Why are my dragon fruits so small?

Dragon Fruit Plants 13 May 2020

There are factors that could affect the pollination rate, plant health & flower opening/closing. Let's see.

1. Pollination Fertilized Rate

Rain can get into the flowers & make the pollen wet. This may affect the resulting fruit. Often, if there's rain on the north side, those dragon fruit flowers on the north side will produce smaller fruits than those on the south side for example.

The wind may blow some pollen away from the anthers (the male part). This can reduce the number of pollen getting into the stigma (the female part). Mildew, especially those containing small pieces of salt, can also affect the quality.

2. Plant Health

Using too much fertilizer can weaken the pitaya overtime. If you feed the plants at the wrong time, for example when the fruit is already forming, it can turn the fruit dark green & make it slow to grow. Comparing two dragon fruit branches, the dark green & light green, the light green one almost always nourishes the fruit better.

Also see if the plants are too young or too old. Dragon fruit plants are often propagated by cuttings (or cloning). The clones may be weaken overtime as there is less genetic variety to evolve or cope with new conditions.

See how many flowers/fruits the tree is carrying relative to its size. If there's too many children in the house, the mama might need to cut back a little to support all of her babies (smaller fruits). It's a good idea to keep 1-2 small branches for each big branch to spread out the load.

3. Wrapping the flowers

Because rain may affect the flowers, many growers tie them closed with rubber bands. This way, the rain won't get in & cause rot. Because of this restrain, the fruit growing out may not get enough room to grow out. This can affect 10% of the fruit crops.

4. Maybe it's natural

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Small yellow dragon fruit | Source

Some dragon fruit varieties like the Sugar Dragon S8 or Voodoo Child (created by Paul Thomson) are naturally smaller than others. It's about 4 inches & weighs around 5 oz to 0.5 lb. Very small.

The Yellow Dragon & Colombiana  (with identical DNA) also produce pretty small fruits. They're about 0.5 to 0.75 lbs. So if this is the case, then it's all natural. Another possibility is that the farmers pick the fruits early, so they are smaller.

Hand pollination might help

Some growers have had good results when doing hand pollination on dragon fruit plants:

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This variety tastes like mulberry

Here's another example:

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It's a very interesting experiment. We wonder how the taste compares. But again, hand pollinating may not be the only direct cause for bigger fruit size. It may also be the number of fruits/flowers, the weather, the food, etc.

To get good results, use fresh pollen. And cross pollinate between different varieties. Some people freeze the pollen, others just keep them in the cooler.

Some folks say the bigger fruits taste 1.5x sweeter than the smaller ones. Depending on the variety, like Thai Yellow, the smaller fruits may actually be sweeter than the bigger ones. There are other factors that might affect sweetness.

Get bigger fruits

Spending some time understanding more about your dragon fruit plants may yield good results. Bigger tastier fruits can mean a lot especially for small- or large-scale farmers. After you've checked all the boxes, take a few seconds to try the job of a bee (hand pollinate). Enjoy the results.

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