How to Plant a Dragon Fruit Tree

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A member of the Cactaceae family, the dragon fruit tree also goes by the name pitaya. The main stem of the dragon fruit tree can grow to heights of 20 feet at maturity, producing green sword-like foliage. The fruit of the dragon fruit tree is bright red in color with a sweet tasting red, pink or white inner flesh. Native to Central and South America, the dragon fruit tree prefers planting in the sunny, well-drained soils of USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11 within the U.S.

How to Plant a Dragon Fruit Tree
(Maryurys Connolly/Demand Media)

Things You'll Need

  • Soil testing kit
  • Lime or peat moss
  • Garden fork
  • Soaker hose
  • Fertilizer
  • Bark mulch
  • Pruning tool
Step 1

Test the soil prior to planting the dragon fruit tree, using a soil testing kit, to ensure a pH of 5.3 to 6.7.

Maryurys Connolly/Demand Media
Step 2

Amend the soil if the pH is not within range. Mix lime with the soil if the pH is below 5.3 or peat moss for soil with a pH above 6.7. Break up the soil with a garden fork and add the amendments according to label instructions.

Maryurys Connolly/Demand Media
Step 3

Dig a hole for the dragon fruit tree equal to the height of its rootball. Dig the hole twice the rootball's width to give the roots plenty of room for expansion.

Maryurys Connolly/Demand Media
Step 4

Remove the dragon fruit tree from its nursery container. Set it in the center of the hole with the graft union (transition between roots and trunk) above the soil line. Backfill the hole, tamping the soil by foot to remove air pockets.

Maryurys Connolly/Demand Media
Step 5

Water the dragon fruit tree deeply with a soaker hose after planting. Water weekly, thereafter, to maintain moist soil to a 1-inch depth. Once established, the dragon fruit tree will only require supplemental watering when the weather is dry.

Maryurys Connolly/Demand Media
Step 6

Fertilize the dragon fruit tree three months after the original planting date. Apply a 14-14-14 fertilizer according to label instructions.

Maryurys Connolly/Demand Media
Step 7

Spread a 6-inch layer of bark mulch around the dragon fruit tree to improve soil moisture retention and prevent weed growth. Keep the bark mulch a minimum of 8 to 12 inches from the bark of the tree to prevent pest problems.

Maryurys Connolly/Demand Media

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Tips & Warnings

  • Remove dead, broken or diseased branches when necessary, using a pruning tool. Inward growing branches or those that do not extend from the main branch also require removal during pruning to prevent bushiness. Do not remove more than 1/3 of the tree during any one pruning session.
  • Harvest the dragon fruit when it ripens between May and November.
  • Dragon fruit trees are susceptible to a number of pests and diseases. If you suspect that your tree is infected, seek the advice of a professional arborist. The arborist can identify the problem and create a care plan.
  • Do not over-water the dragon fruit tree. Too much water will cause the roots to rot. If the soil feels moist at a 1-inch depth, do not add more water.

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