Dragon fruits are deliciously sweet, fleshy fruits that grow on a tropical, vining cactus plant. Without proper maintenance, it has the habit of growing in every direction and creating quite a mess of vines. Most epiphytes are this way. Even though they aren’t closely related, Wisteria also has a need for trellises because they also grow against trees and other climbable structures in the wild.
So here’s an easy trellis you can make to support growth and maximize your Dragon fruit harvest:
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Table of contents
1. Determine whether the dragonfruit will be planted in-ground or in pots
Do dragon fruit plants need a trellis? As a whole, yes, they do! Dragon fruit is a climbing cactus plant that needs a vertical structure to support its growth. The elevated height provides proper air circulation around the plant and keeps the fruits off the ground. This also helps to prevent pathogens from latching on the plant and causing diseases.
If you want to read a little more on how trellises can help your plant and you as the gardener, read this tidbit from our article on how cucumber plants benefit from a trellis.
With that in mind, this bit is a crucial first step because it dictates the trellis type you will be making for your dragonfruit plant. If it is for in-ground planting, that means you need a trellis that is:
- Sturdy and durable to withstand outside weather conditions.
- Long and continuous to support all the dragonfruit plants in one row.
In some cases, farmers forgo the latter option and grow them like trees with a singular trellis support per plant in a row. This can be a bit harder to maintain in the long term. New vines always grow above the older vines, causing the latter to fester underneath the developing growth. The lack of airflow will cause fungal and bacterial pathogens to latch onto this part of the plant unless it is pruned away. Pruning will also be a challenging task because you risk damaging the newer growth. All in all, it’s better to have a trellis structure that is elongated to support each vine on the plant per row.
If it is to be grown in pots, you’ll need :
- A simple post trellis to aid in its heavy growth through the years.
- A wide pot to support its extensive root system. Dragon fruit plants have shallow roots and benefit more from a pot with ample width rather than depth.
For the purpose of this article (read: lack of space), I will be demonstrating how to create a trellis for an in-pot dragon fruit plant. I will also add helpful tips along the way for those who have the space to do in-ground planting.
2. Prepare durable, non-chemical treated materials to create the trellis
For the materials to create your dragonfruit trellis, here are 4 criteria they need to meet:
- It must be able to withstand weather elements, particularly wind and heavy rain.
- It won’t rot quickly. This helps to prevent pests and disease issues from appearing and transferring onto the plant.
- It must be chemical-free. You don’t want chemicals to end up leaching into the soil and the plant as it develops, thereby contaminating it.
- It is affordable to maintain or replace if needed.
You can use various materials to construct your trellises, such as wood, bamboo, and cement. The latter is often used in commercial productions as it is long-lasting and durable enough to hold dragon fruit plants as they grow bigger.
If you plan to use wood to construct your trellis, opt for non-treated and decay-resistant wood such as cedar and redwood. Note that this won’t last forever, and you’ll have to replace them eventually far into the future. But it holds up considerably longer than other non-treated wood.
If you’re going to opt for bamboo, ensure to plug the ends so no insects or pathogens will make a home here. This only applies if it is a considerably hollow bamboo stake or log.
For my dragon fruit trellis, I prepared the following items:
- 4 bamboo stakes that are 4 feet long and 1 inch thick
- A thin, durable rope about 2 meters long
- A large, wide plastic bucket about 10 inches in depth and 12 inches wide with DIY drain holes at the bottom. I recommend getting a wider pot if you’re able.
- Fresh, potting soil. You can use all-purpose soil and add a bit of cactus soil mix here. But I personally went for pure cactus soil mix in this case.
- Gardening Shears. If you have some great, if not, don’t get fancy, just pick up a cheap but sturdy pair from a garden center or buy these Fiskars Pruning Shears on Amazon.
- 4 healthy vine cuttings from a dragon fruit plant – The following steps are in fact a form of propagation, if you want more information on how to take cuttings for propagation that will grow and won’t injure the donor plant, check out our Pre-propagation Checklist from the Ultimate Guide on How to Propagate Houseplants. Yes, it is about houseplants but, the rules for donor plants and sterile practices are the same 😉 – Keep in mind that with dragon fruit plants you will want to cut where the stem gets thin (and usually brown) to prevent needing to wait as long for the cutting to “heal”. Succulents, cacti included, like the dragon fruit plant, benefit from letting cutting wounds heal before propagation. By leaving the cutting out and exposed to air for 2 days or so you will see the wound dry up and seal. Once the wound is sealed, it is safe to plant. In my experience, this is a critical step in reducing the risk of infections that can un-alive your succulent plants.
3. Construct the trellis into a hollow, rectangular support post
A quick note for everyone that’s wondering “how tall should a dragon fruit trellis be?”: As a general rule, a 3-5 feet-tall trellis for dragon fruit plants is recommended. These plants can grow 6-20 feet long, so maintaining them at a manageable height makes things easier during harvest and pruning time.
Here’s how I built my in-pot dragon trellis:
- In the pot/bucket, pour fresh soil until it’s halfway full.
2. Place in a bamboo stake at every corner to make a square shape. You might need a friend to help you steady these stakes while you do the next step.
3. Pour the rest of the soil into the pot to secure the bamboo stakes. Ensure to pat the soil gently down around the stakes, and don’t use excessive force. Otherwise, you risk compacting the soil and creating poor drainage.
4. Tie a rope securely around a stake about 3 inches above soil level.
Connect the rope onto the next post, looping it and tying it securely. Do this for the remaining stakes until it loops back to the first one.
5. Repeat the steps above 2 more times at the higher parts of the stakes.
For an in-ground trellis, you want something akin to a clothesline structure. The difference is you’ll need to add 3 additional strong wires spaced 5-6 inches apart from each other vertically. If you want to make the trellis longer, simply add more supporting posts like in a clothesline and keep attaching longer wires as needed.
4. Plant the dragon fruit cuttings within the trellis structure
Once the trellis is ready, place the dragon fruit cuttings within the trellis and tie it with a twine/nursery tape/rope against the bamboo stakes. Wear gloves for this bit, ’cause I learned the hard way how prickly the cuttings are.
You will have to continuously tie it against the stakes as it develops further. This is to ensure it stays within the trellis. As it grows, it will start to shoot side stems. Cut these off, so the plant focuses its energy on developing the main vine only until it reaches the top structure.
Once it has risen above the entire structure, you need to do the following steps:
- Bend the vine down gently outwards.
- Tie it against the top wires to face downwards.
- Cut the top part off to allow side vines to grow from this parent vine.
From here on out, it will start to grow outwards, resembling a tree. Train the side stems to keep developing downwards by using the same method.
After a while, you’ll need to add a top structure like a tire to support the plant’s top canopy. It’ll start to get heavy topside once it has grown many vines, especially if you planted more than one cutting. I’ll update this part of the article once my dragon fruit plant has come to that stage to show you what I mean!
For maintenance, water the plant deeply every other day and simply prune off old side vines into a small bud after it has stopped producing fruit. This stimulates new stems to grow from the main stem. It’s also waaaaaaay easier to manage the dragon fruit plant like this because you can easily reach in and isolate the old branches to trim them off.
For in-ground planting, the method of planting and maintenance is similar despite the trellis being different. Really, I’m not even joking; that’s how easy it is.
And there you have it! You’ve got your very own dragon fruit trellis done and done. You can expect to harvest from your plant in about a year or so. Until then, keep taking care of your lil’ dragon bud.