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The same plant (Coffea, better known as the coffee plant) that gives you your morning pick-me-up each day is also a beautiful, easy-growing houseplant. With its glossy, deep green foliage and upright growth habit, this low-maintenance tropical evergreen can add a breezy vacation vibe to any space.
Coffee plants grown indoors will eventually produce small, fragrant white flowers after about five years with the right conditions. To produce bright red berries—each of which will create two delicious coffee beans—they must be pollinated by hand. So while it’s possible to grow a handful of your own coffee beans, your best bet is to appreciate your plant for its lush greenery and ease of care.
- Botanical Name: Coffea arabica
- Common Name: Coffee plant
- Plant Type: Tropical evergreen shrub
- Mature Size: 10 to 11 feet
- Sun Exposure: Bright, indirect light
- Soil Type: Well-draining, peat-based potting soil
- Soil pH: 6 to 6.5
- Toxicity: Toxic to animals
Keep the soil of your coffee plant consistently moist, but not soggy. Use a well-draining, slightly acidic soil mix so that the plant doesn’t get waterlogged. Check the soil at least once a week at first to establish a watering routine. When the seasons change, be sure to pay attention to the soil moisture, as your plant will probably need less water in the winter months than during the growing season.
Feed your coffee plant using standard houseplant fertilizer diluted to half-strength every two months or so during the spring and summer. When fall comes around, pause your feeding routine until the following spring. Keep in mind that coffee plants can grow up to 11 feet tall, so if you plan to fertilize regularly during the growing season, make sure you have a large enough space to keep up with its growth.
Plan on potting up your plant into a container one size larger each spring. You can help contain the size of your coffee plant by pruning back leaf growth around this time, pruning the roots each spring, and using a slightly smaller than usual pot, which will restrict its size. Spring pruning of the branches will also help your coffee plant develop fuller, bushier growth.
Best Growing Conditions for Coffee Plants
The coffee plant’s natural habitat is in the understory of a warm, humid jungle, and that’s the climate they grow best in as houseplants, too. Its ideal temperature is over 65 degrees. (Freezing temperatures can kill your coffee plant, so be sure to keep it in a warm place away from cold drafts.)
Pick a spot for your coffee plant that gets bright, indirect light or dappled light. Direct sunlight is too much for coffee plants. Brown spots on the leaves are one sign that your plant is getting too much sun. If this happens, move your coffee plant into a slightly shadier spot.
Group humidity-loving plants closely together; the collective moisture given off by the plants will increase the humidity for all of them.
An easy way to create more humidity around your plant is to fill a shallow tray with a layer of pebbles, then add water in the tray to just below the top of the pebbles. Place your potted plant on top of the pebbles, making sure the bottom of the pot and the surface of the water don’t touch. The water in the tray will slowly evaporate, adding moisture to the air around your plant. You can also keep the coffee plant in your warm, steamy bathroom.
Coffee Plant Varieties
The genus Coffea actually encompasses about 120 individual species and varieties of coffee plants. Only three, however, are common houseplants: Coffea arabica, Coffea eugenioides, and Coffea canephora. The first, Coffea arabica, is the plant that produces what we refer to as Arabian coffee. This plant originally grew in Ethiopia and South Sudan, but after the world tasted the incredible beans, people started growing this coffee plant in various countries. The second, Coffea eugenioides, originated in east Africa and its beans typically have a lower caffeine content than other coffee beans. Lastly, Coffea canephora is the botanical name for what we call robusta coffee. This coffee plant produces red and sometimes green beans that have a higher productivity rate and caffeine content than most other species.
How to Propagate Your Coffee Plant
Sadly, you can’t plant a roasted or green coffee bean and hope to get a coffee tree. The easiest way to grow a new coffee plant is to propagate one using stem cuttings. To do this, you’ll need gardening shears or pruners, a small pot, fresh growing medium like a 50-50 mix of peat moss and perlite, rooting hormone powder, a pencil or chopstick, a clear plastic bag, and a healthy, mature coffee plant from which to take the cutting.
Step 1: Fill a small pot with fresh growing medium and moisten the soil well with water. Use the pencil or chopstick to poke a hole a few inches deep in the surface of the growing medium.
Step 2: Choose a straight, healthy stem a little under half and inch wide on the mother plant from which to take the cutting. The cutting should be around six inches long and have at least two leaves. Snip off the stem with a diagonal cut.
Step 3: Remove the leaves from the bottom third of the cutting. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone, then plant the cutting in the hole you made in the growing medium. Gently pat the soil around the cutting so that it stands up straight.
Step 4: Place the plastic bag over the cutting to hold in humidity. Insert the pencil or chopstick into the soil to hold the plastic bag away from the leaves of the plant if necessary. Put the cutting in a warm place with bright, indirect light.
Step 5: Keep the soil around the cutting well moistened and look for new leaves, which are a sign that the plant has rooted. This may take two to three months. When new growth has appeared, you can repot the plant into a slightly larger container and care for it as usual.
Common Growing Problems
Like any houseplant, coffee plants are susceptible to pests and diseases. However, the most common problem you may face as a coffee plant parent could be one of your own doing. For instance, if you water your plant too much, you may end up drowning the roots, which causes the leaves to fall off. Additionally, too much sun will burn your plant and cause the leaves to shrivel.
Common diseases to watch out for are usually either bacterial or fungal. Unfortunately, there isn't usually a cause for an infected plant. However, there are a few quick fixes to restore your coffee plant's happiness and health. For either type of infection, any copper-based spray will be your go-to. Mist the leaves, infected or not, with the spray every day until you notice the infection go away.