By Nikki Phipps
(Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden)
While growing a grapefruit tree may be somewhat tricky for the average gardener, it’s not impossible. Successful gardening usually depends on providing plants with ideal growing conditions.
In order to properly grow grapefruit, you need to provide relatively warm conditions both day and night. This means growing them in temperate or tropical-like regions in full sun – preferably in Zones 9 and up, though some success can be achieved in Zones 7-8 with suitable care. Grapefruit trees also prefer well-draining, loamy soil.
Planting Grapefruit Tree
Always get the planting area ready beforehand, amending the soil if necessary. Choosing a suitable location is also important. For instance, when planting grapefruit tree, choosing an area on the southernmost side of the home not only offers the most sun but also provides optimal winter protection. Keep the tree at least 12 feet from buildings, walks, driveways, etc. This will allow for adequate growth.
Grapefruit trees can be planted in spring or fall, depending on where you’re located and what works best for you and your region’s conditions. Keep in mind that those planted in spring must contend with the heat of summer while fall-planted trees must endure the hardships of unseasonably cold winters.
Dig the planting hole both wide and deep enough to accommodate the roots. After placing the tree in the hole, backfill halfway with soil, firmly pressing down to squeeze out any air bubbles. Then water the soil and allow it to settle before backfilling with the remaining soil. Keep the soil level with the surrounding area or slightly mound it. Setting it any lower will lead to standing water and cause rotting. Also, be sure that the bud union remains above the soil.
How to Care for Grapefruit Trees
While minimal, grapefruit tree care is essential to maintain its overall health and production. After planting, you should water every few days for the first couple weeks. Then you can begin watering deeply once a week, except during dry periods when additional water may be needed.
You can also add light fertilizer during irrigation every four to six weeks.
Do not prune your tree unless removing old weakened or dead branches.
Winter protection may be needed for areas prone to frost or freezing. Although many people prefer to simply mulch around the tree, it is advisable to leave at least a foot of space between the trunk and mulch to avoid any problems with root rot. Generally, blankets, tarps, or burlap provide adequate winter protection.
Generally, harvesting takes place in fall. Once the fruits have turned yellow or gold in color, they’re ready for picking. The longer the fruit remains on tree, however, the larger and sweeter it becomes. Over-ripened fruit, which may appear lumpy, should be discarded.
Keep in mind that newly planted grapefruit trees will take at least three years before producing quality fruit. Any fruit set in the first or second years should be removed to direct all its energy into growth.