How To Train Your Dragonfruit (Pitaya)

We sell delicious ripe sweet dragonfruits (also called pitayas) at ARTfarm, but we also occasionally make cuttings available so you can try your hand at dragon farming. They are relatively easy plants to grow in the subtropical climate of the Caribbean, and can tolerate full sun or partial shade. Dragonfruit is a climbing cactus vine of spiky green triangular sausages whose care leads to some odd bedtime habits: certain varieties need to be hand pollinated, and the blooms only open at night. This article will get you started, and then you’ll want to search the web for more details. Welcome to our obsession:

Planting Your Dragonfruit Cutting

Water, water, anywhere? A tiny anole lizard licks moisture off of a dragonfruit bud in the dry pasture.
Water, water, anywhere? Look closely to see what Farmer Luca saw: A tiny anole lizard licking moisture off of a dragonfruit bud in the dry pasture.

Beware of the sharp spines! Your cutting is pretty tough and can wait a few weeks to be planted in a pot or in the soil and start its upward trajectory. In fact, the cut end should be fully cured and dry before planting.

So take your time to find the perfect spot: this desert plant becomes incredibly heavy as it grows up and up, so if you put it on a weak structure the vine will eventually pull it down. The vine can handle shade or full sun, thus a large tree seems like a perfect sturdy natural support; but left to its own devices, the dragonfruit vine will eventually grow high up out of your reach for pollinating and picking the fruit. The roots can adhere to many surfaces and will grow up walls, too. A sturdy wooden fence or trellis is best, away from livestock and deer who enjoy munching the juicy interior of the vine segments.

When you’ve found a good spot, take a close look at your cutting: it’s directional. The spines should point up. Plant the cutting’s bottom end 1″ into a one gallon or larger pot to start, with a stake or other temporary support to climb, or plant it directly in the ground near the support where you plan to have your vine grow. Once you see some growth on the top of the cutting, you’ll know it has rooted in the soil.

Dragonfruit Vine Care

Dragonfruit (pitahaya) ripening on the vine.

These tough desert vines are a relatively slow growing plant so be patient and prepared to wait up to several months before you see initial growth from your cutting.

Dragonfruit vines do need some water, but not as much as other plants. Once well established, especially on trees in a well-drained spot, we find they will survive and thrive without irrigation. They will develop roots all along the green segments, against the support you provide. The vine absorbs water from the air and from the surface they grow on. But depending on conditions they will also need regular watering with good drainage as they get established. They don’t want a wet spot but prefer to dry out between waterings. The smooth green segments of the vine will start to look wrinkly if it is thirsty.

If you prune the dragonfruit vine by cutting in the center of one of the green sections, it will often branch. So if you choose a tall support like a tree or wall, you can chop the growing tip of the vine in half as it grows and it will bush out and start to arc gracefully downward. You can also add more cuttings along the bottom of your structure, to keep the vine dense but within reach. There are industrial dragonfruit farms in Vietnam with thousands of vines on concrete posts, and the profuse spreading growth from the top makes each vine appear like a strange palm tree.

Flowering and Pollinating

Dragonfruit vines put out fruit buds near the tip of their length.

Dragonfruit vines need to grow to a certain overall length before they will flower and fruit. This reproductive effort doesn’t start until the cutting has grown into a fairly substantial vine of six feet or more; it can take up to two years from planting to fruit from cuttings, even longer from seeds. But once they start, you’ll see buds forming along the edges of the outer segments of the vine.

How many of you are old enough to remember the R.E.M. song “Gardening At Night”? Dragonfruit blooms only open after 8pm, and often need to be hand pollinated in order to bear fruit. So forgive us if we’re a little sleepy!

The dragonfruit is the domestic cousin of the rarely-flowering night-blooming cereus. It is a night blooming cactus vine. Like the night-blooming cereus, each large, showy dragonfruit bloom is active for only a single evening, generally opening after dark and closing by mid-morning the following day. Night pollinators such as bats and moths can pollinate the dragonfruit, but for the most reliable harvests you’ll want to research further into how to choose, collect, and apply dragonfruit pollen to your open flowers at night.

Different varieties of dragonfruit pollinate themselves and each other differently. Natural Mystic has a high success of blossoms turning into fruit. Physical Graffiti doesn’t seem to self-pollinate, so it’s not a bad idea to have both varieties planted so they can pollinate each other to make sure fruits will form. Farmer Luca has experimented over the years and now pollinates all his blooms with pollen collected within 24 hours from newly opened Natural Mystic blooms.

Once the flowers are pollinated and have closed, you can prevent end rot in the developing fruit by trimming the excess wet petals from the tip. Birds and other wildlife love delicious ripe dragonfruit, so we often protect the fruit from damage with reusable fabric mesh bags.

Harvest

Heavy basketloads of fresh ripe dragonfruits at ARTfarm

To harvest the ripe dragonfruit for immediate consumption, you can twist the fruit and break it free of the vine. We prefer to use a hand pruning tool and cut the small portion of attached green stem away to free the fruit without damage.

Good luck with your new dragonfruit cutting! Wishing you fun nights of pollinating under the stars!

Signup for Saturday ARTfarm Produce Boxes 12/19/20: Drag On, Fruit

New this week at ARTfarm: The holidays are upon us! Need a quick gift? We’ve got some dragonfruit cuttings on the add-ons list today! Makes a great gift! As the pandemic “drags on”, you can stay home and plant some “drag-on” fruit vines, and enjoy the fruits of your own labor! Here’s our how-to-grow-dragonfruit guide!

The ARTfarm holiday schedule for the next two weeks will be announced shortly after this post goes out, along with a fun article on things you can do with pumpkin. Stay tuned!

Once again, we are only accepting pre-sized pre-orders of farmshares, plus extras, for our customers with preselected pickup time slots for a minimum of waiting or mingling in this pandemic season. (We know you’d like to shop for just one or two items, and we’re sorry for the inconvenience. This system is to prevent pile-ups of customers and to protect us, the farmers and our family, from long long customer lines where we’d be more exposed.)

We’d like to remind everyone to pay extra attention to your time slot and don’t come half an hour early. There should be less than 10 cars in our lot at any given time if customers are following the schedule. People coming early or late slow EVERYONE down and confuse our system. Come at your appointed time slot, five minutes early at the most. Don’t jump your timeslot please.

Farmer Luca at our Socially Distanced Farmshare Distribution. Homemade cloth mask by Rose Boyan!
Who is that masked farmer?

New here?

Please read our safety guidelines below on how to reserve your produce and pickup time. To understand WHY we are doing what we do, click HERE to read about ARTfarm LLC and COVID-19 precautions we are taking.

CUSTOMERS are required to:

  • meet an order minimum of one farmshare size
  • arrive ON TIME, not early!! Do NOT jump your timeslot please
  • consistently maintain 10-15 feet of distance between all individuals
  • wear masks to keep each other safe
  • sanitize hands before you exit your vehicle
  • bring exact change or a check and pen
  • be patient with us and each other during pickups
  • bring your own boxes, bags, baskets to pack up your order
  • wait to bag produce until we have completely assembled and totaled your order on the table

We require everyone picking up a box to wear a mask and please sanitize your hands before exiting your vehicle/arriving at the distribution table, and we will do the same.

We will have 20 large and 35 small ‘farmshares’ of produce available for Saturday (a few of those available as “double small” orders). You can also order and specify a neighbor, friend or family member to pick up your order. The minimum order is one farmshare. Add-ons and extras are not currently available independently of a farmshare purchase; to minimize community contact during the pandemic.

Please contact us immediately by text and phone at (340)514-4873 if you have reserved a farmshare and cannot pick it up. Supply is limited, demand is extremely high and someone else will gladly purchase your share, if given enough time to respond. We have limited time for distributions and they are scheduled. We will hold your produce for you at your timeslot, and we expect to hear from you. We understand life happens, but please do not leave us hanging, waiting for you, with your food! Our produce is harvested fresh and needs to go home with you same day. This is an honor system since we are not collecting payment until pickup. We do not have cold storage for uncollected shares.

Here’s how to get ARTfarm produce during the pandemic:

  1. Wait ’til Friday morning around 10am
  2. Visit artfarmllc.com or check your farm email for the fresh-from-the-field weekly signup page
  3. Sign up with our online form (a link at the bottom of the weekly signup page like this one)
  4. Using the current online order form, choose one farmshare size of pre-selected, pre-priced ARTfarm produce (contents listed below, either small or large)
  5. Commit to a pick-up time slot
  6. Choose any add-on items (limited supplies)
  7. Add a comment for special requests, extras, preferences, or whatever’s on your mind
  8. Check your email for a confirmation!
  9. Arrive promptly but NOT EARLY for your pickup appointment on Saturday in the ARTfarm parking lot on Saturday. If early, wait inside your vehicle and decide what herbs you want! Sanitize your hands when getting out of your vehicle. Please maintain plenty of space between customers, and between us and you when you approach the pickup table for your appointed pickup time. We’ll be wearing masks and ask that you do the same.
  10. Bring exact change or a check to drop in the bucket – we are not handling any money.
  11. There may be unadvertised extra items available to add to your box at pickup time, so you may wish to bring some extra small bills or wait to fill in your check amount. Please bring your own pen.
  12. Bring your own bags or box to put your produce into. We’ll place your items on the sanitized table, some things will be pre-bagged, you’ll pack your own bags or box for the rest. Wait to bag until we do a final count of your items to make sure we don’t forget anything. We are trying to reduce the number of shopping bags we distribute, so please bring an extra bag, box or basket to your pickups this season.
  13. No substitutions or price adjustments. To maintain sanitation and keep things moving, we are not swapping items, handling payments or making change. (As always we’ll be flexible where we can within reason.)
  14. YOU ARE AWESOME for supporting our small family farm and accommodating our needs for COVID safety.

Farmshare choices for Saturday, December 19th 2020:

Small farmshare, $14, will include:
  • 1 bag of sweet salad mix
  • 1 lb. cucumbers
  • 2 herb bunches (you choose; please consider your choices before you arrive at the table)
Double Small farmshare, $28, will include:

As listed above, but double: one for you and one for a friend. Take distribution into your own (recently washed) hands, deliver to a neighbor or loved one!

Large farmshare, $34, will include:
  • 2 bags of sweet salad mix
  • 1 bag of teen spicy salad mix
  • 2 lb. cucumbers
  • 2 herb bunches (you choose; please consider your choices before you arrive at the table)
Additional Limited Quantity Reservable Add-Ons*

(please add to your total)

  • 1 bag fresh Mediterranean figs: $5
  • 1 bag teen arugula: $10
  • 1 bag tiny baby arugula: $13
  • 2 lbs. zucchini: $6
  • 2 lbs. cucumbers: $6
  • 1 bag sweet frying or stuffing peppers: $3
  • 1 bag green chiles, assorted types: $2
  • 1 bunch extra garlic chives: $2
  • 1 bunch extra Italian basil: $2
  • 1 bunch of nine bright assorted color zinnia flowers: $5

Heirloom tomato plants (potted up): $5 each:

  • Black Plum tomato
  • Mystery (unmarked) tomato

Dragonfruit cuttings: $15 each:

  • Natural Mystic (red inside)
  • Physical Graffiti (pink inside)

Saman tree: $20
Sandbox tree: $10

*(if these are sold out – there are often additional extras available at the time of pick-up, so if you can’t reserve, bring some extra cash or wait to write your check total. Bring a pen.)

Extra Add-Ons

(Must accompany farmshare purchase, these items cannot be purchased individually. No reservations on these items, first come first served during your pickup slot):

  • CHERRY TOMATOES!! pint: $6
  • WATERMELON!! – approx 2 lb. watermelon quarter: $2/lb. (around $4, as marked)
  • BUTTERNUT!!! tender and sweet! Small/minis: $3.50/lb. (around $7, as marked)
  • PUMPKIN!! so versatile!! Cut quarters: $3/lb. (around $6, as marked)
  • cooking greens – $3/bunch (kale varieties, dandelion, swiss chard, collards)
  • beet bunch with tops – $5
  • 2 lbs. zucchini – $6
  • 2 lbs. cucumber – $6
  • loose zinnias – $0.50/ea
  • extra herb bunch – $2
  • bag Thai chiles – $2
Herb bunch choices for this week

(Large share = 2 herb selections, Small share = 2 herb selections. Choose from what’s available at pickup, or we’ll pick some for you, but these are the basic options we should have, you can start mulling it over 🙂

  • Garlic chives
  • Italian basil
  • Lemon basil
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Mint
  • Rosemary
  • Lemongrass
  • Kaffir lime leaves

We have designed our order form not to allow any one customer to purchase all of one extra. Sharing is caring. If we have extra, we’ll do our best to let you know. If you’d like extra of something (beyond what you could reserve through our order system), put it in the comments with your order, and if we can supply it to you we’ll do our best.


The signup form will show you a “Thank You” page and send you a confirmation email if submitted successfully. One order per customer, please.

Problems with the online signup form? Workarounds our customers figured out (thank you!!) were to:

  • just try again
  • use a cellular device (smartphone or tablet) that isn’t using WiFi internet
  • clear your cache and cookies in your browser/device
  • reboot your router (unplug it for a minute and plug in again)

This pre-order signup form does NOT sign you up for an ARTfarm email subscription.

Here’s the link to Saturday December 19th’s SIGNUP FORM
(opens a new window).

Auspicious Dragonfruit Pop-Up Saturday!! Sign up for a pickup slot!!

It’s finally time for a pop-up stand for fruit bounty from ARTfarm! After a dry summer, we finally received some rainshowers in the last month or so and the dragonfruit vines woke up.

Once again we will NOT BE OPEN for retail shopping on Saturday. Until further notice, we are going to run socially distanced online ‘box sales’ like we’ve done since March 21st, with pre-reserved pick up shifts of 10 people max, to slow the spread of novel coronavirus in our island community. We want to avoid long waits, traffic issues and crowds forming. As per guidelines from Government House, we require everyone picking up a box to wear a mask, and we will do the same.

Getting a farm share box is as easy as S-A-N, as in SAN-ta’s watching you. Here’s what to do:

  1.   S  is for :  Sign up with our sign-up form (a link at the bottom of the weekly signup page is posted on Fridays, usually by around 10am).
    • Choose ONE pre-selected, pre-priced share of ARTfarm produce (minimum purchase, contents listed below)
    • Choose any add-on items (limited supplies)
    • Commit to a pick-up time slot
  2.   A is for :  Arrive on Saturday at (or wait in your car until) your appointed time in the ARTfarm parking lot on Saturday. Too many people showing up at the same time could risk exposure. Please maintain plenty of space between customers, and between us and you when you approach the pickup table. We’ll be wearing masks as an extra precaution and require that you do the same. We do it to protect you! Please protect us!
    • Bring exact change or a check to drop in the bucket – we are not handling any money.
    • There inevitably are extra items available to add to your box at pickup time, so you may wish to bring some extra small bills or wait to fill in your check amount. Please bring your own pen.
    • Bring your own bags or box to put your produce into. We’ll place your items on the sanitized table, some things will be pre-bagged, you’ll pack your own bags or box for the rest. Wait to bag until we do a final count of your items to make sure we don’t forget anything.
  3.   N is for :  No substitutions or price adjustments. To maintain sanitation and keep things moving, we are not swapping items, handling payments or making change.
    • We’ll do our best to give you options at pickup if we can, to meet or exceed the value.
    • If desired, you can leave any unwanted items from your share on the table and we will pass them on to another lucky customer!

Please contact us immediately by text and phone at (340)514-4873 if you have reserved a farmshare and cannot pick it up. Supply is limited, demand is extremely high and someone else will gladly purchase your share, if given enough time to respond. We have limited time for distributions and they are scheduled. We will hold your box for you and we expect to hear from you. We understand life happens, but please do not leave us hanging after hours, waiting for you, with your food! Our produce is harvested fresh before dawn, and needs to go home with you same day. This is an honor system since we are not collecting payment until pickup.

Choices for Saturday, October 10th 2020:


Dragonfruit Double Share, $20, will include:

3-5 dragonfruits (pre-weighed quantity, $8/lb)


Dragonfruit Single Share, $10, will include:

1-3 dragonfruits (pre-weighed quantity, $8/lb)


add-on items, limited quantities*

(please add to your total)
1 Haitian kidney mango: $2.50
1 bag red turmeric: $3.50
1 bunch garlic chives: $2
1 bunch arugula: $3
1 bunch Italian basil: $2
1 bunch lemongrass: $2

2 pineapple slips for planting: $4


there may be other last-moment additions available, as usual…

  • This signup form will show you a Thank You page and send you a confirmation email if submitted successfully. One order per customer, please.
  • Having problems with the online signup form?
    • Just try again
    • Use a cellular device (smartphone or tablet) that isn’t using WiFi internet
    • Clear your cache and cookies in your browser/device
    • Reboot your router (unplug it for a minute and plug in again)
  • We are helping people ration, by not allowing any one customer to purchase all of one extra. Sharing is caring. If we have extra, we’ll do our best to let you know and make it available at pickup. Put any additional wishes in the comments box.
  • This signup form does NOT sign you up for a farm email subscription.

Here’s the link to Saturday October 10th 2020’s SIGNUP FORM
(opens a new window).



Wednesday Watermelon Wonderment 3-6pm 

Water for watermelons! One of our ponds. This one replenishes the water table.
Water for watermelons! One of our ponds. This one replenishes the water table.

Compared to this time last year, things are blessedly moist right now. The 6+ inches of rain we got at the beginning of the month of May <insert happy dance> has continued to promote explosive growth all over the farm.

So here’s what it brought you for today at ARTfarm, 3–6 p.m.: Sweet salad mix, baby arugula, bunched arugula, a few pints of cherry tomatoes, a few slicer tomatoes, dandelion greens, Italian basil, garlic chives, parsley, freshly dug ginger root, French breakfast radishes, sweet bell peppers, serrano peppers, Indian chili peppers, yellow seasoning peppers, fresh cut zinnia flowers, good quantities of yellow and red fleshed WATERMELONS, loads of sweet and yummy papaya, passionfruit, a few dragonfruit, a few pineapples, and very fresh, delicate and very mild local goat cheese from Dr. Bethany’s Fiddlewood Farm alpine goats!

Cray-cray...this watermelon is sweeeeeet! You can save the seeds for roasting like pumpkin seeds.
Cray-cray…this watermelon is sweeeeeet! You can save the seeds for roasting like pumpkin seeds.