Coffee Plant: How To Grow A Coffee Tree Indoors and Out [GUIDE]

The Coffee plant – Coffea arabica, it’s been a trading commodity for centuries and grown in Europe since the 1700’s.

Glossy, dark green, 4-5 inch leaves, dress this upright grower.

ripe coffee cherries on coffee plant -

With good care and a mature plant, small clusters of tiny white flowers develop at the leaf joints of new growth.

As an extra plus, the tiny flowers produce a sweet jasmine-like fragrance.

Can You Grow A Coffee Bean Tree Indoors?

Yes, the Arabica coffee plant with its rich, deep green, glossy leaves and easy care make coffee an excellent potted indoor house plant. It thrives indoors but is often overlooked as a houseplant.

This evergreen does not shed its leaves. When growing coffee plants indoors “under-cover” of a greenhouse or sunroom, plants can reach heights of 5′-8′ feet tall.

Related Reading: 7 Ways You Can Use Old Coffee Grounds in Your Garden

How Long Does It Take To Grow Coffee Tree Plants?

To grow and harvest your own coffee, you would need to have a lot of coffee beans for a good cup of “Arabica.”

To make a cup of you own coffee you’ll need about 15 coffee “cherries” for about 30 beans.

After the coffee Arabica beans have dried, they need to be roasted and ground before brewing.

Growing your own fresh brew will take some time.

Reaching a height where a coffee tree can flower, and produce coffee cherries can take anywhere from 4 to 5 years.

Even if the plant never flowers and produces beans it still makes a wonderful indoor houseplant.

Can You Plant A Coffee Bean And Grow A Tree?

After flowering the “fruit,” the coffee cherry, turns red and ripens in about 9 months. The beans can then be picked and dried.

Inside each fruit are two “coffee beans” – which are the coffee seeds.

Don’t try growing “roasted” coffee beans and expect very good results. Your best chance of sprouting coffee beans is to find fresh, “unroasted” beans or seeds.

Notes: Coffee fruits on new tissue. Arabica coffee is self-pollinating. Robusta coffee is pollinating. [source]

Try to find fresh ripe red coffee “cherries” for faster germination.

The dry and harvested “unroasted” berries (beans) still does not germinate very well.

The beans have been dried and moisture removed from the seed. From experience, a fresh ripe red coffee berry will germinate 10 times faster.

I’ve sprouted ripe red Arabica coffee beans in 2 weeks and waited months for dry beans to sprout.

Grower Tip: When buying Arabica seed always purchase ripe undried seed.

Fresh red coffee bean "cherry" open showing 2 undried seeds.

Where And When You Buy Coffee Plants

When I’ve found young potted coffee trees for sale in big box stores, home improvement centers, and even grocery stores.

Plants are often:

  • Sold in 3” or 4” pots
  • Plants three to five inches tall
  • One pot with multiple plants (4 to 6) in the pot
  • Seedlings bunched in the center to make the pots look fuller

Look for a plant with glossy, undamaged leaves and a compact appearance.

All too often many new houseplant owners immediately replant their new plant into a new and larger pot.

STOP! Do not repot!

Leave the new coffee plant in the same pot until the plants reach 6” inches tall.

OR

Separate the multiple plants and repot into individual 3” or 4” pots.
Here’s how:

Fill a container with warm water. Place the small pot of multiple coffee bean seedling in the container and allow the pot and soil to soak for a few hours.

This allows the soil to soften and make it easy to separate the young plants.

While soaking the plant, pot and soil, gather some 4” inch pots and the soil needed for repotting. (More on soil below)

Remove the seedlings from the pot and slowly pull the seedlings apart.

Once all the plants are separated, replant each seedling into its own individual 4” pot.

What Is The Best Soil For Coffee Plants?

There is always a debate as to what exactly is the best soil to grow a potted coffee plant in. It’s best to try and give plants what they naturally grow in.

Let’s begin with what we know coffee plants grow best with:

Coffee is an understory tree, growing in the shade of other trees or bananas, where new natural compost is always being added continuously.

When plants are small (under 8” inches) potting with an organic potting mix should work fine.

Once plants reach a pot size of 10” or so using a more “specialty” soil mix will create a better environment for the root system to flourish.

Use a soil with a lot of organic matter, good drainage, and volcanic rock.

Below are two soil mixes recommended for planting coffee and promote vigorous growth..

Coffee Soil Mix #1

  • 3 parts – Cactus soil mix
  • 1 part – Volcanic rock dust

Coffee Soil Mix #2

  • 1 part – Peat moss – (naturally acidic, good for pH, helps with water retention)
  • 1 part – Compost – (provides nutrients and water retention)
  • 1 part – Vermiculite (helps with soil structure and aeration)
  • 1 part – Volcanic rock dust (provides iron, other micronutrients)

Tips On Potting Your Coffee Tree Plant

Your coffee plant should reach about 8″ inches in the 4″ inch pot before it is ready for repotting.

Once the plant reaches this size it is ready to spread its roots and grow. At this stage, the plant will require more nitrogen to support the trunk, leaves, and branches.

At this stage, the plant will require more nitrogen to support the trunk, leaves, and branches.

Repot in the spring into a 10” inch pot with one of the above soil mixes when the growing season starts.

In 12 to 18 months the plant should be approximately 24″-36″ and ready for stepping up into a 14″- inch pot (7 -gallon).

What Is The Best Coffee Plant Fertilizer?

Coffee trees are heavy feeders, some call them nutrient hogs.

When young, Arabica and Robusta coffee trees need more nitrogen as the plant is building a root system, stems grow and overall this evergreen is holding lots of leaves.

Without a regular feeding every two months leaves begin to yellow and leaf drop can occur.

Not only does coffee want lots of nitrogen but also more an extra boost of iron.

In Hawaii, you’ll find coffee plantations thriving on mountains formed from iron-rich lava rock. Try incorporating lava dust into your soil.

composition of lava rock
Chemical make up of Lava Rock via Oregon State University

Depending on the fertilizer you select adding chelated iron will help provide the additional iron your plants may need.

As a general purpose coffee fertilizer try to stay with an organic using an organic rose or citrus fertilizer. Take a look at two from Espoma:

How Often Should You Water A Potted Coffee Plant?

Keep the soil of your coffee tree moist. When watering a potted coffee tree make sure to water the plant thoroughly.

Completely saturate the soil and allow the excess water to drain out the bottom. Do not allow the plant to sit in water.

Learn more about thoroughly watering indoor plants.

Much of the effort in plant care as far as watering coffee trees goes can be reduced by growing plants using sub-irrigation planter (SIP) or installing an automatic plant watering system.

This makes maintaining a consistent soil moisture much easier.

Thoroughly watering your plant once per week is a good rule of thumb. But, it’s also not a very good answer.

Watering any plant comes with many variables.

  • Current container and plant size
  • Humidity where the plant is located
  • The season
  • Plant age

Tips Your Potted Coffee Tree Needs Watering?

Keep an eye out for when your tree gets watering.

  • Leaves become limp
  • Root-bound plants dry out quickly between waterings (time to repot)
  • Leaves take hours to recover from limp to strong and rigid

How To Prune A Coffee Bean Tree?

A coffee tree is very forgiving and comes back strong even after heavy pruning.

To keep your tree “in bounds” or keep the plant to a manageable height, pruning can be as simple as pinching back new growth.

OR

For a more severe pruning follow these steps:

  • Prune in spring for shape, and a bushier appearance
  • Using sharp hand pruners (we like Felco #2’s)
  • Remove any dead wood or branches
  • At about ¼ of an inch above the leaf axil at a 45-degree angle cut the stem
  • Remove any suckers sprouting from the bottom

How To Grow Coffee Indoors

During summer, plants need a climate providing bright filtered light. The type of lighting an indoor coffee plant would receive when growing behind a sheer curtain-filtered or morning light.

Indoors the plants will grow best where they receive early morning sun. Otherwise, keep the plant in a bright location away from direct sun.

The leaves on coffee are tender and thin, put the plant in a location it will not be hit or brushed by traffic.

Plants grow fine under ordinary room temperature, night temperatures should stay above 60. Plants can “hold up” with winter temperatures of around 60 degrees – however, problems can show up.

Check out this “diary” on growing coffee beans indoors.

Related Reading: Health Benefits of Drinking Black Coffee

Coffee Plant Care: Growing Outdoors In Summer

A coffee plant can grow outdoors during summer months on the patio or in the garden. Follow this tips.

  • Keep the plant watered and the soil moist
  • Feed the plant regularly
  • Provide light shading and no direct sun

However, if temperatures head below 64 degrees during their flower season do not expect fruit.

When growing coffee outside, remember coffee is an understory plant. Three hours of direct sun during late spring and summer can kill an established potted coffee tree.

Likewise, a 10-minute frost can also kill a tree. Bring your plant indoors during the winter months.

Coffee Propagation From Cuttings

Cuttings – Growing coffee from cuttings is no different than growing cuttings from other plants.

Spring is probably the best time to take cuttings, placing them into a potting soil medium used for growing cactus with good drainage and in addition mixing in 20% perlite.

Roots should develop in roughly 4 to 6 weeks.

Trying to keep soil temperature between 72° – 77° degrees Fahrenheit.

Make a Little “Coffee Greenhouse”

While roots are forming on your plants, create a mini-greenhouse.

Some people will loop a wire into a pot, cut small air holes in a plastic bag. Place the bag over the wire and tie it around the pot.

Personally, I like using a 2-liter soda bottle. Cut the top off the bottle. Punch a few drainage holes in the bottom and slide the bottle over the pot, creating a small greenhouse.

Pest and Problems

Coffee plants are very robust houseplants, most problems are usually due to cultural errors.

Green leaves dropping off – This condition occurs when plants are kept too dark. Move to a brighter location, but not in direct sunlight.

Brown, dead leaf edges – This often happens when Arabica coffee plants are often placed into too much sun. Look for a spot with more shade. If the leaves are completely brown, cut them off.

Dried out and withering leaves – Check the temperatures… usually, the temperatures are too high. Move the plant to a cooler location and keep an eye on watering. During spring and summer keep the plant evenly moist.

Leaves lose their glossy look – Usually an indication of too much direct sunlight. Move to a shadier location… an east facing window is good.

Mildew – Show its face by causing fluffy gray or white deposits on the leaves.

Fungus infections can usually be controlled by reducing water, but do not allow the coffee plant to dry out. Major outbreaks require a fungicide spray like neem oil or captan sprayings two times 8 days apart.

Insect Plant Scale – hiding under the leaves. Minor attacks can be handled with alcohol and a cotton swab.

Mealybugs hiding in the leaf axils and under leaves.

Varieties of Coffee Plants

There are many varieties of “coffee” used in brewing like “Columbian” or Kona coffee. Also, there are several types of coffee plants that widely contributes to coffee production. Some of those are:

Coffea arabica plant, and also the dwarf Coffea arabica ‘Nana’ – it is much smaller and grows much slower. Coffea arabica is also known as the coffee shrub of Arabia, mountain coffee or arabica coffee.

Coffea canephora, also known as coffea robusta or robusta coffee, hails from sub-Sahara Africa. This coffee tree produces beans carrying a much stronger taste.

Conclusion

Overall caring for coffee trees or plants is not that difficult. Making them thrive is as easy as making sure the plant gets water and food and is buffered from the blazing sun.

Because it thrives indoors, the rich, dark green, glossy leaves and easy culture make growing a Coffee tree as an indoor plant one to consider.

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