Overview

Dragon fruit is a cactus plant that produces an edible red-colored fruit. The exact origin of the plant is unknown, but it is thought to come from South and Central America. The plants is also called pitaya (or pitahaya) and strawberry pear with the fragrant flowers referred to as Queen of the Night or Moonflower.


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Identification

Dragon fruit is a vining cactus plant from the genus Hylocereus. The dragon fruit plant produces a scaly red colored fruit approximately four to six times a year. The plant is considered epiphytic, meaning it is usually found growing on top of another plant and gets its nutrients from the sun and rain. The plant vines look similar to the common Christmas cactus houseplant with the branches reaching up to 20 feet in length.

Growing Requirements

Dragon fruit plants withstand temperatures up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit; however frost and long periods of cold will kill the plant. The plant grows best in dry tropical conditions where the rainfall is 20-50 inches per year. Too much rain will cause the fruit to drop prematurely and promotes root rot. The plants grow best in organic soil that is mixed with sand under a full sun to partial shade environment.

How to Eat

The fruit and flowers of the dragon fruit cactus are edible. The fruit is best eaten chilled or cold to bring out the flavor. To eat the fruit raw, slice it open and scoop the interior flesh out or slice the fruit to eat. The fruit is commonly used in beverages such as smoothies or baked into desserts and pastries. Flower buds that do not open are cooked as a vegetable.


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Health Benefits

The dragon fruit cactus fruit is low in calories and high in vitamin C and antioxidants. According to some researchers, dragon fruit is recommended for people trying to control blood glucose levels with type 2 diabetes.

Propagation

Dragon plants are propagated through seeds and cuttings. To start a plant from seed, sow a dried fruit seed in a seed starting soil medium. Sow several seeds together in one pot by sprinkling them over the soil and adding a light layer of perlite on top. Once all the seedlings have sprouted, remove and separate healthy seedlings and plant in a cactus medium. To propagate by plant cuttings, cut a healthy stem portion that is 6-12 inches in length with a slanted cut. Apply a fungicide to the cut edge and let dry and heal for 1-2 weeks in a dry location not in direct sunlight. During this time the cutting should start producing roots. One the roots have formed, the cutting is replanted in a cactus medium or outdoors.