Help us Prune Grapefruit tree from seed

TrishaFitzNovember 8, 2012

My Dad grew this Grapefruit tree from seed and we would like to know how to prune it. It is a healthy indoor plant. I suggested we pull the leaves off the main trunk first,which we did; after that we trimmed the upper branches back by 1/3.

What other suggestion do you have?

Our questions are;(1) Should we trim more leaves off the main trunk? (higher in-between the branches)

(2)Should we trim off the outgrowths from the main trunk- (there are 2- one on the lower trunk and one above).Or are these new branches we should keep?

Any suggestions would be great.

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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

Not sure why you would pull leaves off. That will do nothing for your tree, and in fact, can cause harm. You're probably better off topping your tree at about 1/2 way, so you can encourage more lateral branching. Do not prune any of your lateral branches, and do not pull off any more leaves, that will not help your dad's tree in any way, and would reduce the tree's ability to conduct photosynthesis, which is what helps to give the tree energy for new growth and the development of fruit. Seedlings tend to grow in a linear, single trunk fashion, so topping your tree will cause the lateral branches to develop and form a more broad canopy. Just look at any citrus tree in your nursery to see what I'm describing (if you have any in your area right now).

Patty S.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 11:55AM
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Has this plant always looked so droopy?
To me it seems to need a good watering!
If you cut the top off you will get a better shaped tree but you may prevent any chance of fruiting. Seedling citrus trees start fruiting when they have reached a high enough leaf-node count between stem and growing tips.
Seedling grapefruit trees are naturally tall trees.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 12:05PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

Citrange is correct, which is why you mustn't prune the lateral branches. They must be allowed to grow longer in order to have that key leaf-node number in order to trigger fruiting. And, grapefruit blossom at the ends of branches, so if you prune the later branch tips, you're pruning away potential blossoms. And, I would pot up your plant. Citrange has pointed out that your tree looks a wee bit thirsty, I think most likely due to the pot being to small to support a tree this size. Otherwise, it looks very green and healthy.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 12:15PM
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Looks like you already have new lateral branches growing. Your pot is definitely too small for that tree, which is why it looks as if you are getting salt buildup from fertilizer. Actually, I know little about container growing; and even less about grapefruit; but seedling citrus in general take a LONG time to produce fruit. MANY years ago I was assistant herdsman at the UC Davis Swine herd... used mostly for nutrition studies because the digestive system of a pig is virtually identical to humans. What does this have to do with grapefruit? A pig will eat almost everything, including another pig; but a pig will not eat a grapefruit; so I "reasoned", if a pig won't eat a grapefruit, then John ain't eatin' no grapefruit!! I do grow some Oro Blancos; only because the guy who gave me the buds told me they were Pomelos; I give them all to family and friends.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 5:36PM
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Interesting about the pigs, but I'm not sure your logic is correct. It suggests that the sense of taste/smell may be a bit different from humans but it doesn't follow that grapefruit would actually be unhealthy for them.
Perhaps they just don't like the taste of the peel - I don't either. I bet you never tried peeling the grapefruit for the pigs - they might find doing that a bit awkward for themselves!

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 5:58AM
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It's why I put "reasoned" in quotes. Also, I don't think I said they were unhealthy. I don't like grapefruit; but millions of people eat them every day; and I don't see any of them being damaged.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 1:44PM
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Thank you for your comments.
My reasoning for removing the leaves that were growing out of the trunk was that I understood they would sap or take away the plants energy; which we want to fuel into the limbs.

We will take a field trip to a nursery to see other grapefruit trees.

Thanks for the recommendations for a larger pot size.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 10:18AM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

Well, that's simply not true, Trisha. I'm not sure who told that silliness! The leaves are necessary for the tree's photosynthesis. The tree will branch out if you top the tree. Just look at any grafted citrus tree at a nursery. You'll see it was topped at about 3 feet to promote lateral branching :-) Seedlings will grow straight up in a single limb, very common. So, just top your tree and it will branch.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 11:17AM
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Patty is giving you very good advice! With most plants if you pinch the top of the branch off it will produce several branches where it was pinched off.

This is because the terminal bud (the bud at the top of the trunk or end of a branch) produces an auxin which moves down the system and inhibits lateral bud break (i.e., branching). Removal of the terminal bud prevents the production of the auxin so that one or several lateral buds will grow and branching results.

This phenomena is known as apical dominance. Here's a good picture that shows you the different parts of a branch or trunk.


    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 2:14AM
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