Blooming Dragon Fruit
Recently, here at Sleepy Cat we were treated to our dragon fruit blooming in our smaller greenhouse. Also known as pitataya, a tropical Epiphytic cactus of the genus Hylocereus produces a beautiful flower and interesting fruit.
The flower is only in full bloom at night for a handful of hours but you have up to 12 hours to hand pollinate them. As soon as the flower closes, the pollination cycle ends. The fruit in this variety has pink skin and scaled (like a dragon) with white flesh and tiny black seeds the size of poppy seeds.
The hand pollination method includes the use of a small bowl and paint brush. The bowl is held beneath the flower while the pollen is shaken out. Once the pollen is collected we can use the paint brush to dip into the pollen and gently brush the stigma. You can also save extra pollen for flowers yet to open in the refrigerator over-night.
This dragon fruits journey began at Sleepy Cat 4 years ago from a cutting about a foot in length. It is now over 8 feet tall! It took three years to produce flowers, it is now on its fourth year. This plant is a very fast grower, typical of tropicals, it needs a lot of pruning throughout the growing season.
To be able to produce flowers in a non-ideal climate and while also in a container it needs to be pruned to limit the amount of ‘branches’ it has. Typically, you want to grow the entire plant from one five foot stalk and let three to five branches grow from the top. If you let it produce more, the plant will not be able to provide enough nutrients to produce flowers. We’ve let three branches grow.
Heavy weekly fertilization with a general fertilizer begins in mid summer, around June. After fruiting we’ll fertilize only a few more times before we let it go dormant for the fall and winter.
Once it has gone dormant, we will cut it back to five feet, cutting at the node between the stalks sections. Come late spring we should have a fresh round of new growth for the coming season!