Dwarf Ruby Red Grapefruit Tree

Growing Zones in Ground: 8 - 11 / in Pots: 4 - 11

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The dwarf Ruby Red Grapefruit tree is easy to grow, has rich green leaves and a handsome, well-shaped canopy that requires minimal pruning. Standard and dwarf Ruby Red Grapefruit Trees bear large-sized grapefruit that have red-blushed yellow rind and sweet, luscious deep ruby flesh.

The subtropical dwarf Ruby Red Grapefruit tree with botanical name Citrus ù paradisi ‘Ruby Red’ is an evergreen dwarf citrus tree of the flowering family Rutaceae. It is a bud sport (mutation of one tree limb that bears fruits that have different characteristics than the rest of the tree) that grew on the limb of a Pink Marsh grapefruit tree. The initial bud sport was first found in Texas in 1929 by A. E. Henninger of McAllen.

Back then grapefruit were not popular because of their unattractive white-yellow flesh and acrid-tart flavor. But the discovery of the mutated red-fleshed, sweet-flavored Ruby Red grapefruit tree changed all that, and gave birth to the great Texas grapefruit industry. From that moment on, grapefruit has become one of America’s favorite breakfast staples. Due to high demand, Texas eliminated all pink and white grapefruit trees and dedicated their time and land to cultivating Ruby Red grapefruits and other red-fleshed varieties.

The dwarf Ruby Red Grapefruit Tree is similar to the standard-sized grapefruit tree in that they can both be planted outdoors in USDA growing zones 8 through 11 and potted to be taken indoors during winter in USDA plant hardiness zones 4 to 7. Both types are easy to grow, have rich green leaves and handsome, well-shaped canopy that requires minimal pruning. Furthermore, standard and dwarf Ruby Red Grapefruit Trees bear large-sized grapefruit that have red-blushed yellow rind and sweet, luscious deep ruby flesh.

Ruby Red grapefruit are in season from December to May so you can still enjoy vitamin C-packed citrus fruit in winter when most citrus fruits are not in season. Aside from being rich in vitamin C, Ruby Red grapefruit also contain vitamin A, potassium, dietary fiber and other nutrients.

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Citrus Tree Care

Caring for growing grapefruit trees is fun and rewarding since you will get to enjoy the fruits of your labor in the most literal sense; you can pick ripe grapefruit fresh from the citrus tree you have grown in your backyard or pot inside your house. The next time you look for a citrus tree, make sure to include a Grapefruit Tree in your purchase list.

Dwarf citrus trees including Grapefruit trees have similar hygiene and cultural requirements; they need as much sunlight they can again about 6 to 8 hours a day, well-draining soil and proper watering method.

  • Planting: Grapefruit Trees when delivered comes in a pot that is smaller than what the trees need; in so saying the trees need to be repotted in a larger container where it will not be root bound. Use a pot with plenty of holes at the bottom to ensure proper drainage. Moreover, use loamy or sandy loam repotting soil. Poor drainage and use of heavy clay/high salinity soils will result to reduced fruit production and even shorten your trees’ lifespan. Make sure to put a few feet of space between the growing citrus trees and other structures to give the trees room to grow.
  • Watering: Deeply and thoroughly water the dwarf citrus trees you received right after replanting them until you see water running out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Water the newly replanted Rio Red grapefruit citrus trees every 3 days for the first 2 weeks then cut back watering to once every 7 to 10 days. Wait for the top soil to dry a little in between each watering to not over-water your citrus trees. The best solution to watering concerns (under watering or over watering) is to buy a moisture meter from a garden supply store. A 50% water meter reading or below means you need to deeply water your trees. Moisture above 65% means it is tie to allow your tree to drain for a while.
  • Fertilizing: It is time to feed your growing citrus trees with citrus tree fertilizer when you notice new growth on your freshly replanted trees. Use a cup of 21-0-0 fertilizer for citrus trees, commonly called ammonium sulfate fertilizer, every year. Split the application over the year and apply the fertilizer for citrus trees in late winter, mi-spring and early fall.
  • Pruning: Dwarf Rio Red Grapefruit trees do not require elaborate or much pruning. The only time you need to prune this citrus tree is when you see water sprouts or suckers growing below the graft union since they will only steal away the nutrients your growing citrus tree needs. You can also prune the tree to maintain its shape and size within your growing environment. Do not allow the suckers to develop into a tree since the growth is from the rootstock and not the cultivar so will have the characteristics of the rootstock and not the cultivar. Keep an eye out for damaged, dying or deceased branches and prune them as soon as possible to maintain the overall health of your citrus trees.
  • Cold Protection: Although more cold tolerant than most citrus trees, dwarf Rio Red grapefruit trees still need cold protection. Move your trees indoors when a frost of freeze threatens your area to protect it from any possible damage. If it gets really cold and the temperature goes below 28º you can provide additional protection by draping a blanket or tarp over the trees and place a small heat lamp underneath the cover for additional warmth.

Fruit & Harvesting


Rio Red grapefruit was first discovered by R.A. Hensz as a limbs port growing from an irradiated Ruby Red budwood. Thanks to his perseverance we are now able to enjoy red-fleshed fruits that are not just juicy but also appetizingly sweet.

Rio Red grapefruits are large in size and reach 5 to 6 inches in diameter. The rind of Rio Red turns from green to pale yellow with an overall reddish tinge as they ripen and fairly easy to peel. Rio Reds have delicious deep red flesh that is juicy with the right combination of sweetness and tart flavors.

Rio Red grapefruits are nearly seedless, sweet and not acidic like its white counterparts making them an excellent fruit for juicing and eating fresh. You can also use Rio Red grapefruits to make marmalade, delicious preserves, tarts and pastries. You can also toss it in a salad, create fascinating and refreshing alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, and use it as a flavoring ingredient to yummy pork, chicken and fish dishes.


Rio Red Grapefruits start out green when young then turn pale-yellow with red tinges when ripe. However, there are instances when the fruit is fully ripe yet still green on the outside. So how do we know when your grapefruits are ready for picking?

The best bet is to wait for the fruits rind to turn hue then do taste test. Simply grab the fruit in your hand and gently twist until it gets detached from the branch. If the fruit has sufficient juice, flavorful and sweet then it is time to harvest the other fruits. However, if the fruit is lacking in juice or a little bit bitter then leave the other fruits on the tree for 2 more weeks then do another taste test after. Keep in mind that fruits do not sweeten after harvest so make sure that the fruit you first selected is satisfactory before harvesting the rest of the fruits. Furthermore, grapefruits can be kept on the tree for months so storage should not be a problem.

Growing Zones


Dwarf Rio Red Grapefruit trees are best grown in USDA plant hardiness zones 8 to 11 and can be either directly planted in the ground or planted in a pot. These trees can grow up to 8’ to 12’ in height when planted in the ground but tend to stay smaller when grown in a container. The usual bloom season of dwarf Rio Red grapefruit trees is in spring and usual fruit season is in winter. Although cold tolerant, dwarf Rio Red grapefruit trees need cold protection especially when the temperature dips below 28º.

Keep your dwarf Rio Red grapefruit trees in a sunny location to keep in healthy and at the same time to sweeten the fruits since its fruits need heat to become sweeter.

Pests and Diseases

Citrus trees are grafted into other stocks to make them pest and disease resistant. However, even with the best growing conditions there are still times when dwarf Rio Red grapefruit trees get attacked by pests and get infected with diseases.

  • Brown Rot Disease – caused by garden fungal pest called Phytophthora spp that emerges in wet, cool conditions. Infected citrus trees will have fruit with pungent, dark brown, water-soaked lesions.

Cultural control method is the key to controlling this disease. Mow around the citrus trees and remove any debris under the trees canopies. Ensure proper irrigation management to prevent leaving the trees in standing water. Apply copper fungicide to foliage before heavy rains to help protect the citrus tree from infection.

  • Phytophthora Gummosis – phytophthora fungi lives in the soil and thrives in cool and moist conditions. This fungi releases zoospores that get splashed onto the tree trunk when it rains. Infected trees will have sap oozing from cracks in bark and pale green leaves with yellow veins.

Management includes proper water drainage and not leaving the trees in standing water. Prevent injuries to bark of tree trunk. You can also halt the disease from spreading by removing the infected bark and allowing the area to dry out.


Are grapefruits a hybrid?

Yes. The grapefruit is a hybrid of the larger pummelo (Citrus grandis), and the sweet orange (Citrus sinensis). The first cultivated grapefruits met with a mild response due to their acidic flavor and astringent pulp. The modern, sweeter, less acidic grapefruits are the result of naturally occurring bud sports that had different characteristics than the original tree upon which they were discovered. The branches that produced the better tasting fruits were grafted to other rootstock to cultivate these superior varieties.

Where are grapefruits grown?

Grapefruit trees are grown commercially in India, Florida, Texas, California, Arizona, South Africa, South America, Israel, and Australia. There may also be some grapefruit grown for local consumption in any of the warmer locations around the world, such as parts of Indonesia, Asia, China, and the Caribbean and Pacific Islands.

Do grapefruit trees require a second tree for pollination?

Like most citrus, grapefruit trees are self-pollinating and will produce fruit without a pollinator tree. However, trees with a pollinator may grow more fruit than a solitary tree.

Can grapefruit trees be grown indoors?

It is possible to grow grapefruit indoors in a container, as long as the tree gets adequate sunlight or is grown under artificial growing lights. Grapefruit trees become large, and indoor trees will often require pruning, depending on the space available.

How long does it take a grafted grapefruit tree to grow fruit?

Grafted grapefruit trees that have been started on living rootstock will bloom much faster than seedlings. In general, grafted trees can start to grow fruit as early as two years after planting.

Can you grow grapefruit from seeds?

Growing grapefruit from seeds is possible, but remember that seedlings take much longer to mature and produce fruit, and you will not know the quality of the fruit until your seed-grown tree produces. This can take as long as 5 to 6 years. Grafted trees are much faster to produce fruit, and you will already know the variety’s quality and taste reputation before the fruit appears.

How often should I water my grapefruit tree?

When first planted in well-drained soil, water your grapefruit tree once every four days for about sixteen days. Then monitor the soil, and water once per week. If the soil becomes dry to below four inches before the next week’s watering, increase watering to twice a week. Rainfall and soil composition will affect the amount of water the tree needs. Do not constantly saturate the ground to make standing water, and do not let it dry out to below six inches below the soil surface.