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:

dragon-fruit-stem-rotting-maggots
The larvae of a fly on pitahaya branch

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

damaged-inner-core-dragon-fruit
Damaged inner core of dragon fruit

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

root-stem-rotting
The whole root and stem rotting

Rotting could also happen when there's high humidity like in the rain. Or when it's been sunny for some time, then suddenly rains. Opportunistic fungi may take the chance to chew up our dragon branches.

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If you're having this issue with your dragon fruits:

Let's Save It Now

With a sharp tool, or a hand sickle, 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

sickle-off-the-rotted-part

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

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

cut-off-the-rot-part

What we're trying to do is to save the healthy part from the bad guys in the ground.

If the rotted part is still small, you could use a rod to scrape the damaged part off:

scraping-off-the-mushy-part
Scraping off the mushy part

After this isolation, we can:

2. Let It Heal & Replant

Let the branches 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 mighty 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:

air-roots-dragon-fruit
Some little air roots of pitahaya

As your plants 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.

dragon-fruit-air-roots-on-wall
Dragon fruit vines on the wall

More About 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.

>> Link YouTube:

Removing Rotting Dragon Fruit Flesh

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

>> Link YouTube:

Rotting Dragon Fruit Flesh Callused and 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.

Thanks:

Responses to Readers' Questions

When a rodent chews the base of the plant and nearly girdles the plant, will it regrow the base to continue regrowing itself or should it be cut above the eaten area and allowed to regenerate a root base? Thanks!

--> Thanks for your question. In my opinion (just my opinion now), the rodent-eaten part, similar to a fungi-eaten part, may not fully regrow itself to the original shape it once was. There may still be 'the bite' or the curve-in part visible on the stem. However, I was told that although the green meaty part around the branch may rot, as long as you keep the center core alive, the plant will survive and root itself. The core is where the roots shoot out. This is the core I was talking about:

comparing-core-size-dragon-fruit

So if you observe that the rodent has not chewed deep into the center, then that part may still be saved and regrow (re-root). Otherwise, you could cut above the eaten area to save the good part. That part will grow a root base again. I hope this helps!

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