How to Keep a Grapefruit Tree Healthy

Grapefruit trees can be a great backyard tree to grow in the right climate. The fruit they produce is delicious and they’re an interesting tree to have around the house. However, deciding to grow a grapefruit tree and actually ensuring it grows healthy and fruitful are two very different things.

For increasing the likelihood of having a healthy grapefruit tree a lot of actions will be needed to be considered, including: sunlight, mulching, fertilizing, watering and using whitewash for sunburn prevention.


Sunlight is the grapefruit tree’s biggest energy source. Therefore, if you’re planning on planting a grapefruit tree make sure to plant it in area where it will receive as much sunlight as possible. If you live in a cooler climate you should also so think about having the tree positioned in warm location as well.  Having it next to a warm wall that receives a lot of sunlight during the cooler part of the year may be a good place for a grapefruit tree in that particular geographical location.


Applying mulch under your grapefruit tree is almost crucial to guarantee a healthier tree. Mulch is a material that can be made up of many different substances,  most  commonly these substances include:  twigs, straw, grass clippings, wood chips and leaves.  The mulch should be spread out over the surface of the ground below the canopy of the tree. Preferably, the thickness of the mulch layer should be no more three inches  in thickness.  If it is any thicker than it may cut off air to the ground and prevent the roots of the tree receiving crucial oxygen.

Some of the benefits of mulching include protection  of the roots against both hot and  cold weather. It can also prevent nutrients from being washed away from under the tree.  Another great benefit of mulching is that it kills the existing vegetation on the surface which are competing for nutrients with your grapefruit tree. The mulch also, when it begins to break down, can provide a lot of nutritional value for grapefruit tree. Additionally, if you were to apply manure under your grapefruit tree the mulch would prevent the manure from burning the roots of your tree. 

A danger of mulching  that you must consider is that it could result in stem rot if placed up against the bark and trunk of the tree.  Mulch has the ability to retain moisture, so when it rubs off against the bark of the tree it could result in bark rotting. This could in turn cause serious problems for the tree, including the inability of it  to properly absorb water and nutrients. 

Therefore, it is advisable that the mulch remain at least two or three inches away from the base of the tree . 


As stated earlier grapefruit trees love sunlight, however too much sunlight can have some negative effects on the health of the tree. Exposed bark that isn’t shaded by branches may be susceptible to severe sunburn in extremely hot climates. Therefore, if you are worried about tree sunburn or if you already had some burning issues and you want to prevent it in the future, then there is a quick fix that can be a solution to your problem. 

Whitewashing is the process of painting parts of your tree white so it reflects the sunshine and prevents it from burning.  There are commercial whitewashing products that are dedicated for plant sunburn prevention. Many of these products have low toxicity and won’t be particularly harmful to your tree. The whitewashing is to cover over the most important parts of your tree. This would include the main trunk of the tree and large important branches. In the northern hemisphere it will be the south side of the tree that will need the most protection. The opposite true in the southern hemisphere. 

Whitewashing is a simple procedure to carry out and makes a lot of sense logically. Just think about the amount people in hot climates that wear white or light colored clothes because it cools them down. The same science is behind the whitewashing of trees.

There are some multi-purpose whitewashing products that contain properties that prevent disease and pests from infecting your tree. Hence, these specific  whitewashing products in question can be applied on particularly vulnerable parts of your  tree, including areas that have been cut and also open tree wounds.


Significant watering should take place in the flowering and fruit onset phases of your grapefruit tree. If there is limited watering of your plants during these phases then the grapefruit tree may believe it is in a drought and begin acting accordingly. This could result in your tree conserving energy and withholding fruit production. 

Not only is watering important for efficient and healthy fruit production, but for the overall health of the tree.  Water is needed by the tree to absorb nutrients from the ground. Fruit dropping may be a sign of your tree not receiving enough water. You can check the moisture levels of the tree’s roots by using a water meter that you stick into the ground, giving you a water moisture reading. 

Watering should be spread out below the canopy of the tree. Just think about how rain waters a plant. It is important that all roots can avail water. If this isn’t achieved and only roots on one side of the tree receive enough water then you could have an underdeveloped tree on one side.


Grapefruit trees need a lot of nutrients. Citrus fruit trees evolved in mineral rich regions, so this is not surprising. During the spring and summer, fertilizing of grapefruit trees can be done once every 4 to 8 weeks. During fall and winter, this can be spaced out to 8 to 12 weeks. When the tree is more established, there is little need to fertilize during the autumn/winter period. Also, when the tree is in this older period of existence, fertilizing during the spring/summer period can be reduced to every 8 to 12 weeks. 

Some macro-nutrients that grapefruit trees needs include: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. These macro-nutrients can be applied to the ground in the form of fertilizer product mixes that you can purchased commercially. Oftentimes, this fertilizer contains micro-nutrients as well, however it could be wise to consider purchasing micro-nutrient mixes separately instead. Micro-nutrients can  get lost in the ground or mulch if they’re applied on the ground under the tree. You could instead consider spraying these micro-nutrients on the leaves of the trees. Some of these micro-nutrient mixes include properties such as magnesium, zinc and iron. All of which promote the health of your tree.

Avoid aggressive pesticides. 

Overall, you should be more focused on the appearance and health of your fruit as opposed to all the critters and insects that are on it. Many of the insects on your tree are non harmful or actually have a positive impact. Harsh pesticides have the potential of doing more harm than good by killing off helpful, pollinating insects that actually help your tree grow healthy.  Ways to avoid the use of certain pesticides  includes removing some harmful insects off the grapefruit tree by hand. For example, citrus bugs can be picked off by hands and killed. 

Try only using spray when absolutely necessary. They should be as light and as minimally toxic as possible.

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