The coffee plant or C.Arabica originated on the Arabian Peninsula and the mountains of Yemen. It’s also found in the highlands of Ethiopia and southeastern Sudan. In nature, the plant is a bush or small tree, much larger than the coffee plants we grow as houseplants. Coffea arabica is the first type of coffee plant that was cultivated, has been grown in Arabia for more than 1000 years, and is the one most of us drink today. Coffea canephora (“robusta”) has a stronger, more bitter taste. Coffea liberica, grown in Liberia, produces larger beans and has more caffeine than the arabica variety.
Varieties of an Indoor Coffee Plant
There are several varieties of the coffee plant that are grown outdoors; but the two types that grow well indoors are the Coffea Arabica and the Coffea Arabica “Nana.” Although the Arabica is a larger plant, it take several years for flowers to develops and for the plant to produce coffee beans. The Coffea “Nana” is a smaller plant, but produces flowers and coffee beans sooner.
A coffee plant has shiny, dark green, leaves with ruffled edges. Although coffee plants can grow as tall as 15ft. in nature, when grown indoors, with proper pruning, it is a very attractive, compact houseplant that rarely grows more than 4ft tall. An indoor coffee plant it produces small white flowers in the spring. After the flowers fade, the plant gets bright red berries that are about 1/2″ in size. These berries turn into blackish/green pods. The pods or “fruits” each contain two seeds which eventually become the beans we use to brew our coffee.
Tips for Growing a Coffee Plant
Keep a coffee plant out of cold drafts.
Provide bright, indirect light
Never allow the soil to totally dry out.
Propagate new plants from unroasted coffee beans and stem cuttings in the spring
Is a Coffee Plant Poisonous?
It’s important to know that all parts of the plant, leaves, stems, bark, and berries are toxic to cats, dogs, small children, and even adults if a large amount is consumed. The attractive red berries are full of caffein which can be very harmful to dogs, cats, and small children.
Don’t expect to start picking beans for your morning coffee any time soon from your Coffee plant. It takes several years before the plant produces the fruit that contains a few seeds or beans that can be roasted and ground into coffee.
How much light for a coffee plant: A coffee plant needs bright, indirect light from an east or west facing window. Avoid putting the plant in the direct sun.
How to water a coffee plant: Water a coffee plant when the top 1″-2″ of soil has dried out. These plants are not drought resistant and can suffer permanent damage if the soil totally dries out. Leaves fall off if the plant is over or under watered.
How to fertilize a coffee plant: A coffee plant needs to be fed twice a year, once in March and again in late summer. Use a well balanced plant food (10-10-10) or fish emulsion
Besttemperature for a coffee plant: These plants prefer constant temperatures between 60°-75° F (18.3°-23.9°C), and can suffer damage if the temperature goes below 42°F (5.6°C) or above 78°F (25.6°C).
Humidity for a coffee plant: High humidity is essential so consider placing a small humidifier near the plant or setting it on a wet pebble tray.
Does a coffee plant flower: As the plant matures it produces small, white, fragrant blooms, followed by red berries. The red berries turn into pods that contain 2 seeds (beans). These are the beans that can be roasted and ground into coffee.
Coffee plant pests: Keep an eye out for spider mites, scale, mealy bugs, and whitefly. You can see a picture and read more about these pests in the Glossary of the website.
Coffee plant diseases: Since these plants require high humidity, they are susceptible to fungal diseases such as leaf spot and leaf rust. Read more about plant diseases the Glossary of the website.
Soil for a coffee plant: The best soil to use is a light weight, pours, acidic soil that also contains some peat moss or humus.
What size pot for a coffee plant: Repot about every two years in the spring is the roots of the plant have filled the current pot. Use the next size pot and nothing larger. Be sure there are drip holes in the bottom so excess water can escape.
How to prune a coffee plant: Aggressively cut back straggly new growth to keep the plant short and bushy.
How to propagate a coffee plant: Propagate in the spring using fresh, unroasted beans. You can also use stem cuttings but the success rate is much less.
Poisonous Plant Info
All parts of a coffee plant are toxic to dogs, cats, and small children. Ingesting any part of the plant can cause hyper-activity, diarrhea, and vomiting.
When you have a Coffee Plant as a houseplant you need to prune aggressively to maintain its bushy compact shape. Use a sharp scissors and cut the stems at a 45 degree angle about 1/4″-1/8″ above a leaf axil.
A couple of things could have happened. Your Coffee Plant may be getting too cold if a draft is coming in from the window. It may not be getting enough light now that the seasons have changed. You may be watering it too much. A Coffee Plant needs less water in the fall and winter than in the spring and summer.
Coffee plants usually get brown tips when there is not enough humidity in the air. You can place a small humidifier near the plant or you can put your Coffee Plant on a wet pebble tray. If you use the pebble tray be sure the plant is resting on the pebbles and not in the water. I don’t recommend misting since this increases the chance of fungal infections.