harvest stage:

YouTube video

Closing Ideas

This cactus takes one to 2 years to develop from chopping to the primary harvest. You possibly can pace up progress by beginning with bigger cuttings or established crops. The important thing progress levels embody chopping, root institution, climbing (vegetative) progress, floral budding, flowering, fruiting, and ripening. 

Tipping is an important approach for “forcing” them to provide floral buds. After about one yr of progress, your plant needs to be mature sufficient to begin eradicating the guidelines and inducing buds. As soon as buds begin rising, flowers and fruit are on their manner inside two months!

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