Why Is My Grapefruit Tree Not Producing Fruit?

There’s nothing worse than lovingly tending your young grapefruit tree only to find that it doesn’t produce any fruit. But why is this? In this article, we will take a look at some of the most common answers to the question, “why is my grapefruit tree not producing fruit?” And see if we can find a solution you can implement. Usually, it’s pretty straightforward, so let’s get to it.

Reasons Why My Grapefruit Tree Is Not Producing Fruit

Reasons Why My Grapefruit Tree Is Not Producing Fruit

There’s a variety of reasons for this problem, so here we’ll look at some of the more usual causes of no fruits developing on your grapefruit tree:

1. Age Of The Tree

Depending on how your tree was grown, from a graft, cutting, or seed, the length of time it will take for it to produce fruit will differ. 

A tree propagated from a cutting or a graft will bear fruit a lot sooner than one grown from seed – years sooner, to be exact. 

For some seed-grown trees, it’s taken more than 25 years before they produce any fruit, although seven to ten years is more common. Either way, a lot of patience will be required before you get any bounty.

2. Pruning

If you are a little overzealous with your pruning, then it could be that you’re stunting your tree’s ability to fruit. 

If you continually cut your tree back hard each year, it won’t produce enough fruiting wood to grow any grapefruits, or it could mean it only has very few. Try being a little less harsh and allow it to do its own thing for a while.

3. Sunlight

A grapefruit tree is a heat-loving plant, and it needs plenty of sunlight, around eight or more hours a day to help it fruit. If you live where there aren’t sufficient sunlight hours, or if your tree has been planted somewhere with too much shade, then fruiting will be affected. 

You could try transplanting the tree if it is still young enough, but you do run the risk of killing it from transplant shock. 

Another approach would be to reduce the amount of shade around your grapefruit by cutting back other surrounding plants and trees.

4. Nutrients

Grapefruit trees require quite a high level of nutrients to thrive. Because they are evergreen, they don’t get a total dormancy period like deciduous trees, so have a constant need for food as well as water. 

Try feeding your tree with a high-quality organic fertilizer in early spring and every six weeks thereafter until mid-summer. 

Don’t continue to fertilize after late summer, as this can develop new tender growth that could be damaged in the winter months if there is a frost.

Citrus trees specifically require potassium to produce flowers and fruits. 

5. Cold Temperatures

As mentioned previously, grapefruits love the heat. Cold temperatures below 28°F can cause real problems, and if the delicate flowers are exposed to any frost, it is likely they will be too damaged to survive and bear fruits.

6. Insufficient Water

Getting the water balance right for a grapefruit tree can be a little tricky. Too much water and the roots will rot, too little and the flowers, leaves, and any fruits will drop from the tree, and worse case, the tree can even die. 

Water regularly and deeply, and check the moisture level before watering, particularly after periods of rain.

During drought conditions, your grapefruit tree will do reasonably well for a while, but eventually, it will become too much, and the tree will start to die. 

7. Herbicides

Citrus trees don’t like to have any competing vegetation around their root zones as this can steal too many nutrients from the soil and be detrimental to the development of the tree. 

Many people use herbicides to kill off this vegetation, not realizing that citrus trees are very susceptible to these chemicals too, and as they sink into the ground around the roots of the tree, they will be taken up by it.

Sadly this often results in tree dying back and even death.

8. Disease

Finally, disease and attack from insect pests can severely affect the health of your grapefruit tree and cause it not to fruit. Check it over regularly and cut out any diseased wood with a sterile set of pruners ensuring you burn the wood afterward if possible.

These are the most common reasons why a grapefruit tree isn’t fruiting or is only producing a small quantity of fruit.

Sometimes, even if your tree does produce fruit, you will see a lot of it dropping off. In this video, you can see why your fruit tree may be dropping fruit or flowers and, if there is a problem, how to fix it.

How Do You Get A Grapefruit Tree To Flower

One reason your grapefruit tree isn’t producing fruits could be due to there not being any flowers. The reasons for this are the same as for the tree not fruiting but are there any other ways of getting a grapefruit tree to flower?

1. Pot Grown Trees

If you live in zone 8 or below, it’s probably best to grow your grapefruit in pots rather than outside in the ground. This is because cold temperatures will damage flowers or prevent the tree from flowering at all.

By bringing your grapefruit trees indoors over the colder months, you’ll give them the best chances of producing healthy flowers that will turn into delicious fruits. 

It will be necessary to ensure they are placed in a sunny spot and to keep them moist, but not wet. Allowing the roots to dry out can also prevent them from flowering.

2. Severe droughts

They will prevent blooming due to water stress, but surprisingly purposefully inducing just a little water stress in the early spring can cause them to produce more flowers.

Only water when the soil, two inches down around the root zone of the tree, feels dry.

3. Cool Not Cold

We’ve mentioned very cold weather, but a bit of cool weather can actually induce flowering. Ideally, you want the nighttime temperatures to be around the mid-40s in late winter and early spring, as this causes the buds to become dormant.

When the weather warms up again in mid-spring, the dormancy period is broken, and they will be stimulated to flower.

Although this type of temperature control can be difficult out of doors and even in your home, a greenhouse can be an excellent solution. 

Note that many dwarf grapefruit trees grown indoors will flower through the winter months, permeating a wonderful scent through your home.

4. Fertilizer

This is even more important to pot-grown trees as they will quickly deplete any goodness in the soil. It is, therefore, necessary to feed them regularly to ensure they are receiving sufficient nutrients. 

Giving an 8:8:8 feed or adding a good rich compost to the soil at other times is beneficial, but during early spring, cut back the nitrogen level as this promotes leaf health and growth rather than flower production. Instead, give a 0:10:10 fertilizer at this time. 

5. Salt

If you live near the coast, then your groundwater from wells or even your house water can be too high in saline, which reduces flowering. 

Try collecting rainwater and using this to water your grapefruits in late winter and early spring, and this should help induce better blooming. 

Another thing that is often noticed is that flowers and fruits are falling off the tree. In this 

How Long Does It Take A Grapefruit Tree To Produce Fruit?

How Long Does It Take A Grapefruit Tree To Produce Fruit?

It can take as few as two years or as many as seven or more for a grapefruit tree to produce fruit. 

Much of this depends on how the tree was grown. Those raised from seed take the longest time to mature enough to bear fruits, while a grafted tree is capable of growing them within just a couple of years.

Other things can affect fruit production, including climate, soil, water, and nutrients. 

Grapefruits are semi-tropical to tropical trees and need plenty of sun and warm temperatures all year round. If it gets too cold, then fruiting is affected.

A poor location where the tree is in too much shade will also result in poor production.

They like sandy loam soil that drains feely but can stay slightly moist and hold plenty of the nutrients needed to keep all of the beautiful evergreen foliage green and healthy.

Are Grapefruits Self Pollinating?

Grapefruits are self-pollinating trees, they don’t require a partner tree to produce fruit. 

However, cross-pollination from other grapefruit trees will often result in larger, more abundant fruit, so it’s well worth having more than one if you have the space.

How Can You Turn A Sour Grapefruit Tree Into Something Sweet And Delicious?

You may have inherited an old grapefruit tree in your yard. The problem is if you don’t like sour grapefruit, it can be a bit of a waste of space.

Don’t worry! There’s no need to get rid of the tree. All you need to do is graft a different variety of grapefruit or even an orange or another citrus onto it, and it will produce that for you instead.

Because grapefruit is a cross between a Pomelo and an Orange, you can use grapefruit trees to grow all kinds of oranges and even lemons.

Grafting isn’t as difficult as it may seem, and there are various ways to do a graft. One of the simplest is a bud graft.

This is where you cut the bud or leaf stem off of a branch on a tree you want to grow and match it to a branch of a similar size on the tree you want to develop the new fruit on.

You can find out all about how to do this in detail in our article on How To Grow A Grapefruit Tree.

Theoretically, you can graft multiple different citrus fruits onto your grapefruit tree, although it’s best to always leave a couple of grapefruit branches. 


The most usual reasons for grapefruit trees not to produce fruit include:

  • To young
  • Insufficient sun
  • Exposure to temperatures that are too low
  • Too much or not enough water
  • Not enough nutrients 

Grapefruits don’t have to be bitter and tasteless. Often those you buy in stores are picked quite young before they have had time to mature and become really sweet and juicy. 

Because grapefruits don’t ripen any further once they have been picked you can leave them on the tree over fall and early winter and enjoy a delicious bounty of fruits later in the season once they are fully matured.

If you’d like to discover more about grapefruit trees and how to grow them, you’ll find plenty of great information in our associated articles.  

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