Most of the dragon fruits we have today originate from central America–in places like Guatemala, Nicaragua & Colombia. In the 1980s or so, the Frenchmen helped carry these to Vietnam, where the mass production of dragon fruits took off.
Scientifically, dragon fruits belong to the Hylocereus group and the different varieties are classified as:
- Hylocereus guatemalensis
- Hylocereus costaricensis
- Hylocereus undatus
- Hylocereus megalanthus (formerly Selenecereus megalanthus)
- Hylocereus polyrhizus
And many other hybrid varieties from these original dragon fruits. If you're wondering which varieties to choose to grow, eat or get good pollen from, let's begin our exploration with:
The sweetest variety
Hylocereus megalanthus is also known commonly as the yellow Ecuador Palora dragon fruit. It is super spiky with about 12 spikes per petal. But the fruit, according to many, is hands-down the sweetest of all varieties. It tastes almost like honey or a sugar cube. While their skin is yellow, their flesh is actually white.
The sweetness is reflected by their high BRIX reading (the sugar measure) of over 20 in most cases. Some folks who prefer a sweet-and-tart taste in their dragon fruits don't find this variety too appealing though. It is overly sweet to their taste. However, if this is something that can excite your taste buds, then definitely give it a try & see how you like it.
Here is the look of a yellowing dragon fruit climbing on the side of a wall (with a nice little pink adenium tree next to it). But we digress.
While other dragon fruit varieties take about 60 days to go from flower buds to fruits, the HM can take somewhere from 150 days up to 7 months to develop fruits. The harvesting & handling can be a bit time-consuming because we need to brush the thorns off the fruits. These guys produce white flowers & they are said to be self-fertile.
The HM prices in some countries are crazy high. It may cost up to about $100/lb or $50/kilo depending on the fruit size & quality. A good cutting goes from $25-$50. This variety can also a good choice for long-term investment as of now. But the trend may change.
There is another yellow variety called the Thai Yellow. It may be a cross between Hylocereus Megalanthus & some other specie. Their smaller fruits actually taste sweeter than the bigger ones. They have big seeds & are very sweet.
Here are the Thai yellow dragon fruits we talked about guys. There are so many of them:
If you want a variety to get good pollen from, then keep scrolling on to see these:
If you want to grow varieties that produce good pollen, try Lisa (Hylocereus polyrhizus), Sugar Dragon (Hylocereus guatemalensis hybrid) or Vietnam White.
Sugar Dragon, a baby created by the master Paul Thomson, is one of the most prolific pollen generator of all species. Some call it the Universal Pollinator. Because you can use their pollen to pollinate almost all the other varieties. Their pollen are often the beasts.
Growing Lisa & Sugar Dragon together may give you good pollen all season round. They actually sequence each other in flowering. Meaning, when one stops blooming, the other one starts flowering. And just like that, they sequence each other year in year out. You'll have enough pollen for the whole year.
Sugar Dragon flowers come in early, so you can use that to pollinate varieties like American Beauty (Hylocereus guatemalensis hybrid) that also flowers early. They can be a good match just in time. Vietnam White is another great pollinator you can use to pollinate other species. This variety in itself is self fertile however it does produce quite a good amount of pollen.
But what if you love the taste of dragon fruits, but don't want to take in the sugars? Then, you should see these:
Good for diabetics
Most of the white-flesh ones (Hylocereus undatus) like the Vietnam White are good for diabetics. They have a low sugar content, but still give you a bunch of other benefits like anti-oxidants, eyesight improvement, blood pressure balancing, etc.
But to some folks, the taste of the white pulp is bland. This may be because the store-bought ones are picked too early so they can survive long shipping. Try the George's White or Seoul Kitchen. These are great for diabetics but still give you a good taste plus a ton of vitamins, fiber & phytonutrients.
Finally, if you want to grow dragon fruit commercially, which ones should you choose? See some good choices right below:
Best commercial dragon fruit varieties
Most good dragon fruit varieties for commercial grow are:
- American Beauty
- Physical Graffiti
- Edgar's Baby
- Valdivia Roja
For commercial varieties, people often look for:
- Good yield
- Good taste
- Good size
- Self fertility
- Easy hand pollination
From these base points, the American Beauty & Physical Graffiti stand out the most to meet our standards. Let's see some experience growers share when growing these varieties:
American Beauty has this beautiful magenta/purple flesh. When picked early, they have a sweet taste with a bit tart after-taste that kind of lasts in your mouth. The texture is nice & firm. When picked ripe, American Beauty is almost as sweet or sweeter than the Sugar Dragon (which is really sweet & is many people's favorite).
The outside of this variety looks as impressive as its pulp. This is an attraction point for many consumers. The fruit has good size from half a pound to over 1 lb. Oh and its juice doesn't stain your hands like thorny Lisa.
This one is also an early bloomer. You can just leave them there for self-pollination. But hand pollination may give you better results. Sometimes, there may little or no pollen in the pollen sacs. Growers pollinate them using Lisa or Sugar Dragon pollen.
If you're growing them in a consistently hot climate (over 100F/37.8C), they may get sunburned. If it is too cold (below 32F/0C), they might also be damaged. These beauties are sensitive to heat & cold. In some areas, they may suffer from chlorosis, the yellowing of leaves. People tackle this by grafting them on stronger, more resilient rootstocks. In normal weather conditions, American Beauty should do fine.
Let's come check out this other cool guy & why people like it so much:
Some people say these guys' pollen is not very good or is one of the weakest. They may not produce lots of pollen either. But (and this is a big but) if you cross pollinate them with some other hybrid varieties pollen, then Physical Graffiti can be one of the most productive ever. It will give you so many fruits on one plant.
They have large fruits from 0.75 to 1.5 lbs. The inner flesh is a beautiful blend of pink & white. The taste is just 'eye-closingly' amazing. It is a perfect blend between sweetness & tartness. Many folks love this balance. It's comparable to the taste of a golden kiwi. In blind taste tests, this still ranks as one of the best.
Physical Graffiti grows & produces well in California as well as Florida where it originates. Protect them from too much sun & cold. You can then get pretty good return on your investment. The marketable weight for this is around 23 kilos (or 50 lbs) per plant. Its days to harvest is around 40 days. So it's a heavy & fast producer.
Sometimes, they are so productive that people actually have to go & thin off the buds.
Self fertile vs Cross pollination varieties
Check out this graphic below for more info on self-fertile vs cross-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|
Some other good commercial varieties
- Tricia: very heat/cold tolerant, but quite thorny
- Vietnam white: heat/cold tolerant, strong growth, good root growth
- Edgar's baby: big round fruits, quick flower-to-fruit
- Valdivia Roja: red, high in anti-oxidants, good taste, produces well
- Seoul Kitchen: good yield, big fruits, great for diabetics
The hanging time of the fruits
When choosing a commercial variety, also take into account the time the fruits can hang on the tree. For example, some Purple/Magenta varieties can hang on the branch for up to 1 month if we wrap a bag around the fruit. This is one way to keep the fruits good during times when prices are low. Some other varieties like the red ones can only anchor on the stem for 10 days.
Here you can see an example of how growers wrap the fruits with a brown paper bag:
Another point to look at is:
The thickness of the scales
Also, look briefly at the length or thickness of the scales. During shipping or stacking, some scales might break off. This is not a big issue for many consumers. But it may affect the price because they can use the reason that the appearance is not up to par with the market's standards.
Some growers hand-curve these scales to thicken them up. The curviness helps create some strength & resistance when dragon fruits are stacked close together. So the scales won't break off easily.
Also, many people wonder:
Why the Sugar Dragon S8 is rated as very sweet, juicy & crunchy but not grown more commercially?
This may be because they produce pretty small fruits compared to the other varieties. They weigh around 0.3-0.5 lb & are about 4 inches long. S8 also has quite thin skin. This means they can get bruised easily & would decrease in value if it is so. This also means more handling care is needed compared to the thicker skin ones. But for pollen, it is A+. If you love the taste, Sugar Dragon is a great one to grow for enjoyment.
Tips for commercial growing
If you want to check out more for your growing needs, check out these posts below for some good information:
Other lesser-known dragon fruit varieties
As it turns out, there are not only 5 varieties of dragon fruits as we have saw in the beginning of our tour. There are actually so many more varieties. Here you can see some of them listed with the species name, skin and flesh colors:
Which dragon fruit variety caught your attention the most?
After our great exploration, which variety has got your attention the most? Would it be the sweetest yellow one? Or the white ones with a low sugar content or perhaps some of the Super Pollinators?
Whichever one you choose, we hope you enjoy the taste & the goodness of what a dragon fruit has to offer. Hope this guide has given you some good ideas to get started. Thanks for visiting & catch you again next time around the garden.
Responses to Readers' Questions
Hylecereus andatus,l want higher and sweeter fruit .Which pollinators do l use
--> Try Lisa, Sugar Dragon or a mix of both! Because many white-flesh varieties are self-fertile, you could also use its own pollen. For sweeter fruits:
- Don't mix in too much sand
- Water lightly because dragon fruits like some moisture
- Don't water or overwater 10-15 days before picking the fruits
- Harvest the fruits that are in season (late summer/early fall is the sweetest)
- Don't leave the fruits on the branches for too long
- Choose sweet varieties from the start (Palora, S8, American Beauty)
- Use fresh viable pollen from strong species (Vietnam White, S8, Lisa)
If you want higher yield, a good variety is Physical Graffiti. It's one of the top producers there are. In a warmer/more humid environment, dragon fruits may put out 4 pushes a year. In a more temperate climate, it may give 1-2 crops a year.
If you haven't heard about it already, check out EM (effective microorganism) or IMO (indigenous microorganism). They are basically the good microbes for your plants and soil. People use it on their dragon fruit plants with amazing results. Those plants that used to produce 1 crop a year now yield 4 crops a year thanks to this stuff.
I wish you the best with your dragon fruit plants!
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