Dragon Fruit (Pitaya) - Hylocereus undatus and other species and hybrids

 Pitaya Cross Section

Pitaya Growing in the Florida Landscape pdf 8 pages

Pitaya Publication from the University of Hawaii CTAHR pdf

The Pitaya in Florida from the university of Florida Miami Dade County pdf 9 pages

Pine Island Nursery Dragon Fruit Viewer ext. link

Pitaya Varieties Available in Florida

2010 Year of the Dragon Fruit from California Rare Fruit Growers pdf

Strawberry Pear from Fruits of Warm Climates

Dragon Fruit Tips from the Sub-Tropical Fruit Club of Qld Inc.

Fig. 1

Other Information

Season: June to November

Salt : Moderate to Highly Tolerant

Wind: Tolerates Windy Conditions

Cold: Damaged at 32F of long duration


There are no varieties in the proper sense, but there are many clones which can differ in the stem type, colour, fruit shape, skin thickness and scale expression. There are however two different species, H. undatus which has white flesh and H. polyrhizus which has red flesh. There are also several other fruiting cactus genera that are called 'pitaya'. 2

Hylocereus undatus (red-skinned fruit with white flesh), Hylocereus ployrhizus/ Hylocereus costaricensis ( red-skinned fruit with red flesh), Hylocereus guatemalensis (bright pink-skinned fruit with white flesh), Hylocereus poloyrhizus X undatus, Selenicereus megalanthus (yellow-skinned fruit with white flesh)

Common Names: English: Strawberry pear, dragon fruit, night blooming cereus. Spanish: pitahaya, tuna, nopal, pitajaya

Family: Cactaceae

Origin: Tropical America; southern Mexico, Pacific side of Guatemala, Costa Rica and El Salvador; Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Curacao, Panama, Brazil and Uruguay.

Description: Pitaya are fast growing, perennial, terrestrial, epiphytic, vine-like cacti.
They have triangular (3-sided, sometimes 4- or 5-sided), green, fleshy, jointed, many-branched stems. Each stem segment has 3 flat, wavy wings, (ribs) with corneous margins and may have 1-3  small spines or be spineless. The stem sections of pitaya form aerial roots which adhere to the surface upon which they grow or climb.  The stem may reach about 20 ft (6.1 m) long. 1


Pitaya SeedlingCredit: Grahame, Bowland. wikipedia.org Dragon fruit stemCredit: Kwan © NatureLoveYou.sg Stem with buds startingCredit: Acevedo, P., Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution

Fig. 2

Pitaya seedling

Fig. 3

Pitaya stem

Fig. 4

Pitaya stem with buds forming


Flowers: are hermaphroditic, however, some pitaya species and cultivars are self incompatible. The extremely showy, edible,

white (pink in other species) flowers are very large, very fragrant, nocturnal, bell shaped and may be 14 inches long (36 cm) and

9 inches wide (23 cm). The stamens and lobed stigmas are cream colored. 1


Flower BudsCredit: © Liette Robitaille. growables.org Inflorescense Multiple Flowers, one closed Dragon Fruit in full bloomCredit: © Liette Robitaille. growables.org
Fig. 5 magnifying glass Fig. 6 magnifying glass Fig. 7 magnifying glass Fig. 8 magnifying glass

Support: For the home landscape, consider a trellis for individual plants which should consists of a post and a structure at the top of the post to support the plant. A strong trellis should be established that may withstand several hundred pounds of stem weight. A weak trellis may buckle under the weight of a mature pitaya plant. Do not use wires on the trellis because they may cut or damage the stems. If wire is used, it should be covered by hoses. 1


Dragon Fruit SupportCredit: © Liette Robitaille. growables.org Structure for Dragon Fruit Dragon Fruit StructureCredit: © Liette Robitaille. growables.org Dragon Fruit Structure
Fig. 9 magnifying glass Fig. 10 magnifying glass Fig. 11 magnifying glass Fig. 12 magnifying glass
Pitaya (dragon fruit)trees at the Agricultural Science and Technology School Muñoz, Nueva Ecija

Fig. 13 magnifying glass

Pitaya (dragon fruit)trees at the Agricultural Science and Technology School Muñoz, Nueva Ecija

Credit: Ramon F., Velasquez. wikipedia.org
Pitaya (green dragon) fruits being grown commercially in southern Vietnam

Fig. 14 magnifying glass

Pitaya (green dragon) fruits being grown commercially in southern Vietnam

Credit: Nhã Lê Hoàn. wikipedia.org

The Pitaya in Florida from the University of Florida Miami-Dade county (good images of supports) pdf


Dragon Fruit Chiyai MarketCredit: FlickerviewR. wikipedia.org Wine And Fruits Are Fine For DinnerCredit: Sunciti, flickr.com

Fig. 15 magnifying glass

Dragon fruit Chiyai Market

Fig. 15

Wine and fruits are fine for dinner.

Yellow Pitaya Credit: wikipedia.org 'Costa Rica Sunset' Credit: © Ian Maguire UF/IFAS/TREC 'Bloody Mary' 

Fig. 16

Yellow Pitaya

Fig. 17

'Costa Rica Sunset'

Fig. 18

'Bloody Mary'

'Delight'Credit: © Ian Maguire UF/IFAS/TREC 'Seoul Kitchen'Credit: © Ian Maguire UF/IFAS/TREC

Fig. 19


Fig. 20

'Seoul Kitchen'


Planting: There are two methods of planting; one is to plant a cured cutting directly into the soil.
A cured cutting is one in which the cut portion of the stem has been allowed to heal (dry) for several days in the shade.
The second and highly recommended system is to plant the cured cuttings in pots, let them develop a good root system for 4-6 months, and then plant them in the landscape. Planting may be done any time in south Florida if an adequate provision for watering is made, otherwise, the warm, rainy season is a good time to plant. 1


No irrigation to induce flowering

First Year:
¼ pd Palm fertilizer every 2 months
Drench soil with chelated iron
½ oz/gallon every 2 months
Minor element sprays from March to Sept.

Second and Third Year:
1/3 to ½ pd Palm fertilizer every 2 months
Drench soil with chelated iron ¾-1 oz/gallon every 2 months
Minor element sprays from March to Sept.

Fourth Year:
½-3/4 pd Palm fertilizer four times a year
Drench soil with chelated iron 1 oz/gallon four times a year
Minor element sprays from March to Sept.

Red Dragon fruitCredit: © Ian Maguire UF/IFAS/TREC White Dragon Fruit SlicedCredit: © Ian Maguire UF/IFAS/TREC Comparing White and Red VarietiesCredit: © Ian Maguire UF/IFAS/TREC
Fig.  21 
Red  Dragon fruit
Fig. 22 
White Dragon fruit sliced
Fig. 23 
Comparing white and red varieties


Irrigation: It is important to water your pitaya through the flowering and fruiting season at least once a week.  

Pruning: Pruning is required to maintain the shape and size of the plants as they can quickly become unruly and top heavy. Pruning also enables access to the plant which assists harvesting. Care should be taken to dispose of the cuttings as they have the potential to become weeds. 2

Pruning Pitaya (Dragon Fruit) from the Sub-Tropical Fruit Club of Qld Inc.


Assorted varietiesCredit: © Ian Maguire UF/IFAS/TREC
Fig. 24 


Further Reading
Pitaya (Dragon Fruit, Strawberry Pear) from the University of Hawaii pdf

Dragon Fruit: Postharvest Quality-Maintenance Guidelines from the University of Hawaii pdf

Peeling Video ext. link

Grow Dragon Fruit from Cuttings ext. link

Dragon Fruit Blooming Video ext. link

Hand Pollination Video ext. link

Pitaya Fruit Cycle Video ext. link

Diseases and Pests

Some damage by mites, thrips, ants, scales and mealybugs, beetles, borers (Diatrea), slugs and fruit flies has been reported. Raccoons, possums, rats and birds may also cause damage to fruit and plants. Severe scale infestations of stems have been reported in Florida.

Several important diseases attack pitayas. These include the bacterium Xanthomonas compestris, which causes a severe stem rot, and Dothiorella and anthracnose. Severe anthracnose damage to newly planted pitaya has been observed in Florida, and anthracnose also attacks the fruits. Fusarium oxysporum has also attacked plants. Please contact your local County Cooperative Extension Agent for current control measures. 1

List of Growers and Vendors


1 Crane, Johathan H., Balerdi, Carlos F. and Maquire, Ian. "Pitaya Growing in the Home Landscape."  edis.ifas.ufl.edu. This document is HS1068, one of a series of the Horticultural Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Publication date Nov.2005. Revised Nov. 2017. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.

2 McMahon, Gerry. "Pruning Pitaya (Dragon Fruit)." stfc.org.au. Sub-Tropical Fuit Club of Wld Inc. STFC Newsletter June,July 2006. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.


Fig. 1 SMasters. Cross section of a ripe white pitahaya. 2010. wikipedia.org. Web. 8 Aug. 2014.

Fig. 2 Bowland, Grahame. Pitaya Seedling. 2011. wikipedia.org. Web. 8 Aug. 2014.

Fig. 3,10 Kwan. Hylocereus undatus. 2008-2009. natureloveyou.sg. Web. 8 Aug. 2014.

Fig. 4 Acevedo, P. Hylocereus undatus (Cactaceae). N.d. persoon.si.edu. Web. 10 Aug. 2014.

Fig. 5,6,7,8,9,10,11 Robitaille, Liette. "Dragon Fuit Series." growables.org. JPG file. Web. 8 Aug. 2014.

Fig. 13 Velasquez, Ramon F. Pitaya (dragon fruit) trees at the Agricultural Science and Technology School Muñoz, Nueva Ecija. 2012. wikipedia.org. Web. 8 Aug. 2014.

Fig. 14 Nhã Lê Hoàn. Pitaya (green dragon) fruits being grown commercially in southern Vietnam. 2003. wikipedia.org. Web. 8 Aug. 2014.
Fig. 15 FlickerviewR. Dragonfruit Chiyai market. 2004. wikipedia.org. Web. 8 Aug. 2014.

Fig. 15b Sunciti. Wine And Fruits Are Fine For Dinner. 2012. flickr.com.Web. 29 Apr. 2015.

Fig. 16 Pitahaya amarilla, yellow pitahaya Hylocereus megalanthus. 2006. wikipedia.org. Web. 8 Aug. 2014.
Fig. 17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24 Maguire, Ian. Dragon Fruit Series. 2011. trec.ifas.ufl.edu. From the Tropical Fruit Photography. Web. 8 Aug. 2014.

Published 8 Aug. 2014 LR. Last update to 27 Apr. 2017 LR                                                                                                   

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