Coffee Tree Care

Coffee Tree Care

The oldest coffee tree in the family.

The oldest coffee tree in the family.

I love all of my plants, but I have to confess that my coffee trees are probably my favorites. Don't tell the others! Coffea Arabica makes a really impressive house plant with its beautiful leaves, and once it's mature (around five years) it may flower for you and produce coffee cherries. If you're lucky you might get enough beans to try roasting - my parents did, and drank a pot of their own homegrown coffee.

So, how do you keep your coffee plant happy and healthy? The first thing to bear in mind with coffee plants is that “plant” might be kind of misleading. They're really trees, and they can get really big. If you have one of those little coffee cup planters with about seven seedlings in it, be prepared to re-pot them ASAP. It might be cute for a while but if you want your coffee to thrive in the long run, each plant will need its own pot.

One of the baby coffees.

One of the baby coffees.

Your chosen pot should have adequate drainage so that the roots don’t get waterlogged and rot. I usually place seedlings in regular terra cotta pots, but with the bigger trees I use large, relatively inexpensive plastic pots that I drill a handful of holes in with a spade bit.

For the soil mix, I begin with organic potting soil, add peat moss, and add either perlite or vermiculite depending on the plant in question or the watering habits of the owner. I tend toward under-watering, but this summer I'm rehabbing a plant that had been over-watered. For that one, I chose perlite to facilitate drainage. If under-watering were the case, I'd go with vermiculite because it retains more water.

Coffee fruit.

Coffee fruit.

They like their soil to stay moist but not soaking. I usually water mine once a week. If you notice your coffee tree’s leaves drooping, adjust your watering schedule accordingly. They also love humidity, and while they tolerate the lower humidity of my house I’ve found that running humidifiers for them makes them much happier.

You can give them an all-purpose fertilizer in spring and summer; I like Espoma, personally. I also supplement them with chelated iron, because coffee prefers a slightly acidic soil and often suffers from iron deficiency when the soil isn't quite acidic enough.

Ripe coffee cherries.

Ripe coffee cherries.

Coffee plants enjoy bright indirect light, so find a bright spot near a window. Try not to place them in drafty spots near doors or directly in the path of air vents. Once the temperature is warm and stable in late spring and summer, my coffee plants enjoy being outside in dappled morning sun. Don't place them in full, direct sun though or the leaves will scorch. If it looks like the temperature will drop overnight, it's best to bring them in. They don't like temperature fluctuations and will begin to shed leaves.

With all of their needs met coffee trees will get fairly tall, but they can also be pruned fairly easily to fit your home. If you haven't got high ceilings and your plant starts getting too tall, you can pinch it back. If something more drastic is in order, don't worry - they're pretty forgiving so just take clean, sharp pruning shears and shape up your plant.

For more coffee plant tips and tricks, or just to show off your plants, come join us over at HPH on Facebook!

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