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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tropical Dragonfruit a Possibility for Backyard Culture in Las Vegas

Q. I am interested in raising dragonfruit.  Any suggestions or comments?

A. The dragonfruit plant is a tropical climbing cactus that originated from Central and South America. The plant produces large edible fruit covered in scales. The edible fruit interior has a bland taste resembling watermelon or Kiwi with slight citrus overtones.
Dragonfruit is produced by a "climbing" cactus.
            There are several different varieties with skin colors ranging from green, yellow or red. The flesh, pulp or interior of the fruit is normally white but in some varieties it can be various shades of red.
Here in a small orchard in south vietnam the vegetative cuttings are planted next to a cement post that will be used for trellising
            Several other cacti also produce similar types of large edible fruit. Collectively these fruits are called pitaya.  The cereus cactus is commonly grown in the Las Vegas area, can withstand our cold winter temperatures and may on rare occasions produce a pitaya fruit.
Although not dragonfruit or cereus, flowers typical of pitayas
            Many of the pitaya-producing cacti have large white flowers that only open at night and frequently are very aromatic.  Moths or bats are usually responsible for pollinating these night blooming flowers. Many pitaya require cross pollination in order to set fruit and so a second plant in the vicinity may be necessary.
Dragonfruit cactus in full production, trellised, in south vietnam
            The dragonfruit plant itself is very sensitive to frost and harsh light intensities and must be protected from freezing weather. It will also benefit by being grown in a part of the landscape protected from late afternoon sun.
            Just for fun, the plant can be started easily from seed collected from the fruit. The seed is small so you would plant it very shallow in good planting soil. The seed should germinate in about two weeks in warm soils.
            However, commercially the plant is started from stem cuttings to maintain plants that are true to type.

1 comment:

  1. Pitaya fruits are definitely subtle tasting. I really like them and to me they taste like watermelon. But the trick to eating them is to make them the first desert. You eat anything sweet before them and they taste like water.

    Pitaya's are pretty cool cactus (succulent). In place of thorns they have these pairs of tips that either grow into roots or grasp onto things as the cactus "vine" climbs. You can "plant" them by lying them down on the ground's surface.

    It is best to hand pollinate for fruit production. It is rather easy: Tip the flower up with your finger inside and vibrate the flower. Pollen inside the flower will pollinate the ovary.

    I'm training one (I hope) up the northeast side of an ash tree. Unfortunately I planted it about 3 days before the recent cold snap hit, but so far it is still green and happy mostly buried under the ash tree's leaves. The thermal mass of the trunk of the ash tree also provides some freeze protection. I have hopes...last year's incredible freeze killed off a Frederick passionfruit I was training up the ash tree. I had hoped it would grow back out but it didn't.