For all the caffeine-fiends out there, we know you typically get your daily fix from your favourite coffee shops or your espresso machine at home, but have you ever tried venturing out of your coffee comfort zone? Coffee lovers with a green thumb know that the best way to enjoy coffee is when it comes from your very own coffee plant! But the question is, can you grow a coffee plant at home?
Can I Grow a Coffee Plant at Home?
Surprise, surprise! It may seem impossible, but you can actually do this on your own. It is a little-known fact that coffee plants can make for a great house plant. The glossy leaves and the plant’s compactness lend itself to be an ideal addition to homes. Coffee plants will also typically bear pretty little white flowers, along with the fruits that will eventually be your source of coffee beans.
Coffee plants grown outdoors become trees given time, but with constricted spaces, they can be pruned to stay within the desired size. With the aesthetic benefits, plus it producing coffee, there’s nothing more you can want from a plant.
How to Grow Coffee Plants at Home
Growing a coffee plant at home will take patience and dedication. Coffee plants grow vigorously once mature enough, but it will take significant time and care.
Ideally, you must grow this plant in a situation that is similar to its natural environment. To make your task easier, here are a few things you need to remember when cultivating coffee at home:
1. Make room
Before you even think of getting a coffee plant, decide where you want to put it. Will it be an outdoor or indoor plant?
Coffee can grow in either circumstance, but certain factors will need to be mitigated for healthy growth (light, moisture, acidity, etc.). If you decide to grow it outdoors, like planting it in your garden, make sure it has enough space to flourish. Coffee plants can grow into medium to large trees; you will need to make room to let them grow unobstructed. You can also try pruning it to control the size of its growth.
That said, most people recommend growing these plants indoors, especially if you are just looking for a light hobby. It is much easier to control the plant’s growing environment inside, rather than battling with the unpredictable elements outside.
2. Choose the right coffee
There are multiple varieties of coffee to choose from, such as Coffea arabica, Coffea canephora, Coffea charrieriana, and Coffea liberica. These different kinds of coffee possess unique traits and flavors, so it is important to know what type of coffee you want to cultivate. Note that not all coffee varieties will be viable in all environments, some are more hardy than others.
Coffea arabica is the most popular, and most widely produced coffee variety. C. arabica has a dwarf variety called “Nana”. It only grows somewhere around 12 inches, making it the most ideal as a house plant.
To grow your coffee plant, you need to get your hands on fresh beans, cherries, or seedlings. Acquiring a coffee seedling is the most convenient, as you won’t have to worry about making sure it’s a “live“ bean. However, nurseries and plant shops rarely sell coffee plants, so you might have more luck in finding seeds.
Remember, don’t try to plant an already-roasted coffee bean. It’s highly unlikely that it will sprout. Roasted beans have have gone through processes that make them great for consumption, but not for planting.
3. Soil maintenance
As previously said, it is best if you can mimic the coffee plant’s natural habitat. Whether you’re starting from the bean or a seedling, it is important to place the plant into the appropriate soil. Considering that coffee plants come from tropical environments, make sure the soil keeps well-hydrated. Get soil that is packed with nutrients to help boost the coffee’s growth.
Putting the plant into acidic soil is also great. Not all plants can survive acidic soil, but coffee plants flourish in them. It can grow within a pH range of 4 to 7, but if possible, 6 to 6.5 pH is the perfect level of soil acidity for coffee.
Regularly check the soil’s pH levels to maintain the acidity. Add in organic matter like peat moss if the soil ever dips into lower acidity levels. Simply put a few inches of organic matter on the topsoil to help “feed” the plant’s acidity needs.
If it seems like your coffee plant is still not thriving, try using fertilizers.
4. Potting and repotting
If you’re planting your coffee bean plant straight in to the ground, this part is not relevant.
The type of pot used is not very important in cultivating coffee plants. You can use whatever is available, just make sure it has enough drainage holes to avoid flooding and clogging your plant. You will have to change the pot as the plant grows to accommodate its size.
It is good to repot your coffee plant every spring, the first time being once it reaches around a foot tall. Take care not to damage the roots too much in the transition. Plants can experience shock after a repotting, and will likely display symptoms like wilting. It may look like it’s dying, but don’t worry too much, your plant should regain its vitality within a few hours or days.
During the re-potting period, you can decide whether you want your plant to become even bigger. Prune it in areas that seem problematic to manage the size. If you want it to grow larger, gradually transition into bigger pots. Otherwise, maintain roughly same-sized pots when you reach the desired size of the plant.
The above video is an excellent tutorial on how to repot your coffee plants and keep them healthy for the next stage of their lives.
5. Regulating the light
When planting outdoors, it becomes incredibly difficult to regulate the light intake of your plants. In its natural environment, coffee tends to grow under a canopy, and is therefore naturally used to dappled light as opposed to direct contact. Coffee plants prefer indirect or diffused sunlight. It can endure direct sunlight, but only when the light is weak. Exposing the plant to direct and harsh sunlight will result in browning leaves.
Indoor plants have more of a fighting chance when it comes to light regulation. You can decide which part of the house it is most likely to thrive in. Placing it near, but not directly against, a window is the best option if you would rather not move it around. If not, then you can always take it to and from the window once the sunlight becomes too harsh.
6. Water control and drainage
It’s already been established that coffee plants are naturally tropical. This means that they need to be watered regularly. It is important to never let the soil run dry, but just as vital to avoid flooding it with too much moisture.
If dealing with an indoor or potted plant, make sure the container has sufficient drainage holes. Those holes help in draining the plants; even if you accidentally water them too much, the water will just drain out.
It is better to have a routine in mind, to make your plant maintenance easier. You can decide how much water the plant needs, and at what time, to help keep the plant in a healthy environment. Adjust the routine according to the season, as plants will need less water in the winter.
7. Manage the temperature and humidity
As much as it can’t take direct heat, coffee plants also cannot survive through freezing temperatures. Avoid exposing your plant to cold weather, especially during winter. Growing coffee plants outdoors, especially in northern areas is impractical. It would be better to keep an indoor plant that can thrive in your temperature-regulated home.
Humidity plays a slightly less urgent, but just as significant role in a healthy plant. Because of their tropical origin, coffee plants are naturally used to higher humidity. The lack of moisture in the air may lead to the browning of leaves. If the surrounding area ever becomes too dry, simply spray the plant with some water to help humidify it.
Tips & Tricks to Successfully Grow Coffee Plants at Home or in your Garden
Now that we’re over initial coffee plant care, there is some more information you need before diving into it. Here are some tips and tricks you need to keep in mind when it comes to coffee plants.
1. Coffee plants are poisonous
It’s surprising to most, especially since coffee itself is like society’s lifeblood. But never forget that the whole plant is poisonous. It is toxic to birds, cats, dogs, and other animals, including humans. The only humanly edible part of it is the beans from which coffee is made.
If for whatever reason, a person or a pet happens to ingest the non-edible parts of the plant, health issues may present themselves. Consuming these parts may result in nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Even the sap can cause skin irritation. Furthermore, caffeine itself is toxic to the usual household pets. It is generally a good idea to keep the plant out of reach of children and animals.
2. Regularly check for signs of infestation
You never know when something will go wrong with your plant. It can become a target of common pests without you noticing.
It is not rare for houseplants to suffer from pests. Coffee plants can attract the usual suspects like ants, aphids, mites, and mealybugs. Regularly look for signs of infestation, the most obvious of which is if you find an insect crawling around your plant. Other indicators of an infestation may be a white powdery substance on the leaves, web formations, and irregularly shaped holes in the leaves (a typical sign of something munching on it).
Your first instinct might be “crush”, and I can’t blame you. But you have to try out the organic ways of insect regulation first. As much as possible, do your best to keep the natural integrity of the plant by avoiding harsh pest control tactics. Start with the least toxic and least invasive method, and only revert to the toxic options as a last resort.
3. Disease kills, check your plants regularly
Another reason why regular plant checkup is important. There are many plant diseases that you may not be aware of. These illnesses can cause your plant to wilt, wither, and die.
One of the first signs of a sick plant is discolouration. Oddly coloured leaves, stained wood, and bruised or rotting cherries are major signs of disease. If the plant has not gone through any recent major change (as in repotting), there should be no reason for a sad plant.
A common sickness is coffee wilt. It is caused by a fungus that clogs the plant’s circulation. As the name suggests, it ends with a wilted plant. Any coffee cherries that the tree might bear will end up with less acidity and more bitterness.
Experts suggest that the best way to prevent diseases is by keeping a healthy plant. Having a good plant maintenance routine does well in ensuring the coffee plant is far from sick. Avoid unnecessary chemical use, plus maintain proper plant hygiene.
4. “It’s the journey, not the destination”
As cliché as it sounds, cultivating a coffee plant is really more about the process of caring for it than the eventual fruits of labor. It takes years for a coffee plant to mature, and more for it to actually bear fruit. Even then, there won’t be much fruit to juggle.
If you’re too focused on milking the plant for all its worth, then the process won’t be too enjoyable for you. You might even begin to lose interest once the “honeymoon phase” passes.
Remember to savour the whole process, from the first bean to the first fruit. That way, the coffee you make will taste that much better.
5. Repeat the cycle – why have one when you can have more?
The beauty of having plants is that you can always have more. Once your coffee plant bears fruit, you can then use it to start more coffee plants. The cycle can go for as long as you want.
Another way of getting coffee plant #2 is by taking a cutting from the original plant. It’s a little invasive, but it’s still a good way to propagate your plants. Simply take a long shoot from the mother plant, then plop it into another pot. Keep just the top two leaves and then discard the rest, then maintain soil moisture for as long as needed. You can check your progress by lightly pulling at the cutting. You have roots when it resists.
Grow your own Coffee Plant FAQ’s
We get asked a lot of readers questions on this subject and whilst we are not horticulturalists we have been successful in not only growing coffee plants but also harvesting the beans for roasting. So to save you writing in (though we do love to hear from you) we thought we would collate some of the most frequently asked questions.
1. Is this actually a coffee plant?
The first thing you need to ask is if what you’re planting is actually a coffee plant. There are multiple plants that can often be mistaken for a coffee plant. If you’re especially keen on growing coffee and not coffee-like plants, make sure you’re grabbing the right plant before you head to the checkout.
Some plants that can be mislabeled as coffee are wild coffee (Psychotria nervosa) and the Kentucky coffee tree (Gymnocladus dioicus). Although wild coffee greatly resembles real coffee, the similarities end in their appearances. On the other hand, the Kentucky coffee tree can be used as a substitute for coffee beans. But be careful when processing it since the unroasted seed and pod are toxic.
2. How quickly do coffee plants grow?
Coffee plants grow rather quickly. Within a year, it can reach about 2 feet tall, give or take. However, rapid growth does not mean an immediate harvest for you. It will take years for the plant to reach its maturity.
3. How long does it take for a coffee plant to flower?
Depending on multiple variables, the average span before a coffee plant flowers is three to four years. Factors you’ll need to consider are the plant’s health and the environment it grew in.
4. How many beans will I get from one coffee plant?
Each coffee cherry normally has 2 beans each, and each mature tree will typically produce 2,000 cherries each year. With 4,000 coffee beans to roast, you can get over a pound of coffee for yourself.
Although it’s not nearly enough for the average coffee-drinker (who consumes 18 coffee trees’ worth of beans per year), there is still the added experience of growing it on your own.
5. How many plants do I need so I never have to buy coffee beans again?
As mentioned above, the average coffee-drinker can drink up to 18 coffee trees’ yearly bean harvest. If you’re that dedicated to cultivating your own coffee supply, you’ll need around at least 18 trees for a year’s coffee.
6. How much water does my coffee plant need?
Achieve a healthy plant by providing enough moisture and pruning when necessary. Keeping a routine of X amount of water at X time is a good way of making sure the plant doesn’t get flooded and clogged. Overwatering plants can result to a lack of aeration and lead to root diseases.
7. Why should I prune my coffee plant?
Pruning also helps in keeping your plant healthy. Removing the dead branches and dried up leaves makes room for new growth. Plus, pruning takes out the extra space that insects like to hide in. Less crevice and surfaces, fewer problems with infestations.
There is a lot of satisfaction to growing a coffee plant, not only is having an unusual plant in your house a great talking point and good for our mental health. It is also fun to be a part of the whole process, harvesting the beans, roasting them, grinding your freshly roasted beans and finally drinking your very own coffee. Hmmm, coffee.