I begged, yes, I begged. When I heard that Robin Powell, gardener and real estate agent, had a 70-year-old grapefruit tree next door in her son Eric’s yard, I really wanted some of those local grapefruit. The sweet, thin skinned, juicy grapefruit did not disappoint! The Powells live in the closely-knit community of Sour Lake. They discovered the tree years ago and have been enjoying these delicious grapefruit for years. Granddaughter Isabella Powell was the first to add that her daddy’s tree is the best grapefruit tree anywhere, and I’ll have to admit she might be right.
The soil is just what the grapefruit tree needed: deep, well-drained, loamy soil. It is the soil of every gardener’s dreams. Grapefruit is happiest growing in a climate of hot days and warm to hot nights. Our climate gives us grapefruit with higher sugars and lower acids than grapefruit grown in the areas with cooler nighttime temperatures like California. In other words, our grapefruit is just better than their grapefruit.
You have to worry a little on the rare evenings when temperatures go below the mid-20s. Of course, considering that this grapefruit tree has lasted and produced for at least 70 years, you should only need to give your citrus tree very occasional protection. For maximum cold protection, grapefruit trees in the home landscape should be planted on the south or southeast side of the house. The Texas Aggie Horticulturalists remind us to allow at least 12 feet between the house, driveways, or walkways to give enough room for the lovely tree to grow to its mature size. Grapefruit grows best in full sun.
Major grapefruit varieties in Texas are Ruby Red, Henderson, Ray and Rio Red. These are all grapefruit discovered in Texas and are all almost seed free and red-fleshed. Oh yes, they are all sweet as could be, too. Commercial growers often pick their grapefruit while still green as early as late October. Around here we have the luxury of harvesting as needed from late October through May. The longer the fruit remains on the tree, the larger it becomes and the sweeter it becomes.
If you want to try to grow your own grapefruit tree, there are a couple of pointers that are important. Set the grapefruit tree “a little high” in the soil. The soil in the planting site should be at least as high as the surrounding yard, if not higher. Mixing topsoil, compost peat or other materials with the backfill isn’t necessary or desirable in good soil. Set the tree, backfill halfway, then water to settle that soil. Finish backfilling the hole and cover the root ball with about an inch of soil to protect the root ball. You can create a watering ring about 2 feet out. Remember to water every other day for the first couple of weeks, then decrease watering. Great information is available on growing grapefruit and other citrus in our area at Texas A&M website aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/citrus/grapefruit.htm.