Pruning Dragon Fruit

I have to admit that I have not found good information anywhere on how to prune Dragon Fruit.  What I am going to tell you here is a result of my own “trial and error” approach over several years.  It seems to work for me, but who knows whether there is a better approach that I don’t know about that might yield a whole lot more production.

Our plants are around 4 years old and last year they produced over 40 fruit (I stopped keeping records after 40, so the total could have been over 50).  Probably because of our cool and dry winters our Dragon Fruit go dormant in the winter, with very little new growth and no flowers.  Fruit is produced between January and June.

Three days after flowering

Three days after flowering

We had the first bud on our three plants on 6 December, and it flowered on 18 December this year, though I didn’t get around to photographing it until yesterday (21st).  This was three weeks earlier than the first flowering last year.

On the 20th I carefully counted all the buds that had appeared since the 6th – in two weeks we had gone from one bud to 29.

These plants were partially pruned in November, but then I got too busy to finish the job.  But this has given me the chance to think about the effect the pruning might have had on bud location, though this is all guess work and observation – no evidence-based theory here.

A range of buds, from just appeared to on the way to flowering

A range of buds, from just appeared to on the way to flowering.  Note the ants on the bud.

What I am seeing this year is similar to what I have observed in other years.  The most buds (by far) appear on downward growing branches.  In addition, there are far more buds on branches that have been pruned (whether the pruning was done by chopping off the branch through the green section or cutting it off at a node) than on un-pruned branches.

As you can see in the photo above, ants take a great deal of interest in the buds, but they do not seem to do them any harm.  I suspect that the buds exude something that is useful to the ants, and maybe in return the ants discourage insects that may be harmful to the bud.  Does anyone have any information on this?

The photos below show buds formed near the pruning point, however not all of the buds on a pruned branch are this close to the pruning point.  Nevertheless, as I said above, by far the most buds are on pruned branches.

It doesn’t seem to matter whether the pruned branch has grown some more branches at the pruning point.  Many of the branches I pruned in November have done this, but they still have buds on the pruned section – and not on the new, un-pruned branches.

Another factor to think about (maybe before you plan your Dragon Fruit planting) is whether you will grow them on poles with spreader frames on top or horizontal beams.  You can see a short discussion here.

If you are just starting out with Dragon Fruit, remember that they should not be pruned until they are at least one year old, and ideally not until they have had one good flowering and fruiting season.

Would you like to share your pruning techniques here, along with your observations on the results?

If you are looking for more information on Dragon Fruit, have a look at the links at the end of the this post from the end of 2014.  And if you want to see the layout of our vege garden have a look at the two plans in this post. The first shows how the vege garden fits into the overall plan on our narrow ridge top.  Scroll down for a more detailed plan of the vege garden.  The Dragon Fruit are growing in Hugelkultur Shadehouse No.1.


Branch pruned at the node


Bud a few days old. The ants seem to take an interest in them right from the time they form

A bud right at the pruning point

A bud right at the pruning point – chopped through the green section


Branch pruned by chopping through the green section

11 thoughts on “Pruning Dragon Fruit

  1. Hi

    I’ve had a dragon fruit for about six months, planted fro a cutting, and it’s doing famously in our Cairns weather. However, recently it got “accidentally” pruned and lost its topmost “leaf” (what do you call them?). As a result however it has sprouted several new branches, mostly up high (it’s on a 2 metre pole) but there’s one now about 30cm long growing near ground level. Should I prune it off or continue to let it go up the pole? Would appreciate any advice. Today I noticed what appear to be a couple of emerging flower buds, so getting excited!



    • Hi Andrew. Great to hear about your dragon fruit.

      Great news about the flower buds. If you have two flowers open at once and want to make sure you get fertilization you can manually transfer pollen from one to the other (both ways). People say that you get better fruit if you cross pollinate between plants, but just spreading the pollen between flowers on one plant seems to increase the likelihood of fertilization. If a flower isn’t fertilized then the fruit swelling at the base of the flower just withers away.

      Get up early though. These are a night flowering plant, and the flowers close up soon after the sun comes up.

      You’ll quite possibly find your flowers are mobbed by hundreds of small black native bees (they get up earlier than the honey bees, so they tend to catch the flowers before they fold up).

      About the new arm/branch close to the ground, you need to prune it off unless you are going to train it up the post so you’ve got another stem. If I want to keep them I just tie them to the post with a wide band of cloth (something that doesn’t cut into the flesh). Then when it gets near to the top of the post cut the end of so it branches.

      Do you have a frame on the top of your post for the arms to spread out on before they start drooping. This gives much more space for the arms to radiate out and will greatly increase the number of fruit you can get from the one plant. If you’re not sure what I mean just google it – there are lots of websites with photos of the frames. But they have to be sturdy, you may end up with tens of kilos of arms and fruit hanging over them.

      Do you know what colour flesh your dragon fruit will have? Red and white are common but they come in a range of colours, even yellow.

      Good luck with it.


  2. Yay! Thanks for this.
    I have three dragon fruit in one pot.. I grew them from seed. Theyre about 2 years old.
    I seen the runners coming off them – and posted it to my Tumblr.. People suggested it was aerial roots and to water it more. LOL
    Tonight im going to repot them in three different pots – and figure out some system for them for grow on. Im zone 5b..
    I had them outside this summer – and some of the plant has went white? But overall the plant is OK. Theres some HUGE bits growing – which is really cool. Cause its stretching A LOT.
    I dont know if ill EVER get fruit.. But ill try my best to keep it happy. LOL

    • Hi Rabbit. Glad you found this useful.
      Dragon Fruit will grow just fine in large pots. They will need something to spread up or along, because the number of fruit will depend on the number of branches that they can make.
      When the plants went white it was sunburn (possibly also indicating more water was required). I keep mine under 30% shade cloth in summer here in the sub-tropical zone about 100km inland from the east coast of Australia (27degrees South).
      Make sure you give them lots of food and water when the growing season starts.
      Good luck with it.

  3. We are growing dragon fruit in Gatton Qld. We have 6 plants now around 3 years old. This year 2 of our plants have started fruiting but only a few around 7 fruits. Our plants have now grown vigorously to a point where the stems are now almost are touching the ground. We pruned last year, cutting growth back to the main stem and left a few branches long to see what would produce better so far dismal results we hope that 2019 wil produce a better crop

  4. This has been very helpfull as I have had my plants in for about 2 years now and got my first flower just last week the plant grew crazy over the last few months 8 to 9 inches per day good to know I can prune it back I have just started another garden so this time I will do it right from the start thanks again

    • Good to hear from you jimmy percy.

      Strange things these Dragon Fruit. It seems that if we put them in the ground and look after them they can take quite a while to flower and fruit, but I also have had the experience that cuttings in a pot which get watered only occasionally and fertilised very infrequently if at all will sometimes flower and fruit.

      Just this morning I saw a flower on a DF growing in a pot which was tipped on its side months ago and I never got around to standing it up again. It still gets watered when it rains and when the other plants in that shadehouse get watered, but because everything else is in wicking pots the watering is only every week or so. They sure are tough.

      Yes, it is OK (necessary) to prune them, but I still haven’t seen an authoritative guide to how and when to prune.

      If any of my readers can point us to a guide to pruning DF it would benefit a lot of people.

  5. Hi
    Just an update on my Dragons, so far I have had approx 20 fruit one was a monster and weighed in at 820 grams the rest are approx 500 grams which is really fantastic. Totally enjoying the Fruit experience again this year and getting more obsessed with this amazing plant, I have counted approx 50 developing fruit and at least another 50 – 60 new match head size buds and about 40 larger buds that should start opening in the next week.

    • Wow Glenda that is pretty amazing production – and the size of your fruit.

      Would you mind sharing information about what you are feeding your DF, and in which part of the year. I know that you said in your last post that you were using Seasol and some blood and bone during the budding, but it would be interesting to hear what you do during the rest of the year, because that may be what determines the number of buds (of course combined with your pruning regime) and the health of the plants.

      It is clear here that the health and nutritional status of the soil plays a big part in fruit size. I didn’t have time to make any compost between December 2014 and now because of the effort we had to put into fighting the motocross proposal. While we got good sized fruit in 2015 and 2016 this year they are all much smaller. Apart from the lack of compost, in the last year they haven’t had the usual amount of watering up until early December because we have been short of water. Because we are high up on a sandstone ridge we are entirely dependent on water stored in our tanks, and the long period over Autumn-Winter-Spring without any real rainfall has meant that there wasn’t enough to give the garden the good soakings it needed.

      Please keep sharing your experience.

  6. Hi thanks for your update on the dragons, I am at Minden and have also had a lot of activity with my plants I have so far counted 60 buds over 3 dragon poles and have so far had approx 15 flowers that opened,I also I have 5 fruit that are developing at a very rapid rate. I did very little pruning this year because of the long cool season I missed the opportunity as I did not want any further damage from frosts, my dragons have really been powering on and all of my buds are on old growth so far, I have given my plants a good soaking with “seasol” liquid fertiliser and today I am going to throw a handful of blood and bone around the base just to give them a bit of an edge. I have 6 new poles with the red flesh variety but I doubt that I will see any flowers this year, actually I am a bit disappointed with these plants as they seem to be a bit retarded with their growth so far, maybe next year for them. I am really looking forward to the plants peak in budding however my worst fear is that fruit fly will get the taste for the fruit, have you had any trouble in this area, I have read that fruit fly can be a problem. Like you I seem to have lots of ants that seem to be all over the buds so I am hoping that they deter the fruit fly ( your thought would be appreciated).

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