Dragon fruit flowers but produces no fruits is one of the most common problems growers face. There are some aspects to look at for this situation. Let's check them out together to see why.
Firstly, you can check if there are some:
Small Branches on Mother Branch
If the main branch carries the load of 5-6 smaller branches, it may be a little too much for it to support. As a result, fruiting may be slowed down.
To focus more energy on matter-most things, prune off some smaller branches. Keep about 1-2 so that main branch has space to extend out, but still retains enough nutrients for fruiting.
This point is for general guideline only. As in some cases, growers have found that their dragon fruit branch can still bear out a good number of fruits with other smaller branches on. Still a point to ponder... and possibly it's each variety specific health? Anyway, take it with a grain of salt as you find out the possible reasons.
As a side note: Locals on some mountainous areas harvest the young shoots. They stir fry them & mix them in various different dishes. It's said to be good for the stomach & tastes like cucumber. You can use the shoots as mulch around the mother tree as well.
Also, do you know what is:
The Age of the Plants
From what we know so far, young flowers may get pollinated but the fruits may not set. One grower we talked to experienced this with his dragon fruit plant. Only in year 3, the plants started to put out fruits. Maybe it's still young.
On the other hand, maybe the branch is too old? Sometimes older branches may have less fertility rates. And therefore, give out fewer flowers & fruits.
Some growers notice the yield for each dragon fruit post. It grows vigorously in the first few years. From year 7 and on, the fruit production levels off at around 60 fruits per plant per year.
So, from year 7-10 it's kind of the plateau point for dragon fruit production. The fruit yield may also gradually decline after this mark. At this point, many growers plant new cuttings or replant the existing branches into new pots (if they're growing them in pots).
This is the dragon fruit yield noted when grown in a saline environment:
|Year||Fruit yield per post|
|1||17-20kg / 37-44 lbs|
|2||30-40kg / 66-88 lbs|
|7||60kg / 132 lbs|
If all is well, dragon fruit plants can live up to 50-60 years, giving you 2-4 pushes a year depending on your local climate & the varieties. That is a very long window to try & explore again. Don't give up hope just yet.
In a good push, 1 dragon fruit post (with 4 cuttings planted) can give about 15-20+ fruits. Some people just leave 1 bud for 1 branch to focus the energy to make bigger fruits. This is totally doable as we can expect about 5 fruits per 1 cutting. On average, that's about 40 lbs/18 kg of fruits per post.
In places like California or Florida, the fruit yield is also a little bit different:
|Place||Dragon fruit yield per acre (4000 m2)|
|California||8,000-12,000 lbs / 3.6-5.4 tons|
|Florida||30,000-40,000 lbs / 13.6-18.1 tons|
Another aspect we can look at is whether your dragon fruit variety requires hand pollination or is it self-pollinated?
Self Pollination or Hand Pollination
Some dragon fruit varieties are self-fertile & may set fruit without hand pollination. They are, for example, Physical Graffiti, American Beauty, Seoul Kitchen (great for diabetics), Delight, San Ignacio, Vietnamese White, Ecuador Palora (the yellow spiky one, quite expensive, about $2 or so per fruit).
In self-fertile flowers, the anther containing pollen (the male) is near the stigma (the female). Self-pollination is thus a bit easier. Usually the white-flesh ones are more self-fertile than the red-flesh dragon fruit. Some hybrid dragon fruit varieties may need other hybrid pollen to get good results.
Check out the placement of the pollen & the stigma comparison in this pic below:
The stigma on the left is quite off to the side, thus making self-pollinating a bit more challenging. On the right, the stigma is closer to the center thus making the reaching to the anthers (with pollen) around more easily.
A fun thing, Mr. Edgar Valdivia a master dragon fruit grower and breeder noticed is that in the morning when the flowers droop down more, that curving downward movement will also help the pollen fall on or touch on the stigma more easily.
In some natural environment, bees or bugs might help do this pollinating job in the morning. In others, there are some helper bats or moths that could help at night.
Being self-fertile doesn't always mean it likes its own pollen (which is referred to as self pollination). Some growers plant 2 different varieties near each other so bees can help cross pollinate them.
And if all else fail, we can hand pollinate. This guy has got some good results with hand pollination (bigger tasty fruits/better yields).
>> Link YouTube:How to get bigger size fruits and better fruit yield from your dragon fruit plants.
The red dragon fruit flowers like Asunta are almost always non self-fertile as for now.
In the photo above the stigma is very high up while the anthers containing pollen are so much lower down. Growers hand pollinate the pollen of white-flesh Tricia variety with this Asunta variety to get fruits. This one is a creation of Edgar Valdivia, a dragon fruit master & massive source of inspiration in the dragon fruit growing community.
Check out if the variety you have is self-fertile or may need cross-pollination:
Self-Pollination vs Hand-Pollination Varieties
|American Beauty||Physical Graffiti|
|Sugar Dragon||Red Jeina|
|Colombian Yellow||Hayley's Comet|
|Peruvian Yellow||Frankie's Red|
|Ecuador Palora||Edgar's Baby|
|Dark Star S9||Maria Rosa|
|San Ignacio||Connie Mayer|
|Royal Red||Cosmic Charlie|
|-||Paul Thomson G2|
|-||Kathie van Arum|
If you want to read more about dragon fruit pollination later, check out this post below:
Also, check the:
Pollen in the Flower
In some cases, the plants bloom but there are few or no pollen in the pollen sacs. This may be why the plants haven't produced any fruits. See an example here:
>> Link YouTube:American Beauty Bloom but no pollens Part I
In flowers with no pollen, around the edge of the petals, you won't see any dusty yellowish powder grains sticking to them. In flowers with pollen, you'll see some light yellow dust around. With few or no pollen, you may not get fruits from the plants.
Physical Graffiti is believed to be one that does not produce much pollen & the pollen tends to be quite weak. The Sugar Dragon has stronger pollen production. Some call it the Universal Pollinator because the Sugar Dragon pollen can be used to pollinate many other varieties. Most other dragon fruit varieties have quite viable pollen.
Some even try mixing:
|Pollen mix||Pollen receiver|
|Lisa + Sugar Dragon||American Beauty|
|Lisa + American Beauty||Physical Graffiti|
Also, look out for rain. Water getting into the flowers as they bloom might affect the pollen quality. Flowers that get some rain dropping in may bear fruits. But according to growers the fruits are almost always much smaller.
If your plants bloom near the rainy season, you may tie the flowers close with a rubber band. People do this to protect the flowers from the rain & other stuff in the rainwater. Doing this also reduces the risk of rotting.
Shade & Sun
In the summer, dragon fruit plants will enjoy the most sunlight. This helps tremendously with fruiting. But they might also get sunburned & turned yellow because of too much heat. So, growers put a shade or some canopy over the trees, which blocks out about 75% of sunlight.
Although shade is good to keep the plants from yellowing, too much shade can affect the fruit production. The plants may still flower but they might not gather enough bits & pieces to make fruits.
With too much shade, the fruits might not be sweet. Be sure not to shade your plants too much. But also not to place them under extreme heat for too long. Around 6 hrs of sunlight a day is good for them.
You can, for example, let the plants climb on the wall & use the heat reflected by the wall to keep them warm (even in the winter season):
If it's really cold in the winter season, the plants may go dormant & won't be fruiting at this point.
The branch 'umbrella' may also help with fruiting:
The Branch Umbrella
Many growers have shared this similar idea: if you just let the dragon fruit cactus vines grow up & up, flowering & fruiting will always be much slower.
It's the same in the rain forests, where dragon fruit plants live naturally. They climb up a tall tree and when they reach the top with no more room to shoot up, they start to branch out (umbrella the branches out downward) & set fruits.
As dragon fruit plants are semi-tropical trees, if we let them climb up & up, they'll keep going up forever without stopping.
What we can do is make the vines branch out or umbrella out a bit. Lean them more horizontally on the top of the post if you're growing them this way.
Another way is to prune off the top. From this pruned back top, multiple branches will umbrella out. Keep it around 1-2 small branch for 1 bigger branch.
As you often see on dragon fruit farms, this is the dragon's head with lots of branches curving down:
This hanging down creates some stresses on the undersides of the vines. It helps with inducing flower & fruit growth. If you don't like doing it this way, you can just lay the trees on the ground or some rocks. Flowers & fruits will usually grow out from branches with round tips.
One drawback of growing them this way is chickens & raccoons and other small animals. Because they may come and eat most of the fruits (if you're not quick to harvest them first :) ). Fruits & flowers may also be touching the ground.
Some Phosphorous & Potassium
At the early growing stages, the goal of the dragon fruit plant is to extend more branches. So, at such stage they need nitrogen (the building muscle). Near the flowering & fruiting stages, the plants need more phosphorous (P) & potassium (K).
Too little of these in the soil may trigger the reaction of slowing down fruiting. The plant may think "We don't have enough resources now, it's not a good time yet to fruit".
- You've been feeding your babies enough before flowering & fruiting
- There's any little guys stealing the good food inside the soil
- The roots of your plants are strong enough to suck up the nutrients
- The soil is too hard or clayey
If your plants have been 'visited' by some bad guys, we can counteract this with:
- Some beneficial root fungi & microbes to improve strength
- Copper-based fungicide (blue or greenish) as a strong measure
- Neem oil as a prevention to keep them away
More Tips to Get Loads of Dragon Fruits
Check out this cool video by Self Sufficient Me. He shares some good tips on getting more dragon fruits:
>> Link YouTube:8 Tips How to Get MORE Dragon Fruit Pitaya
His 8 tips are:
- Water: dragon fruit vine is a rain forest cactus that likes some good moisture, just not wet feet. A grower in Australia has found that giving the plants small amount but regular waterings make the fruits sweeter.
- Hand pollinate
- Grow different varieties
- Make it branch out
- Don't over-fertilize: especially during the 'pregnant' fruiting stages. Too much food can actually be counterproductive & make the fruits slow-growing and smaller.
- Grow from cuttings
- Grow in the right conditions
- Grow varieties with good fertility
Some growers also share that if you play the stress game with the dragon fruit plants, that is, let the base dry & cut water for 2-5 days, the plants will produce more flowers in response. This can be done with some fertilizer addition + artificial lighting for the plants. They're put in fear mode & often speed up the reproduction for the survival of younger generations.
Enjoy the Fruits
If you've downsized the plants, give it enough good bits gradually as it grows & give it just enough protection, then sooner or later the plants will start to fruit.
Don't give up hope. You're not doing anything wrong, maybe it's just not time yet. Some folks have seen their plants flower & fruit within the 1st year of growing. Certainly, your plants can too!
- Look for smaller sucker branches
- Check the age of the plants
- Does the variety need hand pollination
- Is the pollen good or is there any pollen inside
- Is there enough sunlight & water for the plants
- Are the branches umbrella out or shooting up
- Have you fed them good phosphorous & potassium
- Epic Gardening
- Hoan Nguyen TL
- Grafting Dragon Fruit
- Chemi tv
- Carl Raw Ross
- Garden S
- Three Lucky Mountains
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