Dragon Fruit growing/placement advice needed for South Australia

Vicky

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I was given a Dragonfruit plant (?) last year, I've no idea about the plant but it wasn't very big so figured I'd put it in a pot and work it out. It has gone absolutely nuts and I really need to do something with it. Our verandah is north facing so gets lovely winter sun, we have a shadecloth structure just out which you can see in the pictures so it stops the harsh overhead summer sun and I'm not sure if the 50% shade is too much shade for a dragonfruit. I had thought that I could put some big pots by each of the posts and grow it (maybe take some cuttings) up them but my husband doesn't think they will take the weight when fully grown. We get frosts so the only other option is to grow it somewhere that I can erect some kind of shelter from the frosts in winter, what about that dead pear tree? it's on the East side of the house but does get some of the hot west sun and in the last part of the day in summer, and that is hot enough to burn the other fruit trees in this area. Can I, or should I separate it? I believe they are best grown as a single stem up a post. The pot that it is in is a wicking pot but I suspect that it wasn't constructed well so I will have to renew it at some point and I don't want to move the plant too much because, as you would know, it is very OWee!!
 

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ClissAT

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Hi Vicky, your DF is doing very well so far. I guess the coming winter will tell it's own story.
This is what DF in areas other than full tropics require.
The more humidity with some heat the better. Heat over 34c with little humidity is not good.
Heat of any amount with heaps of humidity is ok and desirable.
Warm nights causes flowering. Warm humid days causes good fruit.
Lots of watering and fertilizer in spring and summer makes a healthy plant.
Not too much watering in autumn and winter so it doesn't get rot or fungal infection.
Keep your vine under 2m high and keep the segments shortened. Allow the segments to drape over some sort of padded support.
Only allow the segments to grow in spring, summer and early autumn.
Trim back short in late autumn.
Grown against a north facing brick wall or similar is good but needs the humidity to go with it. So misting several times daily.
DF like a fair bit of fertilizer and need nitrogen and potassium in particular.
The plant benefits from a weekly evening stroll past to provide the required nitrogen (if you get my drift, citrus like it too!)
Your vine has gotten quite long and hanging inward. I'd cut it off against the post and tie off at that point. It's growing heaps of new segments that are aiming themselves outward which is good. Let them grow outwards up to 60cm then prune and loosely tie down back to the post.
Some people put a strong plain fence wire (8 or 10guage is a good size) or a timber rail across from post to post along the sunny side of their patio or verandah to sling the vine off. But I think extra long segments don't produce fruit at the same rate.
The plant likes to develop lots of aerial roots from the segments that grow into the support post. This is desirable as once it's happy doing that it will separate from the ground.
You can help this process by foliar feeding at half rate. Do this with a spray bottle that sits on the potting mix and give it a spray each time you go past or water it. Tying on bags of compost under advance segments so roots can access the goodies can also work. But be warned the ants will get in there too!
Your idea to add more pots for the printings is good if you want more plants. DF is prolific if and when growing well.
You should have a few plants at least as an insurance policy being so far from the high tropics.
Your frosts wouldn't be an issue if you wrapped the vine with frost blanket material during frost season. It's the late frosts you need to be concerned about as I'm sure you're aware. Keeping the vine warm is the answer.
If you've never used frost blanket, check eBay.
The warmer it is during spring nights the sooner it will begin flowering.
Some species are self pollinating while others need a mate.
Where did your come from?
 

ClissAT

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PS the pear tree will collapse as it fits and also that spot is too exposed for a DF.
 

Vicky

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oh, WOW, thanks ClissAt, that is a heap of information, I'll sift through and try to work it all out :) The plant was given to me by a friend and she had it for quite some time - it never fruited, in fact, it hardly grew at all where she had it and so we have been quite astonished at how it has developed since I've had it, which is less than a year. She had no idea what kind it is, if I take some cuttings and they grow, will the adult plants fertlize each other or do they need new blood so to speak? I don't even know if she remembers where she got it from!?!?
Is it ok to prune dragonfruit in winter, or coming into winter as we are now or should I just leave it til spring, how do you stop a plant from growing? Or is it because winter is cold that it just stops on it's own? Hang on, you said trim back short in late autumn, I'll stop asking questions and really look at what you have said again. Thanks for the information, it is really appreciated :)
 

Vicky

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ok, I got around to pruning some of the dragonfruit, the pictures show the two trunks (?) I left behind, one is taller and has lots of little branches coming off the side a little way up, the other forks and has longer branches coming out further up. I would think that if I were to take it back to just the one main trunk the taller one with the smaller side branches would be best?? At least taking off all the other side shoots and branches has reduced the overall weight of the plant which is good for the verandah posts that it is hanging from :) Is it worth taking off one of the main trunks or leaving both there? and which one would be best to leave. I hope the pictures are clear enough. Any advice would be greatly appreciated :)
 

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ClissAT

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Hi Vicky, here's the link to an interesting video which shows the size of Df plants and how they grow.

I also took some screenshots from the video so you can have a good close look.

This guy I think is Mexican although his property might be in USA.
His method of setting up each plant was as follows.

DF1.jpg
He used a 5inch x 5oinch wooden or concrete post which has an old motorbike wheel with a tyre on it fixed to the top of the 5ft high post. See the last photo for the tyre situated.

DF2.jpg

He cut plastic barrels in half and buried them partway into the ground as you can see in this image.
He concreted the post into the bottom of the barrel up to ground level then topped up the barrel with compost and soil.

DF5.jpg

He planted 2 (only) cutting s at the base of each post. These Df are not very many years old but his property is in the tropical zone.

He doesn't prune his plants very much at all because his area is arid.

DF4.jpg

If he was tropical wet zone he would have to prune off all the spent growth or it would get diseased.

As he says in one part you can prune off the new shoots but not once they get mature or you can stress the plant.


DF3.jpg

So looking at your photos, I would say you need to push the pot against the post and tie the segments to the post for support. The wire isn't strong enough and the segments need to hang down. They also need to grow roots firmly onto the post. As you can see from the images I have provided, two cuttings might make a plant as big as in these images from the video. These plants are about 3m across tip to tip and 2.5m tall. If you have somewhere to put them separated then do that now before they take off growing again.
If they look like two different types (you will notice in his video he talks about why not to grow two different types together) then that is also a good reason to separate them.

The whole plant needs lots of sunshine for most of the year. High under your roof is not going to be enough and the plant will get diseased once the humidity builds up if you let it stay at that height. It needs to be much closer to the ground/floor so there isn't humidity trapped around its leaves under the alsinite roof which gets very hot in summertime.

DFs are huge plants and if you don't like walking around them or having them attach to your posts or don't like the mess then move it now because in another year it will be too big! :D
Yours looks really healthy so making the effort now will give you great rewards from next year onwards. Are you sure you don't have a sheltered outside place against a sunny wall for it? I know we discussed that in your first post but now that it is getting going, you get to see what sort of triffid you will have in the house with you! ;)
 
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Vicky

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Thank you SO MUCH ClissAt, I have been given a frame from a swing set so had planned to put the plant up that as they are rated to support quite a bit of weight. I also found a half barrel that I was going to half bury and fill with good stuff because the area I plan to plant isn't very rich soil wise. Hubby doesn't want the plant there so I have to move it, and soon, that's why I got to trimming it!! I'll be onto that in the next week or so and will try to post pictures. It will probably remain a two trunk plant for now but will be next to one of the chook sheds so I should be able to protect from frost and keep it watered sufficiently and see how it settles in. I hope to drape the top over the swing set but should have enough time to plan for that after it is moved!!
 

ClissAT

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All you wrote seems like a very good plan for it. It's all falling into place. I hope it repays you with lots of yummy fruit :twothumbsup: