Coffee Tree (Coffea arabica)

Coffee trees have waxy leaves and when they receive the most ideal amount of sunlight they can grow up to 15 feet indoors and 20+ feet outdoors in their native habitat. However, this is pretty hard to achieve and on average they will grow 3-6 feet considering the average lighting conditions in our homes.

These plants are the very same plants your favorite coffee beans are harvested from along in countries like Ethiopia, Mexico, Columbia, and all along the coffee belt. Yet, again, in our homes this won’t happen. They require so much sun, humidity, and constant warmth and this is nearly impossible to reproduce within our homes. When mature, at about 3-5 years old, they may produce little white flowers but even that is rare within our homes.

All that in mind they really are quite beautiful, lush, and can be quite the communicative and forgiving houseplant telling you exactly when it needs watered even though I have categorized this as an “advanced” care plant they adapt well enough to survive that even a beginner can grow them well enough.

 
 
Coffee plant (coffea arabica) houseplant care guide #revivenursery.png

Common Name

Coffee plant, coffee tree

Botanical Name

Coffea arabica

(k-aw-FEE uh-rah-b-i-ca)

Origin

Ethiopia, Yemen, Southeast Asia, Columbia

Type

Bush/Tree

 
 
 

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Sunlight

BRIGHT INDIRECT SUNLIGHT.

Lots and lots of indirect sunlight is key, however I have found that a few hours of dappled, direct morning sun is very beneficial. Especially if you live in an area with less sunlight. Just avoid harsh, direct evening sun.

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Water

HIGH: WATER ROUGHLY ONCE A WEEK.

During the summer months keep the soil slightly moist at all times and avoid soggy soil. I always suggest feeling the soil before you water and be certain to allow all excess water to drain, never let a plants roots sit in water for long.

Water a little less in the winter and fall still never letting the soil dry out fully. During less sunny months allow the soil to dry 1-2 inches down at most and water very deeply each time.

To be truthful the best method for knowing when to water coffee trees is watching the leaves. When they look droopy, less shiny and a little saggy even feel the soil to be certain, but it is likely in need of a good watering! This method is tried and true even in less sunny months.

 

Humidity & Temperature

Keep it humid. Keep it warm.

Proper watering is far more important than fussing with humidity, however adding additional humidity is still essential for coffee plants to really thrive. The simplest, most effective way to increase humidity is to place a humidifier nearby. You can also group it together with other houseplants or add it to your bathroom provided you get enough sunlight in there.

Pay careful attention to temperature. Most all houseplants start would prefer to never be below 50°F, however for coffee plants I suggest never letting the temperature get below 60°F, in the winter and never below 65°F in the summer. Ideally somewhere between 65°F and 80°F, is ideal. Usually our room temperature falls within this range, so just be sure to keep it away from poorly insulated windows or near doors where drafts can reach it.

 

Soil + Pot

CONTAINER POTTING MIX IN A TERRA-COTTA POT.

Potting is a very crucial step to ensuring houseplant success! I tend to suggest using terra-cotta for just about most houseplants but coffee plants are an exception to this rule. They need moist soil and using a glazed ceramic or plastic pot, or any material that isn’t porous will help the plant to hold moisture for longer. A drainage hole is a must here! Especially when using a nonporous pot.

As far as the soil using a simple, all-purpose houseplant/potting mix has worked very well for me. I try and keep things simple and rarely add any soil amendments to my houseplants.

Repot to a larger pot every two years in the spring. You don’t absolutely have to wait until spring, though this is when your plant is coming out of a resting period and would appreciate the new nutrients that adding fresh soil will offer. In addition because the plant is gearing up for new growth it is easier for it to recover from the stress of repotting.

 

Fertilizer

Liquid concentrate, all-purpose plant food

Proper fertilization is essential and easy to misunderstand. Always err on the side of too little plant food as opposed to too much! I recommend using a liquid concentrate, all-purpose houseplant fertilizer at half strength every time you water in the summer. Use at half strength every other time you water in fall and spring and stop use altogether in the winter.

Remember that if you use a soil that has a slow release fertilizer already in it (most do) wait to add more until 4-6 months after potting it in new soil.

Watch your plant closely as you use it and adjust as needed. Over feeding a plant can cause the plant to die whereas underfeeding is rarely a problem.

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Pests + Common Problems

YELLOWING LEAVES

Too little or too much water, though it is usually too much. Feel the soil to be certain.

If you also spot little brown spots in addition to the yellowing on the leaves or small, dark new leaves it is likely under-watering or at the ver least un-even watering.

If you are confident you are watering correctly but are still getting yellowed leaves underfeeding could be the issue. Follow fertilizer instructions above.

DROPPING LEAVES

Dropping lower, older leaves is very normal and nothing to worry about. If your plant is dropping new leaves or dropping a lot very quickly look for other warning signs.

Dropping leaves is can also be a sign of not enough water or too much temperature fluctuation. 

Leggy growth or small, pale leaves

Increase the amount of sunlight it gets and make certain you are watering appropriately.

Brown, cripsy edges

The first and most likely reason is overwaterning and/or improper drainage.

It can also mean insufficient humidity.