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All About Red Grapefruit Trees

Red grapefruit or Citrus paradisi is a naturally occurring hybrid citrus that resulted from the sweet orange and pomelo. This evergreen is popular for its large fruit and pleasing aesthetics, making it popular in backyards and commercial fields around the world. Many varieties fall under the broad category of red grapefruit, including Ruby Red, Star Ruby, Rio Star, Duncan, Flame, and Henderson. 

Overhead view of bowl of red grapefruit segments -- the dark pink color of the fruit is what gives red grapefruit trees their name.

History of the Red Grapefruit Tree

Red grapefruit trees derive from the first grapefruits, which were much lighter in color. Redder fruits began to occur as natural mutations and growers soon selected for deeper redness. The name grapefruit was originally coined by a Jamaican farmer who remarked that the fruit’s flavor and growth in clusters reminded him of grapes. The name latched on and remained ever since.

Red grapefruit trees are an integral part of the international citrus trade. They have grown in popularity throughout the United States since the 1930s when they first came to market. These fruits immediately established themselves because of their unique, deep red flesh and sweeter, lighter flavor compared to other varieties. 

Tree / Fruit Characteristics

Cut sections of red grapefruit with whole grapefruits behind them.

Red grapefruits have white to yellow bitter rinds that conceal deep, often blood-red fruit flesh. This variety is sweeter and lighter on sour, bitter notes compared to other grapefruits. Trees produce beautiful blooms ranging from white to pink, which gradually begin to produce the famous fruit. 

Planting Zones

Plant red grapefruit trees in USDA zone 9 and up for the best growing results. Red grapefruits, like other varieties of this subtropical citrus, appreciate warm climates. They can grow in USDA zones 7 and 8 with some extra attention and care. 

You should plant young red grapefruit trees in the fall or spring at your preference. Be sure to choose a spot with loamy, well-draining soil. Additionally, prepare your new grapefruit tree for the coming winter or summer heat, depending on when you plant it.

Size and Spacing

Keep your red grapefruit trees at least 25 feet apart to ensure they have plenty of growing room. Red grapefruits should be about half that distance from paved areas, buildings, and major landscaping. These can be damaged by root growth and even stunt your tree, lowering health and harvest.

Pollination

Red grapefruit trees are self-pollinating. That means you aren’t required to do anything to get outdoor trees to blossom and produce fruit. Indoor trees, like those in greenhouses, require pollination. As long as your outdoor tree has access to plenty of natural pollinators, you should have no problems. That said, you can always distribute pollen between trees by hand to help increase your potential yields.

Tree Care 

Closeup of Star Ruby grapefruits, which are one variety of red grapefruit tree.
Star Ruby grapefruits are one variety of red grapefruit tree.

Red grapefruit trees are remarkably simple to care for, especially compared to other citruses. Be sure not to neglect the few specific requirements they do have, though. This gives you the best opportunity for a large harvest of delicious home-grown grapefruit. 

Sunlight

Red grapefruit trees need full sun to thrive, so make sure to plant somewhere they receive 8 or more hours of direct light. 

Watering

Red grapefruits don’t require as much water as other fruit trees, but they do appreciate being watered deeply. You should water trees until soil is moist just under two feet deep. It’s important that soil drains well so that the grapefruit isn’t exposed to pests and disease.

New trees ought to be watered more often than established ones. Every two to three days in the first few weeks of establishing new trees is sufficient. After trees begin to settle in, you can cut back to watering two or three times each week at your discretion. Once trees are fully established, they can be watered every other week as long as conditions aren’t too wet or dry.

Pruning 

Red grapefruit trees don’t need much pruning because their canopies naturally grow relatively full and even. The key is to watch out for any dead or dying branches and leaves or overripened and rotting fruit. Dead plant matter like stems, leaves, and fruit are major components in common citrus illnesses and pest infestations.

Diseases 

Though red grapefruit varieties are hardy and easy to care for, they are still susceptible to some diseases. Sooty mold, phytophthora rot, root rot, and bacterial blast are all seen in grapefruit trees. Meanwhile the deadly citrus greening can destroy a tree entirely. Placing mulch around your red grapefruit can help cut down on breeding areas for harmful microbes. To learn about common grapefruit tree diseases, check out our post at this link

Pests

There are a few pests that commonly infest grapefruit trees, and gardeners should be vigilant about checking for signs of these. Red grapefruit tree pests include thrips, scale insects, and beetles, citrus leaf miners, and Asian citrus psyllid. Keeping your garden tidy can cut back on the conditions that attract pests. You can learn more about grapefruit tree pests here

Common Uses For The Red Grapefruit

Closeup of hands using a knife to cut a grapefruit into slices.

What Does The Red Grapefruit Taste Like? 

Red grapefruit is sweeter and less sour than other varieties. They are tart and slightly bitter, though not as bitter as the white grapefruit. 

Cooking

Grapefruit is a common ingredient in many dishes around the world. It has potential for dessert applications, too. That’s because cooked grapefruit loses its sourness, making it perfect for sweets. Costa Rica and Haiti both integrate grapefruits into local cuisines.

Eating Raw

Red grapefruits are a popular choice for raw consumption because they’re sweet, juicy, and easy to consume. Red grapefruit can be stored for up to a week raw and two weeks if refrigerated.

Canning / Freezing / Drying

Red grapefruit is great for canning, drying, and freezing. Frozen grapefruit lasts for many months. Canned grapefruit lasts the longest, up to a few years if properly stored. Dried grapefruit can last for a number of months and can be easily made in dehydrators.

Recipes

There are lots of ways to use delicious red grapefruit in some exquisite dishes! Sweet and savory recipes for red grapefruit abound. Check out our post on grapefruit recipes, with dishes like seared grapefruit scallops, grapefruit meringue pie, and grapefruit curd doughnuts.

Grapefruit salad serving.
Best Ever Grapefruit Salad (click for the recipe).

Health Benefits Of The Red Grapefruit

Red grapefruit are chock full of vitamin C. They also have calcium, potassium, fiber, and protein. Grapefruit juice has a lot of citric acid— more than orange juice, but still less than lemon or lime juice. One particular benefit is red grapefruit’s high lycopene content. Lycopene is an antioxidant found in fruits with red flesh and may be an extremely effective cancer-fighting agent. 

While there are many proven health benefits of grapefruit and grapefruit juice, there are some potential risks and adverse reactions to be aware of. If you are on any prescription medications, don’t eat grapefruit before checking the prescription label. Grapefruit can interact dangerously with certain prescription medications by preventing their absorption into the body. 

Where To Buy Red Grapefruit Trees 

Red grapefruit trees are abundant in nurseries throughout the world, making them easy to find. Since red grapefruits have become such a popular citrus, more people plant them each year. You can also find varieties like the Ruby Red grapefruit tree at online stores such as Nature Hills

Where To Buy Red Grapefruit

You can find red grapefruit at almost any grocery store. Bear in mind that there are many varieties, including Star Rio, Ruby Red, Duncan, Flame, and many more. 

FAQ

Closeup of cut red grapefruit sections among whole grapefruit.

Is Red Grapefruit Healthier Than White Grapefruit? 

Thanks to red grapefruit’s high lycopene content, it is actually healthier than white grapefruit! Lycopene is an antioxidant that has been shown to protect the body from harmful cells like free radicals. In other aspects of nutrition, red and white grapefruit are essentially the same. Both varieties are a healthy choice! 

How Big Does Red Grapefruit Get?

Red grapefruit varies in size depending on the particular variety. However, most red grapefruits are moderate to large in size. Ruby Red grapefruit, one of the most widely-grown varieties, is between four and six inches in diameter. 

Conclusion

Pinkish yellow grapefruits hanging on a tree.

Red grapefruit is a wonderful fruit tree for backyard gardens and larger scale operations alike. Packed with nutrients and easy to grow, it is a great choice for anyone willing to provide the proper conditions.

Do you have a favorite red grapefruit variety? Share it in the comments! 

To read about other varieties of grapefruit trees, click here for more blog articles.