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What is Hylocereus?

Vasanth S.
Vasanth S.

Hylocereus is a plant genus that is part of the Cactaceae family. It contains about 18 species of cacti that are native to Mexico, the West Indies, Central America, and South America. Most of the species have spiny stems and fragrant flowers. They are generally used as indoor container plants and are relatively easy to maintain. Some plants within the Hylocereus genus may be prone to insect infestation.

The Hylocereus genus contains plants that are capable of living in the harsh conditions of the desert. The tough leathery stems and sharp spikes serve as a defense against the climate and animals. Strong winds and extreme heat can take a toll on other plants, but this genus of plants is well suited for those conditions. The stems are segmented and are generally green, blue-green, or grayish green, depending on the species. The spikes are whitish-yellow or brown, short, and generally straight.

Dragon fruits.
Dragon fruits.

The plant has a good foundation since the roots spread wide and deep into the soil. With the limited supply of water and nutrients, the diffuse structure of the roots is essential for finding nourishment. In addition, the roots can thrive in a variety of soil conditions.

It is best to provide optimum growing conditions, despite the hardy nature of the plant. Loamy or sandy soil that is well-draining and slightly acidic is recommended. Cacti within the Hylocereus genus do better in partial shade rather than direct sunlight. For species that are grown in a greenhouse, such as Hylocereus undatus, a loamless, epiphytic cactus compost is recommended. Bright, indirect light is also best when growing in a greenhouse.

During the growing season, it is recommended to water regularly. Watering is usually reduce in the winter. A monthly supplement of plant food or fertilizer can improve the appearance of the stems and flowers.

Hylocereus undatus, which is also known as Dragon fruit or Night blooming cereus, usually blooms in a combination of white and yellow flowers. It also produces a red fruit in the summer and fall. The plant is considered to be fast growing and branching. Pruning isn't required but the plant should be re-potted every two or three years.

A common problem associated with this genus is insect infestation, particularly by scales. Scales are insects that look like shells or bumps. They feed on the leaves, stems, and fruits. The insects leave behind a sticky residue called honeydew, which attracts sooty mold spores. If left untreated, the plant could die.

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    • Dragon fruits.
      By: Pascal Walschots
      Dragon fruits.