Do you know what a coffee plant looks like?
If you don’t, you aren’t alone – although coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world, few people can identify the plant that it comes from.
This was my initial inspiration for growing a coffee plant in my botanical conservatory – I wanted a plant which would be an interesting talking point, as well as making an attractive feature.
I soon found that growing coffee plants is an addictive hobby, and in order to share this with others, have put together a selection of coffee plant growing tips.
Choosing Coffee Beans for Growing
When coffee is grown as a commercial crop in countries such as Brazil and Vietnam, planters always start with freshly harvested coffee cherries.
The flesh of each cherry is crushed by hand to break up the fibres and the fruit is soaked to release the coffee bean. When I decided to grow a coffee plant, I found that getting my hands on coffee cherries was almost impossible.
However, green, raw coffee beans are much more widely available, with Arabica varieties being preferable for indoor growing. When choosing coffee beans, it is important only to select beans which are free from damage and disease, and ensure that your supplier’s stock is fresh.
Both of these points will increase the likelihood of your coffee plant successfully germinating.
Germinating & Planting Coffee Beans
Before planting coffee beans, you will need to start the germination process. I always soak my coffee beans in a shallow bowl of warm water (around 32ºC) for one to two days. Keep a close eye on the beans, and you’ll see a white growth forming, which is the first sign of growth.
Prepare a 30cm diameter plant pot for each coffee bean, by filling it with a potting medium which has a neutral pH level. Place the coffee beans flat side down in the pot and top lightly with another layer of potting medium. Water lightly, allowing the excess to drain off, before sealing the whole pot inside a clear plastic bag – I find sandwich bags work well.
This creates a mini greenhouse, which will maintain the conditions that your seedling needs to grow. This is the stage where patience is your watchword, as I’ve found that it can take up to four months before a plant starts to grow!
In most cases, if you’ve purchased quality coffee beans and maintain optimum conditions, a seedling will emerge within six weeks, at which stage the plastic bag can be removed.
General Care & Maintenance of Coffee Plants
Coffee plants grow at a rate of around 2.5cm each month, so seedlings will be comfortable in their original pot for the first year or so. When you feel that it is time to re-pot, choose a pot which is deeper than it is wide, as this allows space for the single, central root to grow.
Generally, I find my coffee plants do best at temperatures around 18-13ºC and out of draughts, so conservatories with double glazing are an ideal location. Watering once a week should be sufficient – don’t be tempted to overdo it, as your plant will suffer.
With the right care, your coffee plant will start to reach maturity in four years, and may even start to flower.
As coffee plants can self-pollinate, you may even get your own coffee cherries forming – although it will be many years before you will produce enough to make your own coffee!
- Benefits of Shade Grown, Organic and Fair Trade Coffee Beans (groundtoground.org)
- Cat-butt coffee: A critical review (boingboing.net)
- What is the geographical requirements for growing coffee (wiki.answers.com)