Citrus experts! Looking for insight/avice on a tree (grapefruit)

EdmundGTP(9)March 28, 2012

I've been living at the house where this tree is for the past 4 years, and for the past couple years it seems the overall "health" of the tree has gone down a bit.

There were a few minor limbs which appeared to suffer from some sun damage so I removed them late in the year and those areas seemed to grow back in fine.

Now there are two more areas near the top of the tree where it looks like the same thing is happening. I feel like it's a bit too late in the year to prune those areas, and hope for sufficient regrowth before the summer heat hits.

I freely admit that I have essentially zero knowledge when it comes to maintaining citrus trees, and perhaps that's part of the reason why it looks the way it does now.

I was hoping I could post a pic or two and someone with some much greater knowledge could chime in on what I should do with this tree/ what it needs/ if I'm overlooking anything.

Thanks in advance!!

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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

are you watering and fertilizing good. Someone smart will be along soon that was just my first questions.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 1:47PM
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Honestly, my maintenance of the tree has been next to nil. I fertilize maybe twice a year with ironite (it's what the previous owner used). Fortunately, I live in an area in Tempe that has good soil and is almost always on the damp/moist side once you get more than a foot deep, so I hardly ever water it directly.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 2:01PM
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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

well it could just be starving to death. Citrus are very hungry trees.

Patty, John can you help Edmund with fert amounts please. LOl

they both grow in ground and I in containers so they will be of better assistance to you.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 2:54PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

A very large percentage of tree roots are shallow...less than 12 inches.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 3:48PM
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Yeah, I'm sure a regular watering/fertilizing schedule would probably help.

This tree produces a TON of fruit every year but we don't really make use of it and most of it ends up just sitting on the tree until it falls of naturally. Is leaving all that fruit on the tree possibly stressing it somehow? Is there a point after the ripening season at which I should make an effort to pull the remaining fruit off?

Again, total citrus tree noob.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 9:10PM
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i'd suggest moving some of those rocks away from the base of the tree and add mulch.

you can also increase the amount of times you fertilize.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 9:37PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Okay, all above are correct: First off, Ironite is not fertilizer. It is a micronutrient product. You need to get to your best garden center and purchase a good quality citrus fertilizer and fertilize your tree WELL (it's a very large tree, so you're going to need to calculate the number of pounds of fertilizer for each application - it will be substantial). Pull out the rocks. Mulch with 3 to 4" of good compost and then top with bark mulch. You want to try to retain moisture in your hot AZ soil. Your fertilizer will need to be applied at the drip line (edge of the tree canopy) where your feeder roots exist. Rhizo is absolutely correct in that citrus tree feeder roots exist in the top 12 to 18" of soil - citrus are shallow rooted trees. You're going to want to fertilize with a good citrus fertilizer (and you can add Ironite if you wish) in Feb, May and then early Oct. Or, you can do an every two month's fertilization for this year, Feb, April, June, Aug, and then Early Oct to catch your tree up. What you're seeing in the top canopy is called branch die back and it can be caused by a number of different diseases, lack of enough water & nutrients, as well as just old age. I've included a link to the AZ Master Gardener's Manual for you to look up citrus management. If you can't find anything specific, contact your local extension office and ask them to forward you information about growing citrus in your area. And yes, you should pick the fruit. Give it away to neighbors or to your local food bank. Squeeze and freeze, or put it up. But you should pick it off when it's ripe or you can cause the tree to start alternate bearing. Not so likely with grapefruits, fortunately. Lastly, prune out all the dead wood down to green wood, or you're going to introduce portals of entry for disease. You can top the tree some to bring the height down as well, so you don't have to get on a ladder to pick the fruit :-)

Patty S.

Here is a link that might be useful: Arizona Master Gardener's Manual

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 10:11PM
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Thanks for the great info!

Do you think it's too late in the year to prune of the branch die near the top, for fear of the lower limbs getting sun scorched due to lack of shade?

Though I suppose with all the leaves dying off in those spots they wouldn't provide much shade anyway.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 1:48AM
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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

Before you cut it off make sure its dead first. scratch a bit of bark off and if the cambium below is green I would leave it be and see if it re-sprouts new leaves


    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 8:33AM
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Suppose that'd be a good idea. Not sure how I'll reach all the way up there. Looking at it again, the pic I posted makes the tree look deceivingly small. The lowest hanging part of the canopy on that tree is about 6 feet off the ground.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 12:55PM
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Hi, I recently bought a older home. I have a Grapefruit tree that is at least 40 to 50 feet tall. It's bearing fruit on the top but no grapefruit near the bottom. I'd like to trim this tree by at least 2 thirds back. Will this kill the tree? I'd like to keep it because it hides the house behind me. I would appricate any information you can give me. P.S. I really hate those thorns. I hope to hear back from anyone that has the knowledge on this subject. I will look for a post here or you can e-mail me directly at Thanks

    Bookmark   May 20, 2012 at 2:23PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Edmund, you're probably just fine pruning back any dieback. I'd cut out all the dead branches. You can even bring the entire canopy down some, so you can actually reach the fruit without having to use a ladder, as I mentioned. There is plenty of canopy to protect the tender branches.

Keith, you're better off starting your own message thread so you don't hijack Edmund's, plus you can check off to be notified of answers. You really don't want to take off that much at one whack. You want to prune no more than 1/3 of the tree at any one time. And, you're better off doing that severe pruning as the tree goes into winter, when it slows down. Citrus don't exactly go dormant, but they will slow down their growth during the winter. And, thorns? Most mature grapefruit trees don't have thorns (unless they are not grafted and grown from seed). Are you sure this is a grapefruit?

Patty S.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2012 at 10:57PM
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