How to Grow Desert Grapefruit Trees


Like other citrus trees, including orange and lemon, grapefruit trees grow well in a desert climate, benefiting from the abundant sunshine and warm winters. Grapefruit trees are evergreen, with leaves that are up to 5 inches long. The tree can grow to heights of more than 20 feet. Grapefruit trees are believed to have originated in the Caribbean, where they were labeled "the forbidden fruit." Mature grapefruit varieties have flesh that can be pale yellow, white, pink or red.

Step 1

Plant grapefruit trees in the late summer or early fall in desert regions. Avoid planting during mid summer when the trees may be stressed by long days of extreme heat.

Step 2

Choose a location with well drained soil. Test the drainage by digging a hole 1 foot deep, filling it with water, and timing how long the hole takes to drain. If the hole drains within 24 to 48 hours, the grapefruit tree can be planted there.

Step 3

Clear weeds or other vegetation away from the planting hole. Dig a hole twice the width of the root ball. Make the planting hole deep enough so the top of the root ball will be level with the covered hole. Don't plant the tree any deeper than that. Putting part of the trunk below ground can cause a grapefruit tree to develop a condition called foot rot.

Step 4

Set the tree down in the center of the hole. Add back soil and slowly add water as you refill it. Add compost to the mix if your soil conditions are poor and additional nutrients are needed.

Step 5

Build a watering basin. Mound the soil in 5 inches high in a circle just outside the dripline, the perimeter below the widest part of the tree's canopy.

Step 6

Install drip irrigation near the edge of the basin, connecting three drip emitters with sufficient flow to fill the basin and allow for deep watering of the tree's roots. After watering, if you see part of the root ball exposed, add more soil to cover it. From late spring through September, water every week. In winter, cut back to watering every three weeks.

Step 7

Fertilize the grapefruit tree with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer formulated for citrus trees. Do this in early spring, just before buds normally appear on the trees in your area. Spread the fertilizer over the watering basin and work it into the soil.

Tips and Warnings

  • Grapefruit trees, especially younger ones, are frost sensitive. Because desert areas can have a few nights each winter when temperatures dip below freezing, keep burlap or sheets on hand to wrap the trees at night. Planting the tree on the south side of your house can also give the tree protection.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Compost
  • Irrigation tubing and emitters
  • Fertilizer formulated for fruit trees
  • Sheets or burlap


  • "The Desert Gardener's Calendar"; George Brookbank; 1999
  • Arizona Master Gardener Manual: Fruit Trees in the Home Yard
Keywords: desert citrus trees, growing grapefruit trees, planting grapefruit trees

About this Author

Brian Hill's first writing credit was the cover story for a national magazine. He is the author of three popular books, "The Making of a Bestseller," "Inside Secrets to Venture Capital" and "Attracting Capital from Angels." Among his magazine article credits are the March 2005 and June 2008 issues of "The Writer." His interests include golf, football, movies and his two dogs.