Grapefruit trees have glossy green foliage and large, sour to semisweet rounded fruits. This subtropical fruit tree originated in Barbados and is a hybrid between a pomelo tree and a sweet orange tree.
Grapefruit trees, while not the easiest fruit trees to grow, can be highly rewarding if planted and cared for properly. The trees are beautiful and can be used as attractive landscape elements as they are large and offer a lot of shade in the garden.
Understanding a grapefruit tree’s growth stages is essential when successfully attempting to grow one in your garden.
Grapefruit seeds typically germinate in 2 to 6 weeks under ideal conditions. The first pair of leaves are known as seed leaves or cotyledons. They provide nutrition to the seedling before the true leaves appear.
During the next few weeks, the seedling grows true leaves, which generate food from sunlight rather than from the seed. The ability of true leaves to undergo photosynthesis allows the plant to produce all of the nutrients and vitamins required for growing more leaves and developing stronger stems.
The seedling is ready to be transplanted into separate pots when it has four true leaves.
Citrus trees, in general, go through a long juvenile phase, and grapefruit trees are no exception. It takes 7 to 8 years of vegetative growth before the grapefruit tree matures and begins to bear fruit. Some trees can even take up to 15 years to mature.
The leaves have a beautiful dark green color when they are young and new. They will become more matte and lose their luster over time. In contrast to other citrus, grapefruit branches do not have thorns or spikes while young.
Young trees devote all their energy to rapid vegetative development and strengthening their trunks and branches. When the tree starts to produce flowers, the plant’s energy is directed towards flower and fruit development.
Mature grapefruit trees have hairless, glossy leaves and begin to produce buds. Flowers appear in clusters of five-petaled white flowers in the spring.
The grapefruit blossoms self-pollinate. A second tree is unnecessary, but bees and other insects increase pollination rates. As pollinators collect nectar, they distribute pollen from one flower to another.
After the blooming period, the flowers fall from the tree, and the fruit begins to grow. Only 0.5-2.5 percent of the flowers in a season mature into completely grown fruits.
Flower cells divide after fertilization, eventually growing into full-size fruits. Grapefruit trees produce large fruits, often measuring 4 to 6 inches in diameter.
The fruits, growing in clusters, start white or green and change color as they mature. The fruit’s flesh will ripen to hues of yellow-orange or orange-pink. The fruit must stay on the tree until fully ripe because grapefruit does not continue to ripen after it has been plucked from the tree.
They have a long gestation period, and the fruit can take up to 14 months to ripen in some regions and climates.
Grapefruit trees can live for up to 50 years in ideal conditions.