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Past Articles Library | Fruit Growing Tips | Growing Grapefruit

Growing Grapefruit

Believe it or not, you can grow your own grapefruit tree regardless of where you live.  It can be grown from seed or grafted.  The technique you choose really depends on whether you want fruit in a short amount of time.  If you desire fruit in a short period, grafting is the way to go but if you are just growing your grapefruit tree for fun, propagating through seeds is the way to go.

To begin this process, one needs to select the best grapefruit.  One that is not blemished and is ready to eat is the best.  Why is this?  Well, if the fruit is beautiful then you can guess that the genetics is also great.  Good genetics means a great plant.

Next, open up your grapefruit and enjoy the flesh while saving the seeds.  After you have finished your snack, remove any flesh that may remain on the seed.

The next step in this process is to prepare the container and/or drainage material.  You will need a container that is five inches in diameter and has drainage holes.  Once you have found your container, you will need to clean and sterilize both your pot and drainage material.  To do this, fill a basin with warm water and a splash of dish soap.  Scrub the pot and drainage material to remove any soil and debris.   Once the container and drainage material has been cleaned, rinse in another pan that has been filled with water and a capful of bleach.  Allow to dry before moving on.

Once the container is dry, you can begin the planting process.  This is done by placing the drainage material in the bottom of the container and filling with an rich, all-purpose potting soil that has been premoistened.   When moistening the soil, make sure it is moist but not dripping wet.  Soggy soil will cause the grapefruit seed not to germinate and rot.

Next, simply push your seed into the soil and cover.  Place the planted pot inside a clear, plastic bag and tie off.  At this point, your grapefruit seed does not need sunlight to germinate but needs to be in a warm location. 

Keep an eye out for the little green dots that will appear in the soil as your seeds begin to germinate.  Once you see this, remove the pot from the plastic bag and place the container on a sunny window.  Fertilize your seedling with a weak solution of houseplant fertilizer, compost or manure tea every few months. 

As far as watering goes, never let your plant’s soil dry out.  A sign that the seedling or plant needs to be watered can be found in the leaves.  If the leaves are curling, it is a good indication that your grapefruit tree needs to be water.  But prior to watering, always do the finger test.  This test consists of sticking ones finger down into the soil until you reach the second knuckle.  Then, pull your finger straight up.  If your finger comes out clean then you need to water the plant.  If your finger comes out covered in soil then do not water.

Once your grapefruit tree has had its first birthday, it is time to move it to a larger container.  Do not go crazy on the up sizing but instead just select one that is 10 to 12 inches in diameter.  Repeat the cleaning and sterilizing process described previously.

At this point, you can use broken pots or stones as drainage material but a better choice is a simple piece of metal screen material.  The screen itself is fine for the soil recipe described below.

To aid your grapefruit tree, you will need to create this unique potting medium blend.  The ingredients for this potting mix include one part composted bark, one part sand, and one part peat moss.  Mix the ingredients and place the mixture into the new pot.  Do not fill the container all the way up.  If you do this soil will pour out of the top when you water.  A better approach is to fill the container up until you reach the bottom level of the rim or until you reach one to four inches from the top.

Once this is done, turn your seedling upside down and gently tap on the pot to remove the seedling.  If this does not work, cut the container away.  Next, tease the roots with ones fingers to loosen up the soil around the roots.  After that is done, create a hole in the soil in the new pot and plant the seedling.  Make sure when doing this step that you do not plant the seedling too deep.  It should only be as deep as it was in the container it came out of.

The next step is to gently firm down the soil around the plant.  If the pot is light in weight, one can gently tap the container on a flat surface to settle the soil.  After that is done, move the pot to the sunniest location you can find and water in. 

Once watered in, you may add a layer of decorative mulch or stone.

While the grapefruit tree likes to be fed, there is a fine line between well-feed and over fertilized.   A leggy appearance is a great indication that your plant is not receiving enough light and/or being overfeed.  

If you are looking for an indication that your plant is well-fed, take a look at the leaves.  Grapefruit trees that are adequately feed develop emerald green leaves.

Whether you are using commercial fertilizer or city water, you will find a line of salt buildup on top of the soil in the pot and along the top edge of the container.  While this buildup looks unsightly, it can also cause problems when it comes to the grapefruit tree.  To reduce this buildup, periodically flush the salt out of the soil.  To do this, one simply needs to place the container in an area where water can run through it for several minutes.  This simple solution is all it takes to flush out the salt.

As your tree grows, you will notice that the lower branches begin to form thorns and the top or leader of the tree starts to really shoot up.  To control the growth, prune the tree back by one-third in February.  Doing this in February will reduce the amount of damage to the future blooms.

As far as plant diseases go, there are several and most are caused by the outdoor environment.  Two pests that are common on grapefruit trees include mealybugs, blackflies, and whiteflies.  Unfortunately, once you see signs of these pests it is normally too late for treatment.


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Fertilize Container Plants

Because container gardens are usually grown to show off a lot color, the plants in them require more frequent fertilizing.

It's good to feed them every two weeks with a water-soluble complete fertilizer like a 20-20-20 or a hyrdolized fish fertilizer.

Regular feeding will help them fill in faster, and produce more flowers.

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