How Does Your Dragon Fruit Grow?

Dragon Fruit or Pitaya, as it is called in Nicaragua, is the most heavenly fruit I know. The exact origin of this amazing cactus is unknown, but it is native to the jungles of Central America and grows well in Nicaragua. The Pitaya cactus is a prolific climber, using aerial roots to propel itself higher and farther along whatever paths it can find to reach lengths of up to 20 feet or more.

We’ve been growing Pitaya for several years, and this year the Pitaya cactus treated us to an amazing sight…our first buds and the night-blooming flowers.
IMG_8576After a rain about two weeks ago, I photographed several of our Pitaya buds. They were only budding on the Pitaya cactus that received full sun.
The buds grew quickly and in 13 days, they were ready to bloom. Dragon fruit bears fruits for five months every year, usually from early summer through mid-fall. It begins flowering in early summer, typically in June, with fruit formation occurring shortly afterward.
IMG_8642Dragon fruit flowers are open in the evening and last only one evening.
IMG_8870The night-blooming Pitaya is gorgeous and huge. It has a fragrance that reminds me of sweet roasted peanuts.
IMG_8864Moths and bats are attracted to the night-blooming Pitaya and pollinate the flower.
A time-lapse video of the night-blooming Pitaya.

The next morning, the flowers quickly wilted. It takes the fruits about 50 days to reach maturity after flowering and pollination occurs, and the dragon fruit continues to flower and set new fruits throughout its fruit-bearing season of five months.

IMG_8877Dragon fruit is a relatively long-lived perennial. It can produce its first fruits within one year of its establishment, and it can continue to fruit annually for 20 to 30 years before it begins to decline. Dragon fruit can grow up to 40 feet tall, with the large and tall specimens producing more fruits than the small, young plants or those reaching the end of their lifespan.
IMG_8873It won’t be long, now. Soon we’ll be harvesting the intense, fiery red fruit. Our mouths and hands will be stained a bright purple as evidence of our harvest.
IMG_8875Stay tuned for the Pitaya Festival after the harvest. I’ll share Pitaya recipes and the health benefits of this incredible fruit.

15 thoughts on “How Does Your Dragon Fruit Grow?

    • I don’t have much experience with cactus, especially tropical cactus. I thought they didn’t need much water, but they do, along with plenty of sun. We have about 5 Pitaya bushes? ( not sure if you’d call them bushes) or cactus plants on our property and all but one of them is blooming. The one that isn’t blooming is in the shade under the mango tree.

  1. Debbie, quite a post on dragon fruit. Lots I didn’t know and that flower is incredible. My favorite fruit is still the mango. I haven’t found the dragon fruit in the markets or even SE Asia particularly sweet but rather bland. Could be the variety.

    • Lynne, there are quite a few varieties of dragon fruit. The variety we have in Nicaragua is a deep purple fruit with an unusual taste and texture. It tastes kind of like strawberries and grape jello to me. I’m taking daily pictures of the fruit growing, now that it has bloomed. I can’t wait until they are ripe.

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