🐉 Pitaya (dragon fruit) questions

The pitaya is one of my favourite fruit, so when I saw a (rather expensive) plant at my local farmers’ market this spring, I had to give it a try – even if I am doubtful that it will survive the winters here in the mountains of central Portugal (USDA zone ~9b or probably 10 nowadays).

I planted it in an area of full sun, and will cover it in the winter – initially with a small tent-style “greenhouse”, but the plan is to build a more permanent structure as it get bigger / if it survives the first winter. It was planted in mid April, and so far it’s doing pretty well, but I have a few questions… hopefully someone here has some experience with these strange cacti!

How it started…

…how it’s going

First, I struggle to know how much to water it. It’s been an very hot dry summer (worst drought in 500 years I believe…) and I’ve been watering all my fruit trees quite deeply every 2-3 days. At first I was doing the same with the dragon, and it did grow nicely, but also several of the stems developed rotten patches – see below – so I reduced the amount of water to about half or less of what I’m giving the trees. It seemed to be an improvement, but maybe a coincidence? (Now the rain has started – though who knows if it’s here to stay – so I’m not watering for the moment.)

Second, those rotten patches… a couple of the smaller stems (if that’s the right term) rotted completely, and several others have rotten patches (see photos) which I assume will spread and also what appears to be some fungal damage.
What is the cause of this – could it be overwatering? And is there any way to stop them spreading…?

The stem in the last photo was the tallest when I bought the plant, but it didn’t grow at all during the summer.

Third, I’m not sure what to do about pruning… I have a couple of “main” (longer) stems that I’m tying up to a post – one of them doing really nicely – and a lot of other short bits growing around the bottom. I assume I should cut of some or most of the bottom growth, to encourage the plant to grow up into the taller bits?

Finally, I was wondering about growing some more plants from cuttings. Any tips here? If it’s like other cacti, I assume I could cut off a few whole stems/lobes and just put them in a pot of compost. Anything I should to to improve the chances of them taking?

Oh and also, any tips on protecting from cold weather (and just how could it can tolerate) would also be useful.
I should note that I have no idea what cultivar this plant is.

Thanks in advance for any tips! :hugs:


Congratulations and good luck! Whats your location?

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I’ve had nearly 100% success rooting the small side shoots from the bottom of my pitayas. I posted about it in this thread:

I’ve also had similar “rot” but in my case it was almost always from slugs and snails feeding on the cactus. They seem to love it. I don’t water mine very much compared to my other fruit trees.

Good luck!


Thanks for the replies!

That’s very interesting. I hadn’t thought of that, but it could well be the cause, as we have tonnes of slugs and snails here. I haven’t seen any around the pitaya but then they’re mainly active at night and I rarely if ever go down to the area where it is at night.

Did you just put them straight in soil, or did you use any kind of rooting product or anything?
I’ve seen various sites online suggesting leaving the cut piece to dry out before planting and also applying a fungicide to prevent rot.
I’m inclined to just shove it in the ground though, possibly with some rooting compound.

I’m in the Serra do Açor – at an altitude of over 650m, so quite wet and windy in the winter, but baking hot and dry in the summer. The coldest temperature I’ve known here was -4.5°C, two years ago (and we had permanent frost all winter in the shade) but last winter it didn’t go below 0°C…
I’m aiming to plant species on the warmer limit of what can survive here, because it’s only going to get warmer and dryer every year…

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There are many sub-tropicals you can grow… :+1:

I’ve already got a few avocados, hopefully I can keep them alive next time we get a cold winter.
My dream is to grow mangoes… I bought a tree (“osteen”) in the market a couple of weeks ago, but I’m very doubtful about its chances of survival…

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You should grow hardy avocado varieties like bacon, fuerte, zutano, duke7 and ettinger. The best variety is ettinger. Regarding mango varieties try the more cold hardy like glenn and gomera 3.

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I have bacon, fuerte, and hass (I know hass isn’t very cold hardy). I really want Mexicola but I can’t find a way to buy it in Europe. I haven’t heard of the others you mentioned, I’ll look into them.
For mangos yes, I’ve heard Gomera is best but the only source I can find is to order from the Canary islands which is quite expensive… do you know of a source in mainland Europe?

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Here… you will find everything you nead and much cheaper! :grin:

Mango Gomera3 - www.Frutalestropicales.com

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Wow, thank you! :smile: 12€ a tree and shipping from Malaga certainly seems good!
When would you say is the best season to plant them? Autumn or spring? I’d plant native trees in the autumn but I’m guessing for something that doesn’t really like cold maybe spring gives it a better chance…

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Spring! This tropicals nead more time to adapt without cold…

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I let it dry for a few hours and then placed in pots filled with my usual homemade potting mix, which is about 40% perlite, 20% compost, 15% decomposed manure, and the rest is my soil (a clay-rich glacial sand topsoil). I think any potting mix with good drainage should work. I buried them vertically with about 2/3 of the cutting under the soil. I put those pots on a table where slugs wouldn’t find them as easily.

When I cut them, I was careful to remove the segments at the place where they connect, rather than cutting through the middle of a segment, because I read that those connecting tissues produce the best roots. I did this in early July and by early August they had already started growing on top again, and when I planted some of those in the ground in my greenhouse two weeks ago (2 months after cutting) they had very nice roots already.

Oh, and I didn’t use any rooting hormone.

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Great, thanks! I’ll give that a go once it stops raining…