Separating Coffee Seedlings

If you’ve ever bought a commercially grown “Coffee plant” you’ve probably bought multiple Coffee tree seedlings potted together. Calling them “plants” is a little misleading because they’re really shrubs or small trees, and getting them to grow to their full potential as indoor trees usually means separating them into their own pots. Today we’re going to focus on separating a couple of pots of coffee seedlings that were sold as “terrarium foliage.” If you’re looking for some tips on general Coffee tree care instead, click here!

Once you’ve taken your seedlings out of the pot, you’re probably going to be confronted with a tangled mess of roots. These four (pictured) felt like they were practically glued together. It can be intimidating to separate them without damaging the roots, but it can be done and they usually thank you for it. If you’ve ever tried to untangle a couple of necklaces that have gotten all twisted around each other, you know what it’s like to do this!

For these little ones (two pots of four seedlings each) it took around half and hour of gentle work to get them apart with minimal damage. The equipment needed was simply patience and some lukewarm water to loosen up and rinse away the soil. Oh, and more patience. Coffee trees have tap roots and branch roots. If you end up tearing a branch root or two, don’t feel too badly because they will recover easily from that — but do be careful with the tap roots.

Once you’ve got them properly untangled, it’s time to re-pot! These babies are going in nursery pots with a potting mix that includes a little bit of organic potting soil, but mainly orchid bark, perlite, horticultural charcoal, and peat moss. (For a little more information on soil amendments, click here!) So there you have it! While it can be frustrating and time-consuming trying to untangle all those little roots, it’s worth it in the end to have flourishing coffee trees.

For comparison’s sake, the two older seedlings pictured here in terra cotta were grown from beans produced by my older trees, while the smaller plants in nursery pots have been purchased as NOID “terrarium foliage” and separated. They’re a bit peaky in comparison, but we’ve yet to lose a single one of the eighteen that have been rescued from short lives as terrarium plants.

If you want individualized advice for your own coffee trees, head over to HPH on Facebook to join over 260,000 other plant lovers sharing tips, tricks, and great plant pictures!