How To Grow Dragon Fruit At Home

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Learning how to grow dragon fruit is really not that hard, but these tips from a dragon fruit farm in California will get you the best results.

Dragon fruit is a cactus that has many names: pitaya/pitahaya, strawberry pear, belle of the night, cactus fruit, and night-blooming cereus. You’ve probably seen this strange looking fruit in the grocery store. The bright pink or yellow skin with alien-like spines is hard to miss. 

It might look intimidating, but the skin of this fruit is actually quite soft and the spines on the outside won’t stab you when you hold the fruit. And you’d never know from the look of it, but this is a fruit you can grow at home – if you’re willing to put in the work.

Dragon fruit garden
Dragon fruit garden in California.

What zones does dragon fruit grow in?

Dragon fruit is an exotic fruit, and in most of the southern US, you can grow a dragon fruit plant in pots on your patio if you’re careful to protect it from cold weather. If you live in US Hardiness Zones 10-11, you’ll be able to grow dragon fruit outdoors year round.

But no matter where you live if you want to grow dragon fruit cactus, I say go for it! Just bring it indoors or keep it in a greenhouse during the cold months of the winter, and expect that the plant may not grow as fast, large, or be as productive as it would be in a more natural environment.

How To Grow Dragon Fruit

A dragon fruit plant needs a lot of sunlight. If you’re aiming for fruit, make sure it’s getting 8 or more hours of bright to direct sunlight during the fruiting season. In some climates or if grown indoors, you may need to supplement with artificial lighting. If you’re not aiming for fruit, your plant will grow in less light but it won’t grow as fast or make flowers.

As a plant native to South America, the dragon fruit plant likes a warm environment and is sensitive to extremes. The ideal growing temperatures for dragon fruit are between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything below 32F will kill your plant. Anything over 100F will damage the fruit and cause it to wilt.

Dragon fruit cacti are climbers, so you’ll need to provide support for your plant to grow on. As it climbs, it will root into the support you provide, and it can be invasive if grown in the wrong location. Watering the pole when you water the plant will greatly improve results.

Overwatering is the quickest way to kill your dragon fruit. So only water when the top 1/3-1/2 of the soil is dry, but the plant is not wilting. Unlike other cactus, you don’t want to wait until the whole pot is dry – if your plant is withering or wilting, you’ve waited too long. Letting the plant wilt causes stress and will decrease flower/fruit production.

A drip line or mister from above works well for plants climbing on poles. To accomplish this, install a drip line and attach it to the center support in your container. Place the drip nozzle at the top of the support line and let it run down the pole. This is the most effective way to water your dragon fruit and will keep it very happy.

Fertilizing dragon fruit

Cacti are low maintenance plants. They are not heavy feeders and do not require a lot of fertilizer. In fact, over fertilization will harm your plant. Choose an organic, low nitrogen fertilizer and apply at planting and then every other month…even less in the winter.

Learn how to tell if your fertilizer is low in nitrogen with these fertilizer tips.

Growing dragon fruit in a container

This plant is best grown in a container in most environments. The container allows you to control the content and the moisture level of the soil more efficiently. When mature, these plants will need a container that is at least 10 inches deep and 24 inches wide. This equates to about a 10-gallon pot. Younger plants and stem cuttings, can be started in smaller pots and up-potted when they are more mature.

Dragon fruit, also known as Pitaya, is a vining cactus, so you will need to provide a sturdy support in your container. Otherwise, the cactus will grow over the edges of your container and sprawl along the ground until it finds something to climb.

Make sure to use a sandy, well-draining soil made for cactus plants. Any soil that holds too much moisture can lead to root rot. If your container does not have several drainage holes, then you will need to add them so the roots of the plant never become soggy.

We recommend you grow dragon fruit in containers.
Rows of dragon fruit trees on a farm in California.

If outdoors, pick a sunny location for your dragon fruit plant that provides at least 6-8 hours of sun. The plant will tolerate some shade, and may even require it in very warm environments – remember, anything over 100 degrees Fahrenheit will damage your fruit. When grown indoors, you’ll want give it the sunniest location you have (and/or supplement with artificial light).

Growing dragon fruit as a houseplant

Only recently have I seen plant shops offering small clusters of dragon fruit stems for sale as houseplants. They actually do make really cute little plants for your home or office. And if your expectation is that it will just be a houseplant, I don’t see why you shouldn’t add one to your collection.

These houseplant sized dragon fruit are not going to produce fruit for many years, but that is many years of growing pleasure you can still enjoy. These baby sized plants require the same care that adults do – minimum 6 hours of sunlight (more sunlight will make them grow faster, less will slow them down) and only water as needed. This may be once every week to once per month depending on the conditions in your home (brighter light needs water more often, low light less often) and the time of year (water needs decrease in the winter).

If you’re growing it as a houseplant, you can wait until the plant wilts before watering as you are not concerned about flowering/fruit. As long as you step in before it’s too dried out, it will perk up after you give it a drink. This does cause some stress to the plant, but it’s less stress than root rot. 

Dragon fruit flowers and fruit

One of the coolest things about the dragon fruit is its flowers. They are stunning ruffled white blooms, and what’s more, they are night blooming. That’s right, the blooms open after dark and only for one night! 

The stunning white and yellow blooms of a dragon fruit plant.
Stunning white flowers of the Pitaya cactus.

Dragon fruit plants that flower but don’t produce fruit are a common complaint of growers. This happens because most dragon fruit flowers are incomplete and require pollination. Some plants even require cross-pollination by unrelated varieties (just like blueberry plants) and still some others are self-pollinating. 

If you choose a variety that is not self-pollinating, then you will need to attract pollinators like bees, moths, or bats to pollinate them for you. If grown indoors, you’ll have to stay up at night or get up really early to pollinate the plants yourself. For home growers, the simplest course is to choose a self-pollinating plant.

When to prune dragon fruit

If you’re giving your dragon fruit optimal conditions for growth, then you will quickly find that your plant has grown so thick and so fast that it needs to be pruned. Pruning dragon fruit is usually done in the fall or as necessary to contain the plant within your desired space.

Letting the plant get too crowded will lead to problems with pests, fungus, and disease. Not only do crowded plants need more maintenance (watering and fertilizer), but they also do not produce as much fruit. Pruning the plant actually stimulates flowering and new growth, so it is a task you are encouraged to do.

Propagating dragon fruit from cuttings

The good news is that pruning your plant provides a bunch of new plants to grow or share. Sure, you can start dragon fruit seedlings from the seeds inside the fruit, but it is slow and has a frustratingly low success rate. Because of this, it is recommended that you grow dragon fruit from cuttings. 

To grow dragon fruit from a cutting, take a piece of a stem at least 12 inches long. Place the cutting into some well-draining soil mix burying 2 inches of stem under the soil. Water it only when the soil is dry and roots will form within 2-4 weeks. Once you see new growth, you know your cutting has established a healthy root system and it can be left or transplanted as needed.

Dragon fruit cuttings
Rows of dragon fruit cuttings in the foreground. Dragon fruit growing in containers and up the wall in the background.

When you’re ready to transplant, be gentle with the roots of your cutting and try not to disturb them too much. Gentle loosening of the small roots on the surface of the rootball is adequate. Plant your dragon fruit in fertile, sandy soil level with the rootball.

Types and varieties of dragon fruit

There are many varieties of dragon fruit that range in color, flavor, and production. Some dragon fruit need to be hand pollinated, some rarely set fruit even when pollinated. Some take longer to ripen, and some take a very short period to ripen.

It’s best to research which variety will work best for the conditions you intend to provide. Then you’ll want to make sure you are dealing with a reputable nursery or good friend. Make sure you trust that they are being honest about the type/variety of cutting you’ll receive.

Dragon fruit set on plant
Fruits growing on a dragon fruit tree.
  • Hylocereus undatus (Pitaya blanca) is the most commonly grown in commercial fruit production settings. It produces the bright pink fruit with white flesh.
  • Hylocereus costaricensis is a variety known for bright pink to red fruit and matching flesh. 
  • Hylocereus megalanthus produces yellow fruit with white flesh.
  • Hylocereus guatemalensis has a deep pink fruit with pink spines and a bright purple flesh.
  • Hylocereus polyrhizus has a beet red flesh and skin
  • Hylocereus stenopterus is an uncommon variety that produces green fruit with white flesh

How to tell when dragon fruit is ripe

Once your dragon fruit plant sets fruit, wait to harvest it until it turns color. Most dragon fruit will turn a gorgeous bright pink magenta color, but some are bright yellow.

In general, the longer it stays on the plant, the sweeter it gets. In most cases, a dragon fruit takes about 30 days to ripen.

Dragon fruit pests and problems

When grown indoors, dragon fruit plants can get in trouble with mealybugs, mites, aphids, and sometimes ants. If given the opportunity, ants will attempt to eat your fruit before you can harvest it, so watch out for those nasty pests! Treat pests with an appropriate pesticide as soon as you see them to prevent a major infestation. Here are some natural methods of ant control to consider.

Another common problem of dragon fruit grown at home is root rot caused by overwatering. This is one of the reasons why it’s recommended to grow pitaya in containers vs in the ground. Watch the soil to make sure it’s draining well, and only water when the top 1/3-1/2 of the container is completely dry but before the plant is wilted. 

Sliced dragon fruit
The luscious magenta fruit of the Pitaya cactus.

Dragon fruit recipes

This white flesh of this exotic fruit is really unique and yummy! It is super hydrating and especially satisfying when chilled, and the tiny black seeds add a nice crunch to the soft and creamy texture of the flesh. Aside from the deliciously delicate flavor, the fruit of a dragon fruit tree is has many health benefits. It’s full of antioxidants, easy-to-digest carbohydrates, and omega fatty acids in the seeds.

There are many ways to use dragon fruit including sauces, salads, and smoothies, but it’s also quite good sliced in half and eaten out of its skin with a spoon. Truly, eating your dragon fruit is the best part of growing it. A chilled fruit tastes much better, in my opinion. Slice your fruit in half and eat it out of its shell like a bowl of ice cream. So amazingly delicious!

Dragon fruit tastes great in all sorts of recipes. Try one of these.

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  1. Hi,
    I started this fruit from seed and I have 4 healthy 4″ plants. I’m in Zone 3 so planting outside is not happening. At this stage I noticed what looks like white roots coming out from near the top of the plant. Since this is my first time growing this I don’t want to waste 8 months of progress. Any suggestions?

    1. They are air roots looking to attach to something, so they can climb. I work on a dragonfruit farm.

    1. First, check to make sure that it’s not over-watered. The soil should NOT stay wet or damp. Make sure there is adequate drainage if it’s in a pot. Then make sure it’s getting enough sunlight (at least 6 hours, 8 is better). If it’s an older plant that has been in the same soil for a long time, you can try a little bit of LOW NITROGEN fertilizer. I hope this helps. 🙂

    2. There are yellow dragon fruits they have white flesh with black seeds so you may have the yellow variety which in my opinion are way sweeter than red dragon fruit

    1. Hi, Franella! Excellent question! All you have to do is cut off a small segment (a few inches is fine) and bring it inside for a few days to let the cut end scar over. Once the cut end is healed, place the cutting into some growing medium, water lightly, and let it grow. Super easy! 🙂

  2. Hi
    Please I need your advice on the Cuttings for nursery – I used the side Cuttings for nursery and not the branches which already gave the fruits.
    Please help me to know if the nursery plants will work and will the fruits grow within the plants.

  3. How long after planting the cutting will it give fruits. I planted the cutting. Now I have a extra coming out. And it has some things coming out. I think trying to catch something to hold on to. When will it give me fruit. It’s been 5 month since I planted it.

    1. Dragon fruit usually makes fruit in the summer through the fall. Cuttings in ideal environments may fruit within one year, but sometimes it takes longer. You are correct that the things you’re seeing come out of the cactus are little roots looking for something to grab onto.

  4. Thanks for writing this. I have 5 plants that I was told are dragon fruit, but if I go off what you have written I am second guessing if they are. Each plant has a different colored flower. One has a bright yellow flower and the other 4 have varying shades of pink to magenta? Or do they only have whitish flowers?

  5. Hi I m from India
    I have 1000 pole farming dragon fruit I want to know how much piece per pole per year and also want to know about how to grow as fast as much in sort period

    1. Hi Nirav, flowering and fruit set for dragon fruit is highly dependent on your variety and the way they are grown. If it is very hot, your plants might benefit from some shade. However, too much shade can delay flowering. It will take some trial and error to figure out exactly what works for your plants in your environment. Other things to consider: dragon fruit flowers on stems that are 2 years or older. Flowering is triggered by warm weather and longer days of summer (I have heard some farmers use string lights over their plants to mimic longer days and extend the growing season). Some say pruning dragon fruit plants before the flowering season will induce more flowers to form. Your plants may need to be hand pollinated to form fruit – this is dependent on variety.

      I hope you can use some of this information to increase production on your plants. I’m sorry I can’t give you an exact answer to your question, though. Let me know how it goes!

  6. Laura, I have had dragon fruit plants in my yard for many years and only ever had one fruit. This year I cross pollinated two plants. How long before I know if this worked, and how long to fruit if I was successful? Thanks!

      1. First time visiting website. I as well am interested to know if any fruit was produced from the dragons in the yard.

  7. Hi,

    What month is the best to plant a dragon fruit tree? How deep do I plant a dragon fruit tree on the ground? I’m living in California. Thank you.

    1. Hi Martin! You should plant your dragon fruit in the spring – April/May. If you’re planting a cutting, set it just 2-3 inches deep into the soil and stake it right away to keep it upright. It will take 2-3 weeks for it to develop new roots. If you are planting a tree that is already potted, you should plant it level with the soil line.

  8. Hello Laura,

    I belong from India, and am interested in dragon fruit farming. I wanted to know what the ideal temperatures are for this plant and what is the required TDS level of water, the soil preference. The usual temperatures in India are around 20-40 degree Celsius. Please help me understand.

    Thank You.

    1. Hi Mahendra, dragon fruit will grow well in sandy loam soil but are quite adaptable to heavier soils. They prefer a pH of 6.5-7.5 and do not grow as well in more acidic or alkaline soils. Dragon fruit grows best in moderate temperatures, and doesn’t tolerate freezing temperatures well. However, in your location, you will struggle more with the heat. At 32-40C, you will need to provide them a little shade as they won’t produce fruit when it’s that hot. I do not have any advice about the TDS levels of water. We use well water and rain to water our plants. Best of luck with your farming adventure.

  9. Hi there. Thanks for the helpful info. I live in the SF Bay Area. Someone gave me 4 2-foot-long pieces of dragon fruit cactus. Two questions. 1. How do I tell which way is up? (Both ends have scarred or are closed.) 2. Do you suggest a pot or the ground?

    1. Hi Robin! It won’t matter which end you put in the soil. The plant will figure it out. 🙂 Personally, I would start it in a pot and then transplant to the ground later if you need/decide to. This time of year, it may take several weeks for the cuttings to establish good roots and you can protect it from cold weather more easily in pots. I recommend using a cactus soil/seed starting mix as denser soil may slow the development of roots. In a couple of months, give it a dose of fish fertilizer and then you can transplant outdoors in April or May if you choose. Have fun!

  10. Hey i appreciate your knowledge on the plant 👌 I’m getting two cuttings and I plan on starting them indoors since I live in Massachusetts. How many months until you think they start fruiting ? The cuttings are about 6 inches. I read that it can take about a year from cutting.

    1. Hi Tariq, it depends some on when the cuttings were taken and their environment. Cuttings taken in the dormant stage tend to take a bit longer, and those taken in the growing stage can spring to life sooner. For getting flowers and fruit, it can definitely take up to a year and sometimes even more if they’re not in an ideal environment.

  11. Good morning!
    I’m reading all the replies here and I’m hoping you can give me some advice!
    I started planting a tray of yellow dragon fruit seeds 10 days ago and half of them are germinating. I see little tiny sprouts, so exciting!
    I kept the tray indoors since I live in Long Island NY
    I brought 2 nursery plant lights for them as well
    My questions are
    1. How long do I put them under the lights everyday?
    It’s on 24 hours right now and I’m not sure if that’s too much?

    2. I kept the tray covered, how often do I water the babies? I have been spraying them with mist water every 3 days…only the top soil is wet, does not go through the tray to the bottom

    3. Do I fertilize the babies now or later?

    Thank you so much!

    1. Hi, Jean! I would leave the lights on for 14 hours, off for 8. Water them only as needed – sounds like you’re doing that right already. Dragon fruit do not need a lot of fertilizer, so I wouldn’t worry about it for now. At transplanting, put them in a succulent potting soil mixture that has some fertilizer in it. You’ll have to plan on keeping them indoors most of the time in NY, but if you keep them pruned (not now – when they get big) you should be able to grow them as a houseplant. 🙂 Have fun!

  12. Hi, A friend gave me a cutting in a pot with wood shavings and little soil or compost. Within a week or two it grew big fat branches. I decided to transfer it to a bigger pot, keeping the original wood shavings and soil. Then I added potting soil almost to the rim. I’m not sure what I did wrong, but it took a lot longer to put out new branches and the branches are tiny, about the size of chopsticks. Did I plant it too deep in the pot? Should I get rid of the potting soil and use the type of soil for cactus? Please advise. Thanks.

    1. Hi Cindie! It could be stressed from the transplanting or is it possible that it’s not getting enough light? How deep did you plant it? It is possible it’s stressed from that, but I can’t say without knowing how much of the base got covered. They do prefer a well draining soil like cactus soil. You might try mixing some into your current growing medium. Hope that helps!

  13. Hi,

    I live in Southern California & have a large dragonfruit plant, it has started to fall over as my trellis is not strong enough. The plant is in a pot & we have received wonderful fruit over the past couple of years. My questions are (1) do I need to prune or trim back? If so how much can I trim/prune without putting the plant in shock? Any suggestions on best way to give more support? Should I build a new trellis? (2) last season I noticed that the base cutting which started the plant had started to turn completely brown & got squishy/rotting. This has now slowly spread around the plant but most seems to look really great still. Is there hope to save it? I have started new plants with cuttings in case my main big one dies. I can upload pictures if that will help? Thanks.

    1. Hi Vivian, you can and should prune dragon fruit plants. You should be able to prune it back enough to make it manageable for your container and trellis. Pruning can stimulate the plant to make more flowers, so it’s a good thing to do. If you prune it down, maybe you can get away without building a new trellis. As far as the brown mushy spot – that does not sound good. It very well could be an infection that may kill your plant. Fungal and bacterial infections can do this especially if the soil in your container has been too wet. You can try copper fungicide and hope that it helps. Otherwise, it’s a good thing you have some cuttings to the side as there may not be anything you can do to prevent the infection from killing your plant. Hope that’s not the case for you, though!

  14. Hi Laura, This past December I collected some seeds from a store bought fruit, and out of curiosity I threw some into a small pot. A week later I had 8 seedlings, exciting times.
    Here we are roughly 5 months later and they’re still less than 1/2″ tall. Should they be growing this slow? What can I do to get them going again?
    Located in Central Ohio
    Currently sit under full spectrum light for Roughly 14 hours a day
    Warmed with a seed mat and watered only when needed.

    Thank you,

    1. That is definitely too slow…actually it doesn’t sound like they’re growing at all. What about the soil? Is it healthy? Maybe a dose of fertilizer. Any chance the light is not full spectrum?

      1. Thanks for the response. The soil is a well draining soil, no waterlogged issues. They look nice, stout and green, just really short. I gave them some fertilizer this past weekend.
        Good question on the light. It’s an LED that was listed as full-spectrum. Most of the plants around it look responsive to the system.

  15. Hello! I found some dragon fruit plants on Facebook…$10 each.

    I believe they are cuttings that have rooted in 1 gallon pots (I’m just guessing from the picture!)

    I have no idea how to keep this plant alive…even after reading many articles and your very helpful one!

    What is the first thing I should do when I get them? I have 1 south facing window I can put it in, the window is frosted for privacy.

    I live in Houston and absolutely do not want them outside, I specifically want it indoors.

    Any and all starter tips would be helpful, I would like them to bear fruit eventually!

    1. Dragon fruit aren’t really fussy plants. Give it light and water as needed. It will grow in a south facing window, but it probably won’t be enough light to make fruit – which may not happen anyway for a couple of years. You might consider an led grow light if it doesn’t seem to be flourishing in the window.

  16. Hello! So excited about this plant. I am 70 and have been a gardener all my life. Im limited by my wheel chair but i know this would be fantastic. Do you sell larger plants? I dont really have a lot of time to watch seedlings. I live in florida but i cover my plants with a frost blanket. I have some of those huge christmas cactus outside and they do very well. Thank you for all the wonderful information you shared. God Bless. Linda pruss

    1. Hi Laura, right now I had 4 concrete post of dragon fruit that I though I have grown really well until starting May, this year, I have seen lots of flower bloom but did not fruit. What could be the problem? I have used synthetic fertilizers such as complete, potasium, 18-46-0 fertilizer purchased locally, and even sprayed foliar. Im from the Philippines. Thanks for helping.

  17. Hi Laura?

    Do you know if dragon fruits have invasive root system? I’m undecided if I should plant in ground or in pot. I live in AZ and would probably need to shade it from the sun.

    1. Hi, Lett!

      Dragon fruit typically have a shallow root system that spreads out in the top few inches of soil. So if you’re planting in a location where you’re worried about the roots growing into something, I would recommend planting in a pot. They do quite well in pots as long as they don’t get too big for their container.

      Yes, I would recommend some shade from the summer heat. Have fun!

  18. Helo!
    I`m from Brazil, and I`m going to Florida in January to spent a few days in Orlando. I would like to know were a
    could by pitaya Seedless Tricia and Assunta.
    Tank you so much!
    Best regards

  19. I was gifted a dragonfruit plant in a small 4″ pot, there are tonnes of the green pieces growing up from the soil and it looks so crowded so I separated it into two pots, did I make a mistake?

  20. Hi i was recently given a dragon fruit cutting, it was very large. The person had the end sitting in water and told
    Me to just stick it in the ground. So i did! I believe i stuck it about 6-8 inches deep and the end of the cutting has not been cut and dried. It has been in my pot in the soil for about a week. Should i re plant it and cut the end and dry it and do what your advise column states or will it be ok will how i unknowingly threw my poor plant in the pot!?? 😔 by the way it’s about a 4-5 foot cutting with several shoots.
    Thank you for your expertise,
    An inexperienced reader

  21. Hi I picked up a dragon fruit plant in a hanging basket I’m new to this plant need to know what I have to do to this plant. I can send a picture of plant. Thanks Jerry

  22. Hi Laura,
    Great post and comments section! I purchased a potted an American Beauty (first DF!) in a quart-sized container and live in Northern California/San Francisco (zone 10b but rarely gets above 70F most of the year, lots of rain and Low 40s in the winter nights, and cooler summers with some fog). SF zone 10b gets only 3000 degree-days above 50F, compared to 5000 in Southern California’s zone 10b…

    3 questions: (1) Would a 10-Gallon plastic container be adequate, and (2) should I set up a portable greenhouse cover for next winter to protect from rain and wind, or would I need to move it indoors? (3) are outdoor heat pads an option if raised above the concrete patio for rainwater drainage? Thanks in advance!

  23. I am planning to grow 4 dragonfruit cacti from cuttings in a large container with a center trellis in Las Vegas. 2 questions
    1) Can i mix up the varieties in the same container?
    2) Will the plants tolerate the heat if I provide shade?

  24. hello my seedlings are barely an inch but yet i already see white root like things coming out the top, should i make something for them to climb already?

  25. Loved this post! I was gifted a DF cutting from a merchant in NC. Since I was new to DF’s, I neglected to ask her what the variety was. I did the research when I got home and have successfully plant two pots and they’re doing great! my question is, how will I know the variety and whether or not it’s a self pollinator? I have a feeling that I won’t know the variety until it blooms.. which should then tell me whether or not it’s a self pollinator. Thoughts?

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