How to Grow Coffee Plants

Coffee plant growing in pot with fresh coffee

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The same coffee plant (Coffea) that provides the beans for your morning cup of coffee 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 under 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, air-cleaning qualities, and ease of care. Since coffee plants are toxic to pets, keep this species away from four-legged family members.

  • Botanical Name: Coffea
  • Common Name: Coffee plant
  • Plant Type: Evergreen shrub
  • Mature Size: 10 to 11 feet high
  • Sun Exposure: Bright, indirect light
  • Soil Type: Well-drained, peat-based potting soil
  • Soil pH: 6-6.5
  • Toxicity: Toxic
Coffee plant growing in fresh pot

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Plant Care

Keep the soil of your coffee plant consistently moist, but not soggy. Use a well-draining, slightly acidic soil mix so the plant doesn't get waterlogged. Check the soil at least once a week at first to establish a watering routine. Your plant will likely 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 during the spring and summer. When fall comes around, pause your feeding routine until the following spring. Keep in mind that coffee plants can reach 11 feet high at maturity, so if you plan to fertilize regularly, make sure you have a large enough space to keep up with its growth.

Best Growing Conditions for Coffee Plants

The coffee plant's natural habitat is in the understory of a warm, humid jungle, and they grow best in a similar climate as houseplants. The ideal temperature is above 65 degrees—freezing temperatures can kill your coffee plant, so be sure to keep it in a warm place away from cold drafts.

An easy way to create more humidity around your plant is to fill a shallow tray with a layer of pebbles, then add water below the top of the pebbles. Place your potted plant on top of the tray, 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. This species is also a great candidate to grow as a bathroom plant.

Group humidity-loving plants closely together. The collective moisture given off by each plant increases the humidity for all of them. 

Pick a spot for your plant that gets bright, indirect light or dappled light. Direct sunlight can be harmful to coffee plants—brown spots on the leaves are one sign that your plant is getting too much sun. On the other hand, crispy brown edges indicate overwatering. An underwatered coffee plant will appear droopy or leggy.

Small coffee plant growing in pot

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Types of Coffee Plants

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 arabica coffee. This plant originally grew in Ethiopia and South Sudan, but after the world tasted its delicious 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 others. Lastly, Coffea canephora is the species that produces robusta coffee. Its red (and sometimes green) beans have a higher productivity rate and caffeine content than most other species.

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How to Propagate Coffee Plants

While it may seem like the obvious method, you can’t plant a roasted or green coffee bean and grow a coffee plant. The easiest way to grow a new coffee plant is to propagate one via stem cuttings. Here's how to propagate your plant:

Step 1: Gather gardening shears or pruners, a small pot, fresh soil, powdered rooting hormone, a pencil or chopstick, a clear plastic bag, and a healthy, mature coffee plant. 

Step 2: Fill a small pot with fresh soil moistened with water. Use the pencil or chopstick to poke a hole a few inches deep in the surface. 

Step 3: Choose a straight, healthy stem a little under half an inch wide on the mother plant. The cutting should be about six inches long with at least two leaves. Snip off the stem with a diagonal cut. 

Step 4: Remove the leaves from the bottom third of the cutting. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone, then plant the cutting in the hole. Gently pat the soil so that it stands up straight. 

Step 5: 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 plant's leaves. Place the cutting in a warm spot with bright, indirect light

Step 6: Keep the soil around the cutting well moistened. 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.

Young coffee plants growing in mugs

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Common Problems With Coffee Plants

Coffee plants have easy care steps, but like most houseplants, they're susceptible to pests and incorrect water or sunlight requirements. Here's how to diagnose and treat your plant:

Yellow or Brown Leaves

The most common problem you may face as a coffee plant parent could be one of your own doing. You may end up drowning the roots, which causes the leaves to fall off or turn yellow or brown. Trim heavily affected leaves and cut back watering.

Shriveled Leaves

Too much sun can burn your plant and cause the leaves to shrivel. Move your coffee plant to a shadier area.

Drooping or Leggy Stems

If your plant starts to droop or its stems become long and thin, it's likely that it needs water. Increase your watering schedule until it starts growing healthy.

Pests

Mealybugs and other small mites are common pests for coffee plants. If you see an infestation, rinse the entire plant with water, then apply neem oil as necessary.

Potting and Repotting Coffee Plants

Plan to repot your plant in a container one size larger each spring. Use a pot with drainage holes to prevent root rot, and use fresh, well-draining soil like a 50-50 mix of peat moss and perlite.

You can help contain the size of your coffee plant by pruning back leaf growth around this time, pruning its roots, or using a slightly smaller pot to restrict growth. Prune the branches to help your plant develop fuller, bushier leaves during the growing season.

Blooming coffee plant leaves

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How to Get Coffee Plants to Bloom

A mature coffee plant can bloom at about three or four years old. Indoor plants won't produce beans—also known as "coffee cherries"—without being pollinated, but your plant is still likely to bloom with white flowers. Keep the plant in a warm area around 75 degrees and ensure it's receiving plenty of humidity. If your plant hasn't bloomed when it's around six years old, repot it in spring with proper soil and move it outdoors to an area with filtered light.

FAQs

Can Coffee Plants Grow Indoors?

Yes—your coffee plant can thrive indoors as long as its pot has proper drainage and the room has plenty of humidity.

How Fast do Coffee Plants Grow?

Your coffee plant will reach maturity around five years old, but it can grow up to two feet per year.

Can Coffee Plants Grow Without Sunlight?

Coffee plants can tolerate very low-light conditions, but it's best to keep yours in an area with bright, indirect light or dappled light.

How Long Can Coffee Plants Live?

Many species of Coffea can live up to 100 years old, and they generally produce fruit for 30 to 50 years.

Article Sources
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  1. Coffee Tree. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. 21 September 2021.

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