When completely drenched in water, the dragon fruit plants can withstand for 6-10 days. After this period of time, their roots might rot. In some severe cases, you might see little maggots chewing up the decaying dragon fruit stem. They look something like this:

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The larvae of a fly on pitahaya branch

Very often, rotted roots will lead to rotted stem eventually:

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Damaged inner core of dragon fruit

Here you can have a quick look at a plant that has been rotted in the roots & it leads to the stem rot:

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The whole root & stem rotting

If you're having this issue with your dragon:

Let's Save It Now

With a sharp tool, or a hand sickle for example, we can begin to slice off the rotted part. This is to isolate the bad guys from getting in any further:

1. Cut off the rotted part

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You can see the different colors of the rot & non-rot inner core:

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We can cut a little high up just to be safe:

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What we're trying to do is to save the healthy part from the bad guys in the ground. After this isolation, we can:

2. Plant anew

Let the cut stems dry over time. Even if they are not touching the ground, new roots may form if there's some humidity. Spread hay around the roots to keep them cool & retain moisture. If all goes well, you should see new roots growth in about 1-1.5 month.

In many cases, the causes of root & stem rot is due to over-watering & over-fertilizing. Be sure to keep your water amount in check. When feeding the plant, spread the food a bit far off the base. This way, we don't heat up the near-by area or leave excess residue afterwards.

To prevent rot from happening again, you can try to:

3. Improve the soil

Like other cactus & succulents, remember one thing for dragon fruit: free-draining soil. They don't really like wet feet.

To increase the drainage, try adding inorganic materials like perlite, pumice, sand, rocks at the bottom. These make sure the soil doesn't clump up or harden. They also contain vitamins & minerals that are good for the plants.

Try increasing the varieties of good microbes in the soil. Adding some good root fungi might help the nutrient intake & water transport.

Additionally, to avoid the good bits being washed away, some people mix in azomite. This is like the sticky magnetic bits that retain the ions (iron, copper, zinc etc) in the soil for efficient long-lasting feeding.

If the ground roots get rotted, we may counter-act with another way:

4. Increase the air roots

Dragon fruit is a super plant that has air roots & ground roots. Most of the time, the rot happens around the ground roots. If we can increase the air roots, dragon fruits have somewhere to lean on for survival even when their ground roots are cut off or get severely rotted.

Let's see some tiny little air roots right below:

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Some little air roots of pitahaya

As your trees mature & develop more air roots, they will increase their overall resistance to overwatering. As you can see with the dragon fruit vines below, they have developed quite a system or network of roots. We are not entirely sure or know how they work. But this system can keep the overall trees alive even when one or two 'nutrient-transport' ways fail. It is amazing.

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Dragon fruit vines on the wall

Stem rotting

Sometimes stem rotting may be caused by some standing water left on the branch after watering. This coupled with the heat from the sun can cause stem rotting. Richard, the guy behind Grafting Dragon Fruit, shares his experience with stem rotting here.

The steps to rescue your plants are pretty similar to what we've explored earlier:

  • Use a sterile tool to cut off the rotted part
  • If you're extra careful, apply cinnamon powder for protection
  • Wait for it to callus over & healed

Will rot happen again?

Rot might happen again as the environment changes. If you have improved the environment around which your dragon fruits are living, balance may be naturally regained. The chances of rotting then can be lowered.

As there is less excess water & excess food, the unwanted bad guys might not be tempted to build their houses there. As we increase the good microbes in the soil, they may take up all the living space for other species to settle down & reproduce. This means happy dragon fruit plants & happy growers.

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