Red orange spots on dragon fruit plants are often caused by overwatering or high humidity (beginning of rainy season). The excess moisture attracts a fungus with this long name Botryosphaeria Dothidea & other beetles or insects to the party. But don't worry, this is treatable & sometimes preventable.
Let's see the first way:
Way #1–The extreme way
If you want to go extreme to treat the orange spots, you could use:
- Copper based fungicide
- Sulfur powder
These are the heavyweights that can get rid of the fungi almost overnight. The best time to spray these is immediately as you notice the spots or as the spots are still young. Try alternating between different sprays so the bugs don't develop some resistance against them.
Way #2–An organic way
If you want something more organic, try:
- Neem oil
- Prune the infected branches off
- Less water
Spray neem oil around your plants or preferably even before the rainy season starts. Neem oil, however, smells quite bad, especially the pure stuff without any additives mixed into it.
If the orange spots get really bad, prune off the infected branches with sterile tools & discard them somewhere far away. Avoid pruning in wet or low-light conditions because it might induce more rots.
Try watering less & feeding the plants less. Dragon fruit is a unique plant that also has air roots. They can take in the moisture & nutrients in the air. With excess food & water, it might be a juicy target for the other guys.
Way #3–The lazy way
If you want a truly 'do-nothing' kind of way, then just leave your plants alone. Some growers in Okinawa & southern Japan just let the insects and fungi enjoy their feast.
Although their bites will leave ugly scars on the pitaya branches, it is the vascular inner core that is truly essential. If that core is alive, your plants will be alive.
To prevent orange spots from happening, make sure you don't overwater your plants. If rainy season is coming, spray some protective neem oil to keep the bad guys away. Check the soil to see if it is well-draining and don't overfeed your plants. And if possible, add some friendly microbes in the soil to increase the dragon fruits' good allies communities.
Why do some people leave this alone & do nothing?
From another perspective, the orange spots may be a protective measure that occurs naturally to slow down the growth of the dragon fruit a bit. Maybe there is too much good food in the soil & the plants are growing way too rapidly. From this point of view, this may be nature at work to balance things out. So other things can keep up or co-exist well together.
Some folks believe these spots or the mushy parts oozing out from the branches are a natural phenomenon. This happens to other cacti as well. It may not be bacteria or fungi. Basically, the dragon fruits are shedding their skin or leaves–like a snake. As this is seen as normal, we may not need to worry too much about it.
Here is our small guess. If you check the soil pH around this time, it might be very acidic (around 4). Whereas the good pH for dragon fruit is around 6-7. The 'sourness' in the soil might suggest the increase number of fungal micro-organisms or nematodes.
They are breathing, it smells sour & it may be their sour breath/gas. As the acidic water vapor airs out, it might lead to acid rain. Rain pours down & it goes on and on in this cycle. We got this little idea of the symphony of nature from The Natural Way of Farming (by Masanobu Fukuoka). But it might need to be put to the test.
Tackling orange spots
After exploring some ways to tackle these red/orange spots, which way may you go on to keep your dragons healthy & strong? For the lazy side of us, we may choose way #3. As you already know, it may be better to prepare for this or anticipate the fungi coming so we won't be caught off-guard.
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