Let's experiment dragon fruit grafting together:
Why do people graft dragon fruits
1. Easily switch between different species
White dragon fruits are grown widely because they are strong, tolerant & have good yields. But for some consumers, the taste is bland compared to the flavorful red ones.
Grafting allows hobbyists or farmers to switch from white to red dragon fruits or any other varieties easily. You can let the white ones be the foundation rootstocks & graft the red scions on. If the grafts go well, we can have good growth with strong bases. When you want to switch back to the original white ones, you can just cut off the grafts.
2. Clone a rare specie
Sometimes growers don't get the dragon fruit seeds, but only the cuttings. To continue the life line of that specie, they graft it on a healthy rootstock. If the graft takes, we can get a clone of the specie. Then, it continues on blooming & fruiting.
3. Strong faster growth
Grafting a specie on the rootstock of a nutritious, strong variety can help promote faster growth. This way of propagating is comparatively faster than sowing dragon fruits seeds, which could take from 2-5 years. It also helps varieties like the yellow Megalanthus, which naturally has a weaker root system, to grow & develop more strongly. You can see a huge difference between the graft vs non-grafted here:
>> Link YouTube:Benefits of Grafted vs Not Grafted Dragon Fruit
Some strong rootstocks can even help with fighting chlorosis (abnormal yellowing of leaves) in sandy & harsh in-ground growing conditions. This may not be conclusive, but the signs are very suggestive in this direction.
Here are some good rootstocks people use for grafting:
- Vietnam White: cold/heat tolerant, good root growth, fast growth
- Taiwan Red/Purple: strong root growth, tolerant
- Physical Graffiti/Hylocereus costaricensis: help fight chlorosis
- Maria Rosa (Hylocereus undatus x guatamalensis)
(Physical Graffiti is a hybrid between Hylocereus guatamalensis x undatus). Taiwan Red is the same Hylocereus polyrhizus like the Lisa variety.
Cactus/succulent grafters also use dragon fruit Hylocereus rootstock as the base to graft other cactus–not only dragon fruit–because of these good qualities. They graft moon cactus on the dragon fruit rootstock for example. You can mix & match this however you like.
>> Link YouTube:Rootstock for Cactus Grafting ( Hylocereus & Myrtillocactus ) | apr20
If you want to graft multiple plants on one rootstock, let's now check out the first grafting style, which is:
1. Shoot grafting
The advantage of this grafting style is that it retains the shape of the main branch (the rootstock). So later on, if we want to remove the graft, we just need to cut off the grafted shoots. Everything else is kept intact.
Here we use the Taiwan red dragon fruit as the rootstock branch. This variety is strong, tolerant & has very good root growth.
The Taiwan red fruits look a bit like this. It's a type of Hylocereus polyrhizus, same as the Lisa variety.
And now we choose the graft scion Thai yellow. So this will be the variety that we want to grow & get fruits:
The fruits of Thai yellow look a bit like this:
To get the shoot, what we do is twist & pull off the scion branch:
And now back to our rootstock, we'll do the same. Be careful with dragon fruit thorns poking into the skin. It can hurt so bad all day long.
After pulling off a shoot (a little branch) on the rootstock, we now insert the scion into the rootstock likewise:
After the insertion, cut the scion off leaving about 2-3 inches:
And, we're done:
When is a good time to do the grafting
It's good to do the grafting when the weather is quite dry with some light sunlight. To prevent rain or some water getting in or out of the graft, you can cover it with a plastic bag or newspaper. After about 10 days, you can uncover the graft.
With this grafting style, you can plant 1-3 shoots on the same rootstock, depending on its strength. The success rate of this style is around 70%.
Here is the result:
When the tree fruits, the Thai Yellow will look something like the picture below. Trust me, it is truly exciting! Most growers now choose the yellow or red ones for grafting because people love this taste & they sell very well. It's good value for investment and enjoyment.
There's another grafting style that yields 90% good grafts. Let's explore the:
2. L-shape grafting (Cleft graft)
For this style, you need a grafting knife, some rubber bands & a plastic bag. The knife doesn't need to be terribly sharp. Some cactus grafters find that using a not-really sharp tool can help leave the cambium layer on the scion & not slicing it totally off.
We start off by slicing the rootstock flat with the knife:
Then, we cut an L shape on the 2-3 inch scion. First, cut straight down. Then, slice off the flesh like a fish fillet. Don't cut too deep into the bone (the vascular inner core):
You can see the L shape cut not touching the white bone yet. We then slice it downward to reveal the bone/the cambium. This is the part that will create connecting tissue joining the scion & the rootstock:
You can slice off the back of the scion a little to reveal more of the cambium:
Then, split the rootstock in half. The depth is just about the size of the scion you're putting in. Then, place the scion in with the direction of an upside-down L.
To secure & protect the graft, you can use some toothpicks & bags. And yay we're done!
After the graft is done, you can protect it from excess rainwater or drying out with a plastic cover. If you see new shoots on the rootstock & not our scion, prune them off to focus energy on our growing scion. If you're curious, let's try another style:
3. Near-bone grafting
In this grafting style, you'll be slicing the scion a bit like a BBQ stick. Then, we poke it through the rootstock.
The position is important. You'd want to plug it in near the bone (the inner vascular core) of the stem, not directly into the core or too far away. This way, it helps the cambium tissue to develop & join the graft union.
See it done here:
When you poke the scion stem in, poke it near the inner core of the rootstock. Not too far away because the connecting tissue may not form. But not directly into the inner core because it's quite hard & difficult to poke through. Near the core is best & make sure the 2 surfaces come in contact with each other.
After the graft is done, place a plastic bag over to protect the union from rain or losing moisture. Then, in a couple of weeks, if the graft takes, you'll see some brown connecting tissue calluses over & new shoots sprouting out. You can then start watering & taking care of the grafted dragon fruit like usual.
4. Seedling grafting style
This grafting style is when we graft a tiny dragon fruit seedling onto a grown-up rootstock. Check out the grafting seedling with tape here:
>> Link YouTube:Grafting dragonfruit seedling using tape method
After grafting, many folks ask:
What will the dragon fruits on the grafted plants look & taste like?
Some folks worry that grafting different dragon fruit varieties this way can cause some weird mix & weird taste to the fruits.
To re-assure you guys, when grafting, what we're basically doing is borrowing the waterways & nutrient-ways of the rootstock to nourish our scion. There is no gene mixing or modification. The genes are left untouched.
The fruits on grafted plants will turn out to be the variety of the scion that you choose. It will most likely not affect the taste at all. If you choose Thai yellow as the scion, the fruits will turn out to look & taste like Thai yellow dragon fruits.
The taste, sweetness or tartness, also depends on how much water we're giving it, how much sun it gets, and the good bits in the soil. But overall there is no weird mix or taste to it. See the results here of the Purple/Magenta variety grafted on a purple rootstock:
>> Link YouTube:After grafting will dragon fruit be mixed genetically?
Have fun grafting!
Responses to Readers' Questions
Can I use sterile dragon fruit as a root stalk?
--> Thank you for your question. From an experienced grower that I asked, yes.
When using the twist and pull method, why do you cut the scion down to 2-3 inches? Could you just leave the scion whole and not cut it?
--> Thanks for your question. Leaving the scion long could make the graft union dry out easily. Thus we snip it shorter and at times use a cover for higher take rates and prevent the moisture loss. Hope this clarifies!
What is the best time to do grafting in A.Calfornia?
--> Thanks for your question. To be honest, I am not really sure about this. But I notice that Richard, the guy behind the Grafting Dragon Fruits youtube channel, often does his grafting videos in the summer and fall months & sometimes in late Nov. I believe he's also in South California. The thing to note is after you do your grafting, keep it in the shade (possibly with a bag covered) for around 15 days. It will help retain the moisture. As the graft produces new growth, gradually introduce it to more sunlight. I hope this helps!
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