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Part II: All You Need to Know About Growing Coffee Trees in Your Home

March 25th, 2009

The coffee tree is an evergreen . It does not shed its leaves . They are on the tree year round. That makes them good for indoor beautification. You can get them to grow into a tree that is 5-8 feet tall or you can train them to be a bush 3-4 feet tall. They are pretty flexible.

Where to find coffee tree seedlings:

I have found them most consistently in places like Safeway, Longs, Rite Aid and Whole Foods flower Departments. These places carry mostly impulse items when it comes to plants. I think they all have the same supplier, or it seems that way. Your local florist may have them too and if they don’t carry them in stock, they will order a pot or two for you.

What to look for:

Seedlings in the stores are no more then 3-4 inches tall and are about 3 months old . They were grown from seed. Usually, they will come in a 2-4 inch pot, and there will be four to six little starts bunched together in the center to make it look substantial. Price is usually between $4.95 – $8.95.

What to do when you get the pot of seedlings home;

You have purchased one pot but you have acquired six trees. You don’t want them to grow up together so you need to separate them and repot each seedling in a 4 inch diameter pot. Here’s how you do it: Submerge the pot of seedlings in a bowl of warm water that is on the cool side of warm. Leave overnight . This does two things. It allows the seedlings to load up on water and it softens the potting soil . Get your potting soil and 4 inch pots together for your replanting . Now remove the loose ball of soil with the seedlings from their pot and lay on some newspaper . Slowly and softly pull the seedlings apart. Don’t be afraid of killing the trees ,they are very hardy and strong. Now repot each individual seedling in its own 4 inch pot. Six trees for the price of one !

Lets talk soil and repotting;

For the four inch pot and your initial repotting, you should use an organic potting soil. It is rich enough in nutrients to feed the plant until it is eight inches tall. You won’t need to add fertilizer to get the trees to 8 inches. Now things begin to change because at eight inches tall, the tree has spread out it’s root system throughout the small pot and unless you repot to a larger vessel, the tree will not grow much more. So, move the tree into a  12 -18 inch pot . This “home” is large enough to add soil amendments. At this stage of the plants growing history it needs lots of Nitrogen so keep that in mind . We are helping the tree grow trunk, branches and leaves. That requires lots of nitrogen. This pot stage should take your tree up to the 24-36 inch size. (this should take 12 to 18 months) .

When the tree gets to the 24-36 inch size it is time for it’s final repotting into a half wine barrel or the equivalent. Now your tree is ready to kick into high gear because it senses that it can grow a root system that can support full production. Within one year from this last repotting your tree will have grown to four feet and it will begin to create beautiful white flowers that will fill your home with the scent of Jasmine and orange blossoms. Nitrogen is no longer needed in growth level amounts . Now it is the flower and fruit supporting supplements that are needed. Rose food is my favorite coffee food but try to stay as organic as you can. It effects the flavor of the coffee you will be getting and you don’t need to support companies that manufacture oil based chemical fertilizers.

Flowering Phase: It lasts about a month. The sweet aroma will blow you away, but that will come to an end just about the time you are tired of coming home to paradisiacal aromatics. Coffee is self pollinating so do not worry about pollination. The flowers form at the nodes on each branch, just behind the leaves. Each flower will become a fruit (coffee cherry). The flowers will turn brown and fall off the branch. Not to worry. Left behind is the carpel, a small round ball that over the next six months will grow into a fruit with one or two seeds. The seeds are known as “coffee beans”

Jungle Jasmine : Coffee Flowers

Jungle Jasmine : Coffee Flowers

The Fruiting Phase:

This phase lasts about six months. Coffee cherries ripen slowly. For the first 5 months they will be green and rock hard. Then they will begin to lighten and turn pink and then cherry red, then dark red to purple. Dark red is when you pick the cherries.

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Watering; Coffee trees like water and need enough to feed the leaves and support the fruit. But they don’t like to sit in water so water from the top, like rain waters forests. Water until the water comes out the bottom of the Pot. Use warm water. That is what the tree would get in the tropics. Why shock the tree as if it was jumping into an ice cold lake? Warm water feels good to the tree just as it does to our face when we wash. And if you live where the air is cold at night , you can bet the soil is cold too. So warm up the soil and you have better growing conditions, conditions that the tree will recognize and be thankful for.

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Where to place tour growing and mature tree;

Coffee is a shade loving tree that grows under the canopy of the forest . It needs little direct sunlight . Direct sunlight after noon time will fry the leaves and kill the tree. Yo need to position your tree so it gets morning direct sun. This is perfect light . East facing windows do the trick. As the sun goes to the west , the light coming into your home from an easterly window is soft , yet still bright enough to provide the equivalent of shaded sun. If you bring your tree outside, remember, a 10 minute frost will kill it and so will 3 hours of direct afternoon sunlight between May and November.

Cherry Picking and Roasting:

When the cherries are ripe, and they will all ripen over a 2 month ripening period, you have to take them from the tree. With a simple twist and pull they will come off easily.

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Pick once a week , only the true red all over ripe cherries. Squeeze the seeds out of the cherries and drop them into a bowl of water for 24 hours. This softens the remaining pulp stuck to the beans and makes it easy to remove after the beans are dried. Place the beans onto some newspaper ( it is important that the stories on the page are positive and uplifting) and allow them to dry slowly. Sun drying is good but watch out you do not bake them. They should take about a week to dry to a stable condition. Repeat the process until all your cherries are picked and put to dry. Don’t forget to taste the pulp !103_03041

Roasting is the next step in this cycle. That is for another time and another blog entry.

22 Comments on “Part II: All You Need to Know About Growing Coffee Trees in Your Home”

  1. Janis Shah says:

    This is great. I have two trees that I got from a local nursery in one 5 gal pot for $20 and separated them several years ago. They flowered but never fruited until this year. I was so excited to see the first cherry turn red about two weeks ago and now the others are turning also. I’ve seen coffee growing in Jamaica and am going to Hawaii soon, where I want to visit a coffee plantation and gather as much info as I can. I live in Southern California, in the San Fernando Valley and keep the trees outside on the east side of the house except in winter when I bring them indoors. They are about 5 ft. high. Thanks for your blog!

  2. Paul Katzeff says:

    Janis,
    Great going!
    If you get 500 cherries, you will have enough to process. I can tell you how .
    Let me know and you can actually serve the coffee you grew.
    Paul

  3. Molly says:

    Thank you so much for this information! I’ve had a coffee plant that I “rescued” from Walmart for almost 5 years now. It’s about three feet tall, but it’s only ever had one lonely white bloom. I think it’s actually three plants in one, and I might either try to separate them or sacrifice the two smaller ones, because the trunks are quite slim. It’s always been very hardy in a shady corner of my generally 75 degree F home. I live in a humid climate near the North Carolina coast, only tempered by my HVAC system. I really hope that the tips you’ve mentioned here will help me see blooms and maybe even beans in the future – although what I’m really concerned with is a happy healthy plant! I’ve had it for so long I really don’t want to lose it. I was doing research today with the goal of transplanting it one last time into a larger and final pot! The one now is probably 16″ across and 16″ tall although I might be underestimating. I think I’ll go shop for a set of wheels and a half wine barrel right now! :) ((I still want to keep it in the house!!)) Thank you!!

  4. Maui Sunny says:

    Can one successfully transplant mature coffee trees? We dug up 4 of ours; they did not have a lot of little roots, just major roots – which we were carefull to dig up intact. We poured B1 over the exposed roots while in their new hole and added potting soil mixed with commercial compost. The leaves have all turned yellow and are dropping off. Do you think it is just shock or have we put them into a slow dying process? Your input appreciated.

    • Paul Katzeff says:

      You dug them up ? Coffee is an inside plant in the Northern Hemisphere.
      They are evergteens so the leaves will not come back. So Prune the tree back to one foot of maun trunk.
      If it is alivr at the cut, then water heavy and wait for new branches.
      If in one month there is no new starting limbs, toss the tree and start over.
      Sorry for the long delay in my reply.
      Paul

  5. Marlene says:

    A neighbor was moving and gave me a plant in a large pot. I’ve learned it’s a coffee tree. All the leaves were brown on the ends and the poor thing looked sparse and like it needed help. I placed it in a sunny easterly window and keep it moist and have since seen new green growth. I’d like to revitalize the plant and will go get some organic rose food. Ironically, when growing up, my family had rose bushes in the yard and we found that used coffee grounds were a great rose food! The two plants must have an affinity for each other. Thanks for your tips!

  6. steven tan says:

    i want to grow coffee in my plantation…i need your advice…at the moment my plantation i got grow oil plam the three is 4yrs old i was thinking to plant the coffe three in between of the oil plam …what is your advice…

  7. Chris says:

    Thanks for this information! Tried my best to sprout some green beans I had purchased, no luck. I’ve never seen any coffee plants locally, but can’t honestly say I was looking either. I’m on a mission now!

  8. Susan Downey says:

    I have a coffee tree that is about 10 years old & it’s as tall as the ceiling, but thin & leggy. Is it ok to cut it back to about 4 feet & will it bush out from cutting it back? This is the most informative site I’ve found! Wish I had this site along time ago!! Thanks for being there:)

    • Paul Katzeff says:

      Cut it back . give it some organic fertilizer or worm castings tea.
      Or cut it back to about 2 feet leaving three branches for new trunks and start over. I know this is hard to do, but it is a tree that will love you for the new beginning.
      Paul

  9. Ken says:

    Thanks for all the great info. I have 7 Little trees range from 8″ to 3″. They are really good looking with there foliage being such a dark green. I live in New England so I use lighting for now, but cannot wait to make one a center piece in the living room.

  10. Kay Cherry says:

    Dear Friends,
    I live in Portsmouth, VA. I placed a beautiful coffee tree, about 3 1/2 ft. tall, with an elementary school to over-winter and be a teaching tool for a great school teacher. She just sent me an email. She had taken the tree home for the Christmas/extended holiday and just took it back to school on Friday, March 14. The tree was green, lush and forming new red cherries. When she returned to school on Monday, March 17, leaves were discoloring and falling. What can she/we do to quickly salvage this? This wonderful teacher and the children are distressed. Thank you so much.
    P.S. My two remaining coffee trees, same age, size, have a few yellowing leaves as well in my garage – new for these plants.
    Kay Cherry
    jklcherry@aol.com

  11. katherine stewart says:

    I live by the Coast in Southern Calif. I just bought a small coffee tree. It is great to find out they prefer shade. We rarely get frost, but get a little bit in some years. Will a little bit of frost kill them? Also, which months do they typically flower and fruit? KES

  12. Kyndra says:

    Hi
    I have a plant at work that was giving to me to take care of. I have no idea what kind of plant it is but after doing so research it looks a lot like a coffee tree, but this one has never flowered or produced fruit. I will attach a website that I have picture on of the plant. Is there any way you would take a look and see if this is a coffee tree? I am not sure how to take care of this plant and would like it to live! but it has to be propped up on a wall to stand. need help thanks
    http://www.finegardening.com/item/31766/please-help-identify-this-treeshrub

  13. Margaret Thomas says:

    I seem to have missed the part where you said how often to water – also do they like to be misted?

  14. Jauneen says:

    Hi. I just got my new coffee arabica plant in April. It was shipped to me and kind of bouncing around in the tiny 4″ pot it arrived in. I potted it in a small pint clay pot and kept it in a closet with a dim sky light for the first week I had it to try and prevent shock. It is now in my bathroom for humidity reasons. My bathroom has both a sky light and a north western facing window. I live in mountains of western colorado where it is quite dry. Since moving my coffee plant to the bathroom it has gotten brown spots on the leaves but seems to be thirsty regularly. Is this just shipping shock and will it recover? Also how soon should I expect new growth. My coffee can’t be more than 9″ or 10″ right now.

  15. Regina says:

    I purchased my plant at the grocery store, and knowing nothing about it, I have allowed the multiple stocks to grow together in the same pot. There are three and they are about 24 inches in length. Is it too late to pull them apart and pot separately? I’m afraid that I will tear too much of their root system apart and end up killing them all. Any advice would be wonderful. Thank you.

    • Yvonne says:

      You can easily separate the plants by soaking the root ball in water. This will soften the soil and allow the plants to take in extra moisture. Once thoroughly soaked, lay the plants and root ball on a flat surface and tease the roots apart with your fingers. Shouldn’t be that difficult to separate them. Replant immediately making sure to leave no air pockets around the roots of your newly replanted coffee plants. Use a bamboo stack to steady the plant while it takes root in it’s new container. I purchased mine from a local store. There were 8 grouped together in one tiny pot. I followed the steps given here to you and all 8 plants survived the change and now, almost two years later, they have produced fruit. Needless to say we plan on using all of the current fruit as seed for future plants. We live in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. They have survived frosts with simple coverings. Their first location was an area where they received four hours of direct sunlight and the rest was shade and dappled shade. We have moved them around while in buckets to see what area would suit them best. We have found they are thriving even more with a bit less full sun and more dappled shade. They will be transplanted into the ground next year when we have the area ready for their permanent planting. We’ve never seen more of these plants at the store where they were found. Not sure as to the actual variety of this coffee plant. Just happy to see how lush they are and that they are fruiting. Can’t wait for that moment when we have enough to sit back with a cup of truly home brewed coffee. Such a treat to have them thrive here.

  16. Yvonne says:

    *stake not stack

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