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HYLOCEREUS costaricensis

Image of Hylocereus costaricensis

Edward, Wikimedia Commons Contributor

Family

Cactaceae

Botanical Name

HYLOCEREUS costaricensis

Plant Common Name

Costa Rican Dragon Fruit, Night-blooming Cactus, Purple Pitaya, Strawberry Pear Cactus

Special Notice

This entry has yet to be reviewed and approved by L2G editors.

General Description

The Costa Rican dragon fruit is an intriguing succulent cactus for a variety of reasons. This plant grows in seasonally wet-to-dry, porous soils in tropical forests from Nicaragua to Panama. Even though it is ground-dwelling, the slender leafless stems flop and clamber as if a vine, gaining support from tree trunks, rocks or walls. This species is renowned for its large white nocturnal flowers that are very short-lived. They measure up to 12-inches long (30 cm) by 12-inches wide (30 cm). Following blossoming, the cactus produces edible, scaled fruits with vibrant magenta-fuchsia flesh littered with tiny black seeds.

The leathery, fleshy stems have three ribs, each topped with tiny clusters of short spines. There are no leaves, but instead photosynthesis occurs in the green stems. In summertime, large flower buds arise on the stems. Each opens at night and remains open a few hours, releasing perfume to attract bat pollinators. The pale yellow-green bud leaves fold back and look like petals surrounding the true white petals. The oval fruit - called pitaya or strawberry pear - that follows weeks later is vibrant red and edible.

The Costa Rican dragon fruit is sensitive to cold, and is therefore only worth growing outdoors where frosts never occur. Plant it in nearly full sun to dappled partial sun. The soil must be porous and contain organic matter. Water and fertilize in the heat of summer, but reduce watering in winter to keep the soil barely moist. This isn't a plant for hot, bone dry conditions. This night-blooming cactus is a stunning specimen for a large tree trunk base or sturdy masonry garden wall. It may be planted in containers, but the floppy stems and overall size makes it difficult to manage, even if in a greenhouse. Use cactus or epiphyte soil media if container culture is used.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 10

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    12 - 15

  • Sunset Zone

    H2, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Cactus or Succulent

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    6'-15' / 1.8m - 4.6m

  • Width

    8'-18' / 2.4m - 5.5m

  • Bloom Time

    Early Summer, Summer

  • Native To

    Central America

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Drought

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Spreading

  • Seasonal Interest

    Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White

  • Fruit Color

    Red, Magenta, Crimson

  • Bark Color

    Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    Yes

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Semi-Double

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    Yes

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Container, Feature Plant, Rock Garden / Wall, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    Yes

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Birds

  • Self-Sowing

    No