Grapefruit tree pruning and advice

Discussion in 'Citrus' started by OREGATO, Feb 5, 2009.

  1. OREGATO

    OREGATO Member

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    Hey guys, havent posted up in a while, but i've a little query about one of my grapefruit trees.

    I have one tree that is about ten foot tall, its in doors and is left in my dining room, now, the situation is this.

    for the last few years, its been hitting the ceiling and i've had to prune it back now and again, the problem is, it has started to lean to one side, so i decided to use a little bit of rope and tie it back to its up right position (it relys on the rope now to stay up or else it will lean over)

    now, over the last two weeks, i have started to notice new growth coming from the trunk (?) there are two shoots coming out as you will see from the below pictures, do you guys think, if i was to cut off the top of the tree and let these two shoots grow, it would be worth doing? or is there a risk of killing the tree?? i have taken a few pictures on my phone, they're not the best but i hope you get the picture..
     

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  2. OREGATO

    OREGATO Member

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    here is a picture of what i would like to do.. or kind of illustrating my point

    the blue lines indicate the new shoots and the red is where i think i should make the cut..

    advice opionions please!!!!!
     

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  3. K Baron

    K Baron Well-Known Member

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    I would wait until the new growth has completed it's cycle. That could be a few months... or less... then I would cut, and replant in a smaller pot...
     
  4. OREGATO

    OREGATO Member

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    i see, but how do i know when the cycle is over? also, one of the existing branchs will at some stage block out the sunlight to one of the new shoots, this concerns me!
     
  5. K Baron

    K Baron Well-Known Member

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    When the new growth has stopped, the tips and leaves are firm and not tender, and try turning the plant to give light to where it needs it?
     
  6. OREGATO

    OREGATO Member

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    cool,

    the reason turning isnt an option is because i have it tied up to a string at the moment, so turning is fiddly and stuff, would you say it would be harmful to go ahead and cut off the two mature branches now?

    also why would i need to use a smaller pot??
     
  7. K Baron

    K Baron Well-Known Member

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    The citrus grows in cycles, when you have root growth, there is no new top/foliage growth... in your case, the foliage is spurting, and I believe that the plant is naturally trying to correct itself... therefore fiddling and turning may help the new growth... once it has stopped growing this new limb, cut to above the shoot.... and repot it as it will need to have a restart on it's balance between the foliage and the root ball...think of it as a new beginning for this citrus.... if you don't the plant will be physiologically unbalanced...
     
  8. Millet

    Millet Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    This illistrates the point, that planting a grapefruit tree from seed that is going to be container grown indoors, is the worst possible variety of citrus one can choose. Because a grapefruit's required maturity node count number is so high, a grapefruit tree can easily reach the ceiling before the required node is ever reached and the tree becomes mature. The side branches that have started growth on the lower portion of Oregato's tree trunk, will begin their growth at the same low node count number that an earlier branch at that spot would have had, so nothing is gained as far as any possibility of fruit production. Oregao can leave the branches alone, or cut them, but if they are left on the tree, they would provide some ornamental appearance. However, the tree will never mature and never fruit growing under the conditions it is presently subjected too. As far as maturity, and fruiting, it really does not matter which direction Oregato decides to take. With a tree that has so little in the way of foliage, you might as well leave the two branches attached. If Oregato ever wants fruit plant a Key Lime seed, or a mandarin seed, and harvest in 3-5 years. - Millet (1,444-)
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2009
  9. OREGATO

    OREGATO Member

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    Millet, thanks for the advice and information.
    if you were in my shoes, would i be right in saying that you would leave the tree as is? whats the best thing i can do? the reason i've left it in doors is because the weather outside would be too cold for this tree, i dont want to subject it to cold temperatures and have it die :( i inherited it (and 4 other similar plants) off my late grandmother and i want to look after them the best i can. any advice would be great, thanks
     
  10. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    There are times I feel we could use an
    in the home container grown Citrus
    sub-forum. Rules that apply to outdoor
    container grown Citrus and in many
    instances with container greenhouse
    grown Citrus do not always apply to
    in the home container Citrus.

    What we have to guard against is
    seen in this and other seedling
    Grapefruit in this forum. We cannot
    allow or permit these trees to grow
    in the home unobstructed and let
    them reach such heights without
    adequate undergrowth. Who cares if
    the tree ever has bloomed or not, the
    tree has been telling us for some time
    that our method of choice of what we
    want from the tree and the trees response
    is not favorable at all to the tree. We are
    going to have to learn to rethink our
    approach to growing seedling Grapefruit
    in containers in the home. I have felt
    for some time we should forget about
    seeing any fruit on these trees for a
    number of years, not solely due to
    node count either as there are other
    factors that can determine when and
    how soon a Grapefruit will bear fruit.
    Also, I have felt that the white fleshed
    Grapefruit take longer to fruit in the
    home while grown in containers
    anyway but that supposition is only
    based on white to custard fleshed
    seedling Grapefruit I've helped with
    in the past. As opposed to some of
    the Texas pink and red fleshed
    container grown seedlings in the
    home and in a greenhouse as well.

    We are going to have to learn to treat
    and grow Grapefruit seedlings as if
    they are a bush, rather than try to
    grow them as an upright tree. We
    may have to instill some bushiness
    in our growth habits, rather than let
    these trees grow towards light and
    have them become 10 foot tall "string
    beans" with little to no undergrowth.
    We will have to learn how to either
    force these trees to become bushier
    by way of select pruning or we have
    to give these trees a whole lot more
    light than they are getting. If we go
    back to the olden day Sunset and
    Better Homes and Gardens magazines
    and see the Grapefruit trees in
    large pots and containers in the
    homes, along the Southern
    California Coastal areas, we can
    see just what these trees need
    and that is light coming into the
    homes in more than one direction.
    In some of the old pictures we can
    see light hitting no less than 3/4
    of the entire tree from Western,
    Eastern and Southern exposures
    and along with that we also have
    ample ambient light hitting the
    tree from the North. We have
    almost the equivalent of 360
    degree light. Whereas in most
    homes we may only get 90+
    degree light and then wonder
    why our seedling Grapefruit
    never has bloomed for us.
    Grapefruit are not short day
    plants and we want to grow
    them in a home as such. I
    do feel that photoperiodism
    does indeed come into play
    for Grapefruit seedling trees
    in that when the tree wants
    to set flowers it can't as we
    do not provide enough light
    in the home for the tree to
    do it. The telltale sign to me
    is when we get some new
    growth but we do not see
    any flower formation. Grown
    outdoors we see the flower
    formation soon after we see
    the new growth appear and
    start to expand

    The lowest red mark is where
    I would cut the tree. The area
    of concern is now you will have
    to wait and see if the side shoots,
    that will surely expand through
    stem elongation, will also slow
    down in their rate of growth to
    also set nodes, so that you
    can have those side shoots
    also set some side shoots.
    Otherwise you may have to
    pinch those expanding side
    shoots back and force them
    to. The only recourse you
    have no matter what you do
    to enhance the longevity of
    this tree where you have it
    is to lengthen the amount of
    light this tree gets when you
    bring it indoors. What has
    me concerned is the lack of
    growth you seem to be getting
    when this tree is being placed
    outdoors. And I feel a lot of that
    is due to us not letting the tree
    become a long day plant again.
    We are not seeing the short
    day, long day cycle revert back
    to a long day once the tree
    comes out of the home for the
    Winter. Give the tree more
    indoor light or give the tree
    more hours of artificial light
    to force or enact a change
    in the short day cycle back
    to a long day cycle prior to
    placing the tree outdoors.

    Jim
     
  11. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    We may need some help here
    as this response corresponds
    to a post in another thread
    regarding Grapefruit. How
    about moving Millet’s post
    here right above this post?
    Thanks ahead of time if the
    transition can be made.

    If we have to think in terms of node
    count then we need more volume
    of leaves to receive light in order
    to achieve a mystic number of
    nodes for the tree to become
    mature. I've grown seedling
    Grapefruit before and had one
    in particular yielding fruit five
    years after germination on a
    3 foot tall tree. Node count
    meant nothing in this case.
    Neither does it to some
    Rio Red or Ruby Grapefruit
    grown on 4-6 foot trees in
    Texas either. The two main
    differences is that in both
    instances the trees were
    in ground outdoors and
    in no time were the roots
    ever restricted.

    Mature in a home grown container
    plant will be tough to achieve and
    to be honest I feel it is not a worthwhile
    adventure for most people unless they
    want to grow an Ornamental Citrus
    in which seedling Grapefruit are real
    good just for that. There have been
    seedling Grapefruit blooming at 10-12
    years of age while grown indoors in a
    home in containers but only the trees
    allowed to be outside for longer periods
    of time than they are sheltered indoors
    seem to bear fruit. Another long wait
    that may not be altogether worthwhile
    either. I also know of another seedling
    Marsh Grapefruit that did not flower for
    over 14 years while indoors the whole
    time and when it was placed outdoors
    in March it bloomed and yielded fruit
    that same year. We scratch our
    heads over such things wondering
    why these things happen and what
    caused this tree to all of a sudden
    now get with the program.

    I never once have countered you with
    your advice to others to try to grow
    something other than a seedling
    Grapefruit indoors in a home. They
    are a pain but triggering the tree to
    bloom can be done but we may
    need some help such as another
    Citrus tree used as a pollenizer,
    not restricted to be solely a
    pollinator tree either. Solitary
    seedling Grapefruit can be trouble
    no matter when grown indoors or
    outdoors but as long as the tree
    senses another Citrus tree around
    or nearby they may be able to be
    triggered to set flowers along with
    perhaps some added help from
    a gibberellin spray and in the
    days of old a gibberellin spray
    mixed with a little nicotinamide.

    The one thing that most but
    not all indoor, grown in the
    home, seedling Grapefruit
    have in common that have
    flowered and borne fruit is
    that they have had time
    outdoors in the sun. Direct
    sunlight for a few hours still
    beats 14 hours of ambient
    light in a greenhouse or worse
    yet three hours or less of
    filtered light through a window.
    The key is that the more leaves
    that are receiving light all at
    once the less restrictions the
    plant places on itself and as
    a result we get more internal
    chemical functions than we get
    from plants grown indoors in a
    home with only enough sustainable
    light to yield some growth but
    at what retardation of overall
    growth and development in
    the process?

    Jim
     
  12. Millet

    Millet Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Jim, I respect your knowledge, and count you as a friend. We will just have to agree to disagree on seedling containerized grapefruit trees, that are grown indoors, or even containerized trees that spend the summer months outside, with or without a neighboring citrus tree. All the citrus trees that I am aware of growing in Texas are always budded trees. Anyway, take care.

    Personal regards,
    Millet (1,443-)
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2009
  13. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    I grow my trees year-round in a room with windows that reach the ceiling; the southern and eastern exposure translates into a relatively high amount of light for an indoor setting. A number of the trees are quite vigorous and can produce new growth in one season that is perhaps a foot from reaching the ceiling. These beanstalks are strong, not spindly, have large leaves but lack side branches for the most part. The varieties that exhibit this nature are the lemons (Meyer, Eureka, Lisbon, Ponderosa) and less so the limes (Bearss, Kaffir on trifoliate rootstock). The kumquat (Meiwa) and kumquat hybrids (Calamondin, Eustis limequat) are naturally slow growing and do not exhibit this behavior. The lone orange tree (Trovita on dwarfing rootstock) branches freely without any assistance.

    I've tried to force branching in the lemons and limes by cutting the beanstalks. Sometimes it results in a bush but even then only for a short time; once growth resumes the beanstalk nature eventually reasserts itself. Thus pruning only results in a tree with multiple beanstalks instead of one. I suspect it's the nature of some varieties to grow like this and if allowed to grow on, branching would eventually occur naturally. Unfortunately this is not an option in an indoor setting given the space constraint. If there is a way to control the size, to force branching to produce a bush, and to perhaps reduce the vigor of these trees, I'd like to know what it is. Jim, can you suggest some pruning techniques to achieve these goals?
     
  14. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    I guess a clarification is required
    by me. We cannot fully equate
    what will go on or what we expect
    to see from seedling Grapefruit
    across the board for indoor grown
    seedling plants and outdoor grown
    seedlings.

    We fully expect to see Grapefruit
    seedlings flower and bear fruit long
    before the indoor trees will. Perhaps
    we are being too overly optimistic
    and possibly too presumptuous as
    well but we've had seedling plants
    out here grown outdoors bloom at
    much earlier ages than many indoor
    seedling Grapefruit plants have.

    All I ever wrote in another thread is
    that node count is not required for
    some seedling Grapefruit to set
    bloom but for indoor plants I feel
    the working postulate, not a proven
    theory yet as there are a couple
    of exceptions, node count of
    solitary seedling Grapefruit with
    known light restrictions and root
    limitations is applicable to a wide
    range of seedling Grapefruits. The
    problem I have is that I assume the
    node count refers to vertical, up and
    down growth, whereas I feel the node
    count also pertains to horizontal,
    lateral growth as well. I look at
    the whole picture from a total
    node frame of mind, not solely
    from a height only point of view.

    I know with solitary seedling
    Avocados that the feeling was
    why these trees took so long
    to ever set flowers, some didn't
    as well, was that the trees had
    to have a set number of nodes
    for the tree to be developed
    enough for the tree to self.
    I've seen these things also
    in seedling Avocados and
    feel the node count argument
    can be valid for a logical
    explanation as to why these
    solitary trees took so long
    to bloom. That does not
    mean that we cannot
    influence when the tree
    can set flowers and by
    way of introducing another
    Avocado near the bloomless
    plant we might be able to
    have the older tree that has
    never bloomed set some
    flowers. I did this for a 30
    year old seedling tree years
    ago just as an experiment
    to see if it could be done
    when we set the old tree
    outdoors on a deck with
    a non light inhibited Eastern
    exposure and brought over
    two of my fifteen gallon
    Avocados (Mexicola,
    Fuerte) to see if we could
    get the old tree to flower.
    We were able to do it in
    the second year of trying.
    Instead of making sure
    of it now, wanting an answer
    as to which one or was it
    both of my Avocados that
    helped the old tree, I felt
    what we did was plenty
    good enough that a pollinizer
    tree helped and left it at
    that back then. I don't
    know the why and what
    all must have happened
    answers to questions, all
    I know is that our trial
    worked that time. May
    not work again but then
    it did not matter. All
    parties that knew what
    went on felt more relieved
    than anything that the
    "trigger" worked when
    it may not have been
    due to us bringing over
    my two trees when I look
    back at our successful
    attempt now. I cannot
    say for sure if what we
    did will hold true for other
    temperamental Avocados
    but it did work for one of
    them..

    Until we know more I will
    yield to the node count
    thinking for indoor grown
    Grapefruits for now and
    say that in my mind there
    is a lot of truth to it from
    my experience with seedling
    Grapefruit and wait for other
    trees to come along to tell
    me a little more or give me
    a better reason why the node
    count scenario may not apply
    to solitary Grapefruit and
    Avocado seedling trees
    grown indoors.

    Millet, I don’t agree to disagree
    with anyone in these forums any
    more. All parties are entitled to
    their valid opinion. We are not
    going to agree on everything
    and there are times we shouldn’t
    agree, if we want to develop a
    better understanding of these
    plants.

    Junglekeeper, give me a day or
    two to get back to you. I understand
    your plight very well. May not be
    overly helpful but I can give you
    some ideas to mull over.

    Jim
     
  15. Millet

    Millet Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Jim, from all the data that I have ever read, and discussions with Dr. Manners, shows node count to be vertical. As I see it, assuming for our discussion, that branch number one, the bottom branch, starts out with the first node----node 1. Node number 1 is the first leaf (closed to the trunk) on the bottom branch. If this branch has ten leaves, the node count for this branch would be 1,2,3,4,5,6....10, with number 10 at the tip of the branch. Branch number 2 starts with node count 2, and if the second branch has 10 leaves, the node count for this branch would be 2,3,4,5,6....10. Branch 3 starts with node 3, if branch 3 produces 20 leaves leaves, node count would be 3,4,5,6,7...20. Then branch 4, branch 5 and so on, until the required node is reached. When I was first introduced to the node count concept, I thought every leaf increased the node count number, other words a horizontal count system. However, talking to Dr. Manners, I was informed that the system is vertical. I hope my explanation is clear enough for understanding. Therefore, for a seedling grapefruit, one would need a very high ceiling. All the best. - Millet
     
  16. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Node count as explained by Dr. Manners in his own words can be found in this thread in an external forum.
     
  17. K Baron

    K Baron Well-Known Member

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    If height is a requirement for nodal development, would it be possible to challenge the root network with a bonsai treatment, in order to minimise the vertical expansion of the grapefruit? Would this precipitate bloom? has anyone tried to bonsai a citrus tree? Millet and Jim, with your expertise has this ever being discussed or implemented for any type of citrus?
     
  18. Millet

    Millet Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Thanks, JK
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2009
  19. aesir22

    aesir22 Active Member

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    There are many in the world who bonsai citrus. However, since bonsai is supposed to be a true representation of nature in miniature form, most citrus are not suitable. A 20cm tree may look peculiar with a fully ripened grapefruit on it!

    Success is usually with calamondin specimens and kumquats. Cuttings are normally air-layered from a mature citrus tree, then planted and left to grow for a few years until the cutting grows a trunk thick enough for bonsai. Then roots are trimmed, branches are styled, and leaves purposefully defoliated several times to reduce the leaf size, thus creating a smaller tree. Takes a lot of time!

    The leaves can be trained to be smaller, but not the flowers or fruit, so few citrus types are able to be bonsai. To my knowledge, putting a citrus through the regime of becoming bonsai by root-pruning a mature tree would not induce blooms. It would induce more foliage growth. The top growth above the soil line would need to be reduced greatly also. While having a little bit extra top growth against the balance of roots would encourage root growth, too much imbalance would mean the roots could not support the tree and it would likely perish.
     
  20. K Baron

    K Baron Well-Known Member

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    Thanks aeser22!

    Good advice.
     
  21. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Getting somewhat off topic but I believe Fortunella hindsii, Golden Bean Kumquat, is one citrus that is used in bonsai because of its smaller sized foliage and fruit.
     
  22. K Baron

    K Baron Well-Known Member

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    Yes, that would be very splendid indeed.
     
  23. OREGATO

    OREGATO Member

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    thanks for the replies, alot of useful and interesting information!

    i know that i am not as good a citrus tree keeper as a lot of you guys here on the forum, but i suppose i'm trying/willing to learn so thats a good thing.

    due to the fact that i live in ireland, i doubt our climate is the best for growing these citrus trees, this is one of the main reasons why i haven't/wouldn't dream of planting this tree outdoors.

    Unfortunatley, i leave all my citrus trees in doors all year around, i never bring them into the back garden or anything like that, i feel, though, that maybe i should start doing this come summer?? is there any risk to the trees from doing this? (worms and other insects getting into the soil)

    a few of these trees have been around since i was 8 years old, they started off sitting on the window sill in little containers.. i used to help my grandmother water them and sometimes re pot them into bigger containers.. eventually by the age of around 13 - 15, two of the trees (the grapefruit one above and a clmentine tree) outgrew me in height and today are standing as tall as the 9 foot ceiling. to be honest, in the beginning when i first started looking after the trees, i was keen to have the trees bear fruit, but to be honest, i dont think i have the knowledge (node counts? etc etc) or the climate for this to happen. i'm happy with the way the trees are, they hold a very strong sentimental value to me, so i dont mind if they dont bear fruit.

    but back to my original question/query.. what would you guys do in my position? leave the tree be and let nature take its course, or intervene and prune at the lowest red mark??
     
  24. K Baron

    K Baron Well-Known Member

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    I am sure to be pummelled to death by that M. person, but here goes... if put in your situation, I would prune it like I mentioned above, and repot in a smaller container... I prune and repot my outdoor citrus annually as they must come indoors from Dec. to March... I wish you well on this endeavor.
     
  25. Millet

    Millet Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    It would be interesting to use foliar sprays of chemical growth retardants such as Paclobutrazo, l on indoor seedling grapefruit. In test on citrus, Paclobutrazol had significant results on shoot elongation, reducing growth by 55 percent. This is accomplished by a reduction of 25 percent in the length of the internodes, when the foliage was sprayed at 1000 ppm. Further, the fruit size was also reduced by 16 to 33 percent. With the tree producing shorter internodes, the node count would be higher per foot of tree. This would theoreticly reduce the height of a mature seedling grapefruit by a little more than half. - Millet (1,442-)
     

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