While some dragon fruit varieties are self-pollinated, some other varieties may need the help of hand pollination to set fruits or get good yields. This is what we're going to explore today. If well done, hand-pollinated dragon fruits may get bigger sizes than bee-pollinated ones. Growers have had good results with this, so let's check it out.
Collect the pollen
Dragon fruit flowers usually open at 8 pm at night & close at 8 am the next morning.
To collect the pollen, you can use:
- A glass jar
- Nylon paint screen bags
If you use the scissors, cut off the anthers (the strings with the pollen). Then, put them in your glass jar. Alternatively, you could use a stainless steel bowl so the static charges won't affect the pollen's quality. If you store the pollen in the fridge, it can be good for up to 5 days of use.
If you use the screen bag, wrap it around the flowers. Then, shake the flowers so the pollen fall off & into the bag. You can collect thousands in a few hours. Or if you want to do it the lazy way, just wrap the screen bag around the flowers & wait for them to droop quite a bit. Pollen will then naturally fall into the bag. Be quick because if we're late, bees or moths might get there first & leave us with zero pollen.
You can also use a vacuum cleaner. It's a bit noisy but it gets the job done if you have lots of plants. A head lamp might be useful because you may be collecting these pollen late in the day when the flowers bloom. The cool thing is dragon fruit flowers last usually only one night.
But on one plant, different flowers may open up at different times. So the blooming show can last for 4-5 nights. The Lisa variety has a shorter bloom window than the Sugar Dragon. You can use the pollen collected earlier to pollinate the ones that bloom later.
Let's get to pollinating!
With your fresh pollen, you can pollinate the dragon fruit using a paintbrush. Dip the brush into the glass jar or bag of pollen. It should have some yellow powdery stuff on the tip. Then, gently dab the brush on the stigma (the receiving female) of the flowers.
Before 9 am the next day is a good time to do it. Some commercial growers have had good success with this timing. Alternatively, you can skip a step of storing the pollen by pulling the anthers off & rub them gently on the stigma right at the time you collect the pollen.
Check out the pollination of Connie Mayer red flowers which mostly need some help of hand pollination:
Some pollination ideas
Usually folks get better results when they:
- Cross pollinate different varieties
- Freeze the pollen
Freezing the pollen is still quite controversial. Edgar Valdivia, the dragon fruit master, believes that keeping them cool is enough for viability. He doesn't recommend freezing. Other folks have good results when pollen are frozen. You may want to experiment a bit with this to see what results you may get.
Check out this awesome pollination video instructed by Edgar himself:
People often pollinate these varieties:
- White x pink/red
- Pink/red x white
- Experimental: yellow x white/red/pink
An example pair-up is when they cross the Asunta 4 with the Tricia variety to produce Asunta 5 offspring.
|Asunta 4||Tricia||Asunta 5|
The Asunta 5 is just too beautiful:
Why do the pollinated flowers turn yellow & fall off?
This may happen because we are pollinating on the same variety. The flowers don't take in that pollen & thus no fruit is formed. Doing cross pollination between different varieties will give you better results.
Pollinating with the same specie is not impossible. This guy has done it here with a red flesh dragon fruit variety. It took 3 years for him to get the first fruit:
Hand pollinating is a fun & rewarding process. Ha, so this is what it's like to be doing the job of a bee. Good luck with your pollination.
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