The plant that produces our morning cup of coffee makes an excellent houseplant, and even a good yard plant if you live in a warm enough zone.
Not only does it have its aesthetic appeal, but it also produces 2 valuable crops. The coffee bean as well as the super fruit that encases the coffee bean. The red to purple fruits that encase coffee beans are referred to as a cherry, it is a stone fruit and the so called ‘beans’ are actually the fruit’s pits.
Coffee fruit has multiple antioxidants. Its mega polyphenols not only boost the immune system in defending against free radicals they also act as an anti-inflammatory. It is considered a super food.
Starting a Coffee Plant
As an indoor plant it is relatively easy to grow and maintain. You can readily purchase coffee plants online.
Starting from seed is not difficult either. Ideally, you should be starting with a ripe coffee fruit. The germination rate is substantially lower with green coffee beans, and even worse assuming they have been hulled.
It is not likely that you would have access to a raw fresh coffee fruit, unless you are already growing them. Even though it is a tad more difficult it is still feasible to start with green coffee beans. Green coffee beans are pits that have not been roasted, toasted or otherwise processed. Preferably they should be from a recent crop.
Germination is tediously slow, at best 2 months generally 2.5 to 3 months from good seed. They have also been know to take 4 to 6 months to germinate from older seeds. Soaking the seeds in luke warm water for a day will help soften the shell a tad and slightly expedite germination.
The seeds should be watered daily and the soil or medium you use kept consistently moist. Moist is defined as damp but not saturated – over saturation will kill the seeds as readily as dehydration will.
Once you have germination and the plants have developed beyond their initial embryonic leaves [Cotyledon] they should be placed in a pourous high nitrogen acidic soil. Soil pH below 7.0 is essential, a pH in the 6.0 to 6.5 range is optimal. See Tracking and Adjusting Soil pH
Basic Requirements and Coffee Plant Maintenance
You would think being a sub tropical plant that coffee plants would do best in full sunlight, this is not the case. Indirect sunlight, partial shade is best. Artificial light will suffice. HID grow lights or LED grow lights are popular with hydroponic and indoor gardeners, but fluorescent lights will suffice and excluding the more expensive recent LED types, they are more cost effective in this scenario.
Some indoor gardeners believe that fluorescent lights are ideal for use with seedlings and cuttings as well as for use with other plants that do not require high intensity lighting, which includes coffee trees.
Being sub-tropical, coffee plants require warmth not searing heat, just warmth. They will survive temperatures below 60 – 65 F , but will not produce. Temeperatures above 75 F will inhibit photosynthesis. Keep them away from windows and drafts in cold winter regions. Research has proven that a substantial gap between day and night temperatures enhances the flavor of the coffee fruit as well as its pit – the coffee bean.
Humidity is another condition that coffee trees require to prosper. You can use a humidifier, or you could use a simple humidity tray. Trays under potted plants catch the runoff water, fill a tray with pebbles and leave the runoff water there.
As the water evaporates, it increases the humidity level. Some people also use water filled pebble trays which are attractive as well as functional. Misting the foliage periodically which imitates the conditions of its native habitat is also a good idea.
During its active growing season, summer and spring, water generously. Water the planter, allow the water to run off and then water again. The soil should be consistently moist, not fully saturated just consistently moist. In the winter cut back on the watering to once every other day, water and allow the water to run off only once each time.
Don’t expect to harvest any coffee fruit or beans for the first two years, generally you will began reaping the fruits of your labor by the third season.
Coffee trees are self fertile so you will only need one tree for pollination, however it is always best to have several for genetic diversity, particularly if you plan on seed saving. To increase production and ensure adequate pollination, whether from multiple plants or a single specimen, hand pollination is advisable. See – Hand Pollination
Mature well maintained coffee plants can reach 6 feet in height. This is usually way too big for any indoor scenario, so pruning will be necessary. Spring is the best time to prune.
Related: Coffee As a Bonsai Tree