This article (and video) explains how to easily build a strong and practical trellis to grow a Dragon Fruit vine.
Why grow dragon fruit (Pitaya) on a trellis?
Dragon fruit plants are a vine. They grow by budding out from a stem segment (usually from the top of the segment) to form another segment approximately a foot long and this continues as long as there is something for the vine to climb up. It's possible for dragon fruit plants to climb 10 or more metres up a tree or a wall if left to do so…
However, the most common way to grow dragon fruit is up a single post only about 6 feet high and this is done for two main reasons: firstly, it's easier to harvest the fruit and secondly the sooner the plant stops growing upwards the sooner it will start to branch out and then produce fruit. The reason why this happens (I think) is because when the vine reaches the top of whatever it is climbing the draping over causes small fractures in the vine triggering it to branch out. And, it's usually at the end of these "off shoot" branches where the huge flowers form quickly followed by the delicious fruit.
Why grow dragon fruit on a trellis instead of a post then?
Whilst a good thick fence post is a great way to grow dragon fruit, a simple trellis is much less labour intensive to build and can be a more practical way to position the plant – particularly in an urban environment. Trellising materials won't rot in the ground like posts can and a galvanised mesh trellis isn't treated with nasty chemicals to prevent termites from eating it. Also, it's easier to shape the dragon fruit vine to suit the growing space like espaliering the plant for a neater look or to keep it out of the way.
Materials required to build a simple dragon fruit trellis
The following materials are needed:
- Galvanised mesh sheet – A rectangular sheet about 1 metre wide x 2 metres high is perfect for 1 – 3 vines. The gauge of the mesh should be at least 4-5 mils and the holes/grid not too small (around 10 x 10cm is perfect) because you don't want the dragon fruit stems to get strangled by growing through small holes plus it's harder to manage overall. These sheets are relatively inexpensive at around 40 – 50 bucks from a garden centre or cheaper from a construction supplier.
- Star picket or post – 2 x posts driven into the ground at either side of the trellis sheet is enough to keep it secure.
- Wire or zip/cable ties – To fix the mesh sheets to the posts. If using cable ties ensure they are UV stabilised. I also tend to use cable ties to attach the vine to the mesh.
- Irrigation piping – (The black piping 25mm or more) this is used to cover the top of the mesh sheet in order to protect the vine when it reaches the top of the trellis and hangs over. The piping stops the mesh from cutting into the fleshy stems of the dragon fruit vine. Other materials can be used instead of the piping to do the same job such as: a piece of wood with edges rounded off and cut to size fixed to the top of the sheet.
Make the trellis
The making of the trellis is a rather simple process of levelling the ground and positioning the sheet where it's wanted then driving the star pickets in on either side of the panel. Fix the mesh to the posts at several points and then fit the piping to the top of the trellis by firstly cutting a piece to size and slice the hose along its full length as straight as possible then press the opened side onto the mesh (it should click into place). Secure the piping with some cable ties.
Planting the dragon fruit vines
A mesh trellis this size could potentially fit 1 – 3 different plants spaced evenly apart. Plant the vines at the base and train them as they grow straight up to the top by fixing the vine stem to the mesh. Tip: As the vine grows, the stem will harden between the fleshy stem segments and this is a good point to tie them off at to help prevent damage to the plant.
Video – How to make a Dragon Fruit Trellis
The following video explains how I used the method explained above to build (retrofit) a trellis to two of our mature dragon fruit vines.
If you would like to more information on dragon fruit in general then check out this article – Dragon Fruit (Pitaya) Guide for Growing