Dragon Fruit Farming: Step by Step Guide

The dragon fruit, also called pitahaya or pitaya, is a relatively new crop in Kenya. Only a few farmers have invested in its cultivation so the information about how to grow it is still scanty. Good thing we are always here to educate you on such high value crops. We always want you to start off your project from an informed position. So please follow through as we guide you step by step on how to grow dragon fruits in Kenya.

Dragon fruit Kenya
Dragon fruit farming: Harvesting process

Best conditions for growing dragon fruits

Being in the family of cactus, this fruit is adopted to grow in arid or semi arid conditions. It does not require a lot of water. It is also not selective on type of soils meaning you can grow it on sandy, loamy or clay soils. However, for your plants to have good vegetative growth and a high yield, the soils must have high organic matter and be well drained. You should also ensure that you give them just a little water during the very dry seasons.

The support structures

Dragon fruit plants are vines; they cannot grow upright on their own. You must make them a support structure over which to climb. A post with a wide structure at the top will be sufficient to support 2 to 4 vines. The plants will climb up to the top and then spread forming something like an umbrella. This ensures that the plants receive enough sunlight, which is very important for their growth and production. If your support structures are arranged in rows, you should ensure that the rows take an East-West alignment. This helps the plants to receive sunshine throughout the day.

dragon fruit farm in rows
Dragon fruit plants in rows: the rows are in an East-West alignment

How long do dragon fruits take to mature?

It will take 1 to one and a half years for a dragon fruit vine to produce the first fruit if you plant it from the cutting of a mature vine. A vine propagated from a seed will take more than 6 years to mature hence the best method to propagate dragon fruits is through cuttings. The lifespan of dragon fruit plants is over 40 years.

A dragon fruit bud takes 13 days to develop into a flower from a node. This flower opens up for pollination on the night of the 13th day – just before the 14th day. This is the only chance that the flower has to get pollinated. If pollination doesn’t happen then, the flower will not grow into a fruit and will simply fall off the plant. If it is successfully pollinated, it will develop into a fruit that will be ripe and ready for harvesting after 38 days since pollination. That means it only takes 52 days from the day a fruit bud emerges to have a yummy fruit ready to be eaten.

dragon fruit pollination
Dragon fruit pollination by bees: it happens very early in the morning

When the fruits are growing, they are usually green in colour. They start turning into red colour when they mature and the ripening process starts. The ripening process takes only 3 days. You must harvest dragon fruits only after they are completely ripe. This is because, unlike other fruits, Pitaya does not continue to ripen after being harvested.

Where is the market for Pitaya?

Dragon fruit is the most expensive fruit on the Kenyan shelves. It will cost you in the range of Ksh800 to 1,500 to buy a kilo of Pitaya. Of course one of the reasons for these high prices is the fact that the fruit is packed with nutrients and antioxidants. However, the main reason why the fruit is so expensive is the low supply against a high demand. The supermarkets that stock these fruits in our country actually import it from other countries. This presents a great opportunity for farmers who would want to invest in dragon fruit farming in Kenya.

Read Also:

- 3 Reasons Why You Should Invest In Dragon Fruit Farming In Kenya

Why Dragon Fruit Is Set To Be The Next Big Thing In Kenya’s Farming Business

China is the largest consumer of dragon fruits and it imports a bulk of the produce from Vietnam. China is an open market to which Kenya is exporting avocado. With the necessary volumes, dragon fruit farmers in Kenya can take advantage of the Chinese and larger international market.

The shelf life of dragon fruit

You can keep dragon fruits for up to 18 days after harvesting without refrigeration. Under proper refrigeration, the fruit will remain fresh even for 3 months. This fruit is not perishable since it stops ripening immediately it is cut off from the mother plant. Also, the fruit does not oxidize after being cut. That means you do not have to consume the entire fruit once you have cut it. You can keep a slice under refrigeration and it will look and taste as fresh as when you first cut it.

Pest and diseases

The greatest threat to dragon fruit farming is the fruit fly. Luckily, fruit flies can be controlled using biological methods.

What you need to get started

A small space, even 1/8 of an acre is enough to start dragon fruit farming. Being a very high value crop, a few plants are enough to make you realize economic gain. You do not need typically fertile soils as the nutritional needs of this plant are not so high. You can actually plant it even on the edges of the farm.

The land preparation is not necessarily tedious. All you need to do is set up the posts that will support the plants. Posts of about 5 feet (150cm) in height are good enough. Soften the soil around the base of the post and hip it a little especially if you are planting on clay soils that are not so well drained. Mix the soil with a lot of manure to give it sufficient amounts of organic matter. You only need soils that are about 2 feet (60cm) deep since the plants are shallow rooters.

Plant seedlings developed from cuttings. Get mature rooted dragon fruit cuttings from Richfarm Kenya, 0724698357. Burry only the rooting section of the cutting and water just enough to make the soil moist. Tie the cuttings to the post to help them grow upright before they produce aerial roots and be able to climb by themselves.

rooted dragon fruit cuttings for sale Kenya
Rooted dragon fruit cutting for sale: Richfarm Kenya

You have done all you need to. From now on, you will only need to train your plants along the post and wait to harvest the delicious, high value fruit in about 1 years time.