The grapefruit tree (citrus pandisi) in our garden must be ten years old now and it gives us prolific grapefruit every year. This post is about growing grapefruit, caring for a grapefruit tree, types of grapefruit tree, uses for and harvesting grapefruit and as many other grapefruit tree related facts I can come up with! The grapefruit tree is my favourite of my many fruit trees and other plants that will grow in the tropics, infact we now have two, along with half a dozen other citrus trees. All are growing well.
Grapefruit trees have dark green glossy leaves. They are smaller trees, only reaching a maximum of about 20 feet. They will be bushy, with a diameter of around 10 feet. Usually the large round fruit are easy to pick if you keep your tree short by pruning. The weight of the heavy grapefruit will cause them to hang lower too.
Your ripe grapefruit should be semi sweet, semi sour. The longer you leave grapefruit on the tree the sweeter they become. Variety will affect sweetness or flavour too.
Where Can You Grow a Grapefruit Tree?
We grow our grapefruit trees in the tropics and they do enjoy a warm climate. Subtropical is more their usual habitat. However, warm temperate gardeners can also grow grapefruit trees if they can keep them warm enough through winter. A good thick layer of mulch can help keep the soil warm and a fleece plant blanket could save the day in a cold snap. Alternatively, you could grow a grapefruit tree in a large pot and bring it indoors or into a high tunnel or greenhouse in winter. It depends how cold your winters are.
If you’re in the US, you’re looking at gardening zones 7 and up usually. Your grapefruit tree will need good sunshine and, of course, well-drained rich loamy soil.
We are in the wet tropics, our tree is planted on a slope in heavy clay soil. We think the slope is instrumental in allowing free drainage through the torrential summer rains and wet season. Our new baby grapefruit tree is in a raised bed for the same reason, I wouldn’t plant one anywhere it will sit in a puddle. Build your soil around the grapefruit tree over time by top-dressing with compost, manure and good quality mulch. You can feed it too, different nutrients will promote leaf growth or flower and fruit production.
When Will Your Grapefruit Tree Fruit?
It’s quite likely that you won’t get any new grapefruit on a young tree for the first 1 to 3 years. The usual advice is to pinch off any fruit that sets on a young tree to allow it to focus on growing stronger roots and branches in it’s early years. I don’t know about you, but I can never do that! The best time to plant a fruit tree is 5 years ago, and grapefruit are no exception.
If you are in the northern or southern hemispheres, your grapefruit are likely to be ready to harvest in the autumn (fall). For us here in the tropical southern hemisphere, we start harvesting towards the end of autumn, in April or May and we go on harvesting for weeks, well into the winter months. We don’t wait for all of the grapefruit to change colour, we find we can pick while they’re still mostly green, just showing a splash of yellow where the sun strikes them, and the juice is good.
If you leave the fruit on the tree longer they will become more and more yellow over time. Once they are fully yellow we harvest however many are left and store them inside. I’m always fearful that ripe fruit will attract birds, bats or other grapefruit-stealing pests. We do not net our citrus trees. (Fruit tree netting is great for birds, bats and some bugs) We’ve never had any issues with fruit fly and grapefruit. Ripe grapefruit will store for quite a few weeks in a cool, dark pantry.
Uses of Grapefruit
We use most of our grapefruit as juice. We drink it, add it to dressings, or sauces and pour it on pancakes. To juice grapefruit you need a sturdy, large, grapefruit press. This is the grapefruit press we use and it’s not only extremely functional, it looks beautiful in the kitchen.Get the most sturdy device you can, grapefruit are hard to squeeze. You could, of course, make marmalade. Grapefruit marmalade is delicious or just eat your fruit the old-school way with a spoon.