Finding the perfect place for your pitaya

Known variably as pitaya, pitahaya or dragon fruit, this is an epiphytic cactus that is native to the tropical rainforest regions of Mexico, Central and South America.  In the last 5 years, sub-tropical fruit growers and gourmet chefs have “rediscovered” the pitaya, and this unique, climbing plant with juicy, hot pink fruit has been growing in popularity.  Typically found in Asian specialty markets and at local Farmer’s Markets, the fruit are 6-9” long and oval-shaped.  The outer skin is cover with thornless, scale-like bracts that give off a menacing look, but in no way should deter you from getting at the succulent delights of the inner flesh.  Try cutting the fruit into wedges and eating like a melon.   The sweet flesh is firm to the touch but melts easily once in your mouth.  These cacti are night blooming and the blossoms are open for only a single night.    If pollination occurs, the fruit will be ripe and ready for harvest in 28-30 days.   When choosing a site to plant your pitaya, look for a place that has both a sturdy supporting structure, and also offers protection from the hottest sun during the summer months.  A southeast facing fence or trellis would be perfect. Locally, many avocado growers have chosen to plant pitaya at the base of their trees, thus providing both a structure and shade for the pitaya.   When you are ready to plant your pitaya, dig a hole that is twice the size of its current container.   Into the bottom of this hole add, 2 heaping handfuls of compost, 3 cups each of landscape mix and worm castings and 2 cups of azomite.  Mix the ingredients together with some loose soil at the bottom of the hole, and then place the pitaya down on top of this.   Next, fill the hole up with the remaining soil, and while refilling, mix one handful each of compost, landscape mix and worm castings along with every 4” of added soil.   Once planted, lay out 2-3” of mulch onto the soil surface around the pitaya.  Water regularly, about once per week in the summer, but do not allow the soil to stay wet for long periods.  Remember, these are cacti and will rot if there is too much soil moisture.


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