Dragon fruit stem & root rotting: How to save

Dragon Fruit Plants 15 May 2020

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

The larvae of a fly on pitahaya branch

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

Damaged inner core of dragon fruit
The whole root & stem rotting

Let's Save It Now

1. Cut off the rotted part


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


Cut a little high up just to be safe:


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

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 a month or a month & a half.

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.

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.

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.

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 can survive even when their ground roots are cut off or rotted. Let's see:

Some little air roots of pitahaya

As your trees mature & develop more air roots, they will increase their overall resistance to overwatering.  

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 rotting. Richard, the guy behind Grafting Dragon Fruit, shares his experience with stem rotting here.

The steps are pretty similar to save the branch:

  • 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?

It might. If you have improved the environment around which your dragon fruits are living, balance may be naturally regained.

As there is less excess water & excess food, the unwanted microbes 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.


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