Firstly, not too much sand

Sand, although well-draining, does not hold onto minerals like Ca, Mg, K very well. It is quite neutral & a flush of water may also flush out the good bits in the sand as well.

According to a grower in Riverside who we had a chance to talk to, putting too much sand in the soil makes the dragon fruit less sweet or quite bland.

In some sandy growing areas with little organic matter on the surface, the plants don't usually get a lot of nutrients & may get chlorosis (abnormal loss of green in the leaves). The fruits thus are less sweet and has less nutritional value.

Folks often ask then:

What soil do dragon fruit plants like

Like other types of succulents & cactus, dragon fruit likes well-draining soil. To create such environment, you can add inorganic stuff like perlite, pumice or sand. The volcanic rocks also boost the vitamins & minerals in the soil.

The soil can be divided into 3 layers:

Bottom layer

Hay, mulch, rice husks, dry coconut shells are great bottom layer. This keeps the soil from hardening up & allow good air flow for the roots. Alternatively, you can use perlite, pumice, rocks to create a well-draining bed.

Middle layer

Garden soil is fine for the middle layer. Remember to create pathways for water to exit out. Choose some materials that have high cation exchange capacity (CEC) like some humic acid or fulvic acid.

In natural soil, micro elements like hydromica, kaolinite, montmorillonite are those sticky bits that help retain vital nutrients in the soil. To mimic the natural environment, some growers use azomite.

Top layer

Spread some mulch or hay to avoid drying out. Dragon fruits love having a layer of organic matter on top. Over time, the hay decomposes, becoming a nutritious top soil for the dragon fruit plants. Other organic materials like chicken manure also work. It has high potassium that works great for the fruiting stage.

Some fungi

Mycorrhizal fungi (or root fungi) form a good relationship with almost 90% vascular plants on Earth, including dragon fruit plants. They give the dragon fruits hard-to-digest bits in exchange for some good sugar the plants make. You can add some of these fungi to promote more extensive root growth.

After knowing this, people wonder:

What soil dragon fruits don't really like

It seems that the kind of soil that dragon fruit plants don't really like is muddy soil. Muddy soil often means poor drainage. And that's not really good for the plants.

If the soil in your area is muddy, try create ponds or ditches in lower-lying areas so the excess water can runoff. Straw works really well as a deep mulch layer on top. These loose materials allow water to run through easily & can enrich the soil.

pH for dragon fruit plants

A good pH level for dragon fruit soil is around 6-7.5. This one right here may be too acidic:

ph-measure-for-dragon-fruit
Nematodes love acidic soil

And the bad news is nematodes love acidic soil. The acidic environment attracts nematodes & other fungi that they feed on. This also inhibits the ability of the roots to suck up nutrients from the soil.

When the pH is around 3-4, the plants can only take in 30-35% of the amount we feed them. It might block out other nutrients like iron, calcium & magnesium, which help with green leaf growth & the overall plant strength.

Sometimes, the acid in the rain may cause the pH level to change. It could be some chemical stuff evaporate through the air. Too much chicken manure may also turn the soil quite acidic.

The pH around this point 6-7 is good enough:

okay-ph-for-dragon-fruit
Okay pH 6+ for dragon fruit

The recommended salinity is around 1.5‰ per mille. So that's about 1.5 parts of salt per 1000 parts of seawater. This is more applicable to those who grow dragon fruits near areas bordering the sea or has salty water.

Little what is pH refresher
pH is the amount of free hydrogen ions (H+) in your solution. It works on an inverse logarithmic scale from 0 to 14. pH 7 is the neutral balance point.

So for example, a pH of 3 means there is 1 in 1000 (or 10^3) chances you'll see a free H+ ions in your solution. A pH of 4 means there is 1 in 10,000 (10^4) chances you'll see free H+ ions in the solution. So you see, it is 10 times less likely to catch sight of an H+ ion as we move up each step of the scale. Meaning our solution gets more & more alkaline (fewer H+) and less & less acidic.

As acids have higher H+ ions count, we'll see H+ more in such solution. So chances of bumping into one should be more frequent. Alkalines have lower H+ ions count, so chances of spotting one is lower. Out of 100 million (10^8) particles in a substance, we may only spot 1 H+ ion, resulting in a pH of 8 which suggests alkaline soil.

If you want some pre-made potting mix, here's one many people use:

Pre-made potting mix

Many growers use the Fox Farm potting mix.

Happy Frog (also by Fox Farm) is another good choice. These contain the yummy bits in an aerated mixture plus some soil microbes for a good start.

Happy Frog Potting Soil
happy-frog-potting-soil
2 cu.ft
pH balanced
Improve root efficiency

If you're growing dragon fruit in ground

Depending on the elevation of your land, you can adjust the arrangement of the soil or hay around the plants accordingly.

If the land is low, we may need to elevate the area around the dragon fruit posts to avoid over-flooding. In some cases, we can create ditches for the water to run out.

As you can see here, the dragon fruit post is slightly lifted up:

view-around-dragon-fruit-post

The downward slope is for water to run off easily. They spread some hay around the post to retain moisture & keep the plants cool. This wide diameter allows the roots to expand out more easily.

Between the plants, we have some ditches like this:

ditch-between-dragon-fruit-plants

This way, excess water or rainwater can run off easily & not stand in one place leading to root rot. The general idea is:

water-ditch-dragon-fruit-plants-layout

Another way we can try:

another-design-circle-dragon-fruit-plants

In reality, it looks something like this:

pond-view-dragon-fruit-plants

The #1 mistake when planting dragon fruits in ground is...

Planting them too low. This creates other sorts of problems like root rot, stem rot or soil depletion over time. So keep this in mind when you're planting your dragon fruits.

If the native soil condition in the local area is too harsh, then many switch to growing the plants in pots like these. Rabbits, gophers, wild chickens won't bother your trees. As dragon fruits don't develop long tap roots, they have quite shallow roots that will grow well in wide containers.

>> Link YouTube:

Growing dragon fruits in pots

hylocereus-undatus-specie

Responses to Readers' Questions

My soil is a black muddy ,how I can grow dragon fruit?

--> Thanks for your question. From what I've surveyed around, there are different opinions about this. One grower in Riverside California who I talked to shares that muddy soil is not very good for growing dragon fruit. Another one, in a more northern hemisphere, believes any soil is good except for salty soil. The key point here, I think, is that you provide good drainage for the plants. Provide enough room for the radial roots to grow out. And don't plant them too deep.

When you first get the cuttings, you can stand them on the ground like this with organic fertilizer applied at the bottom:

standing-dragon-fruit-on-ground
Standing dragon fruit cuttings on ground | Source

After one month's nursery, they will have grown roots and new shoots:

roots-and-shoots-of-dragon-fruit-cuttings
New roots and shoots of dragon fruit cuttings | Source

You can take them then to plant outside around the posts. You could start with a small number first to see how the plants adapt to your soil. Then, make adjustments or try other varieties in your local area. As with any opinion, take them as a grain of salt and also do your own experiment. I have heard that some variety can actually survive and produce dragon fruits in saline water/salty soil environments. If, in any case, dragon fruit plants don't work out, try lotus! They do well in mud. Good luck with your growing. I hope this helps!

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