The Wheeny grapefruit is a vigorous tree that grows up to five metres and produces exceptionally large grapefruit. It is the best grapefruit for cooler areas as it tolerates cooler temperatures better than other grapefruit varieties.
Large tree with glossy, dark green leaves and fragrant, creamy-white blossoms producing a large juicy, thick-skinned, sour fruit. The fruit is big with a light, straw-coloured flesh with a distinct tangy flavour. It does have large seeds but as the fleshy part of the fruit is so large they are not a problem.
Grapefruit is a citrus hybrid originating in Barbados. It is an accidental cross between the sweet orange (C. sinensis) and the pomelo, both of which were introduced from Asia in the 17th century. There are many varieties of grapefruit. The Wheeny grapefruit originated as a chance seedling at Wheeny Creek near Kurrajong, New South Wales, Australia, and was named by R. J. Benton, government citrus specialist.
- CLIMATE SUITABILITY
Its preferred climate range is Subtropical and warm temperate, but it can be grown in cool temperate zones. Does well in Ballarat’s climate.
- HEIGHT WHEN ESTABLISHED
2 to 5 metres.
- FROST TOLERANCE
Self-fertile. Does not require cross pollination so can be planted on its own.
- LEAF GROWTH
- HARVEST MONTHS
July through to October. Though ripe fruit will stay on the tree for most of the year.
Like all citrus varieties Wheeny grapefruit do best when planted in well-drained soil that gets plenty of sunlight and is sheltered from strong winds. See PLANTING CITRUS TREES for planting information.
While Citrus trees do not need fertiliser to produce a healthy crop they will do better with a liberal application of a nitrogen rich fertiliser, such as chicken manure or urea, two or three times a year. As Australia’s soils tend to be deficient in magnesium it is also useful to add a magnesium supplement in the form of two teaspoons of Epsom salts mixed into ten litres of water and applied to the base of the tree.
The main pests of all citrus varieties are mealy bugs, (small, white, furry looking insects that are sticky to touch), scale and aphids, all of which are sap sucking insects. The sugary substance they excrete discolours the leaves with a black sooty mould, which impedes the ability of the leaves to photosynthesize. Spraying with white oil and pyrethrum will usually control these sap sucking insects, though you will usually have to spray two or three times.
Another citrus pest is the citrus gall wasp. This insect lays its eggs in the branch, which swells so the hatching insect can get food. To control gall wasp, prune the gall out and get rid of it before September, when the adult hatches.
Fruit fly is also a serious pest for citrus trees, but as of May 2022 there are none present in the Ballarat area.
LEFT: My Wheeny grapefruit tree in mid-May (late Autumn in Australia), it still has fruit on it from the previous winter. RIGHT: some of the harvested fruit, showing how big they get.
LEFT: New season’s fruit growing on the tree (May). RIGHT: Last season’s ripe fruit still on the tree. The combination of a staggered flowering and a tendency for the ripe fruit to hang on the tree for an extended period of time means that a Wheeny grapefruit produces fruit for most of the year. In fact I have found that my tree has ripe fruit on it all year round.