It’s no secret that inflation has hit everywhere, and you’re probably paying at least 20 percent more than you were in 2020 for your cup of java. The demand for coffee is up, and the supply is down.
Did you know coffee plants are hard to find in the United States, and coffee brewed in the US is usually imported from Colombia and Brazil? Hawaii and California are the only states actively growing American-grown coffee.
Growing coffee plants at home can be done easily with research and time. Keep reading to learn all about the characteristics of coffee plants, how to choose one for home growth, and tips to help with coffee plant care.
Coffee plants are known for having bright, green leaves with smooth margins opposite each other. White, aromatic flowers grow in clusters and will turn into fruit. These fruits are often called coffee cherries.
The fruit is plump, and each type contains two seeds, also known as coffee beans, surrounded by a leather texture often called parchment. However, some varieties of coffee plants only produce one seed. Your daily dose of caffeine comes from these coffee beans.
Choosing a Coffee Plant
Over 120 species of coffee plants exist worldwide, but most are not grown in the US. You will only be able to find selective varieties in US-based nurseries.
Coffee Varieties Grown in the United States
Kona and Arabica
Kona and Arabica are the most popular varieties of coffee grown in the United States. Kona is grown in Hawaii and Arabica is in Hawaii and California.
The US also has a couple of types of coffee trees sold in nurseries. They are the Kentucky Coffee Tree and the Rose Coffee Bean Tree.
Kentucky Coffee Tree
The Kentucky Coffee Tree doesn’t produce coffee beans, but they produce seeds that can be roasted and have been used as a coffee substitute during coffee scarcities.
It is native to the United States and can be found across the central United States from Pennsylvania to Nebraska and Minnesota to Oklahoma.
Be careful with Kentucky Coffee Trees because the seeds and pods are poisonous when not roasted.
Rose Coffee Bean Tree
The Rose Coffee Bean Tree is a lovely rose tree that produces caffeinated coffee beans foraging. This tree usually only grows one to two feet tall and is perfect for potting on your deck, patio, or garden. It’s also a good indoor plant if it receives plenty of sun.
Planting Your Coffee Plant at Home
What You Need for Coffee Plant Care
- Indirect sunlight
- Seedlings or coffee beans, cherries, or a store-bought plant
- 4” pot with good drainage
- Organic potting mix* (You will eventually need special potting mix)
Three Ways to Start
Starting with Seedlings
Buy seeds from the store and soak them overnight (but not longer, or they will rot), then spread the moist soil surface and cover the seeds lightly with compost. Store the seedlings in temperatures 80 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit for best results.
Growing with Coffee Beans
You won’t be able to grow seeds from a bean that’s been roasted, but you can with a freshly harvested coffee bean that you foraged yourself. Soak the coffee beans for 48 hours, then place the seeds on the soil. Do not cover them since light aids germination.
Starting with a Nursery Coffee Plant
If you purchase a young coffee plant from a nursery, you will need to repot your coffee plant every spring for proper coffee plant care, though you may not need to repot a newly purchased coffee plant right away.
The best coffee plant care practices suggest your plant should be at least 8 inches tall before repotting from a 4-inch pot to a 10-inch pot. When your plant reaches 24 inches, it will be ready for a 14-inch pot.
Proper coffee plant care requires only planting outdoors if the climate matches its natural habitat. Coffee plants will not grow below 65 degrees Fahrenheit and do not thrive in continuous temperatures above 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
Coffee plant care starts with the right soil, and it’s best to ensure your potted plant is growing in the soil it prefers. When your coffee plant is small, any organic soil is fine, but once your plant grows and bumps up to a 10” pot, you must tailor the soil to the plant’s natural environment.
Coffee Soil Mix Option 1
Coffee Soil Mix Option 2
Use equal parts of the following:
A pH 6 is ideal and proper drainage, so test your soil with a pH kit to be sure your soil has adequate pH for coffee plant care.
Your coffee plant does not require direct sunlight. Coffee plants prefer bright, indirect sunlight. Too much sunlight will cause the leaves to brown.
In the wild, coffee plants live under forest canopies, so coffee plant care suggests placing them under medium canopies in your garden. If growing inside, place them near a window but not in the direct light path.
Coffee Plant Care Tips
Coffee plant care doesn’t require much watering. You should water your plant only once weekly to allow the pot to dry out between each watering completely.
Conventional coffee plant care requires fertilization every two to four weeks during the spring and summer. Only fertilize once a month during the winter.
Fertilize your coffee plant with used coffee grounds twice a year–once in the winter and once in the spring. Just take one or two teaspoons of dried coffee grounds and add them to the soil.
Coffee grounds acidify the soil and contain nutrients for your coffee plant to absorb. Coffee grounds do not replace a complete fertilizer, though.
You will also need to use a complete fertilizer. Common fertilizers are NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium) and synthetic (liquid).
Common NPK ratios for coffee plants are 15-5-20, 17-17-17, and 20-10-10. Coffee also benefits from added nutrients such as Magnesium, Zinc, Boron, Sulphur, and Molybdenum.
Synthetic fertilizers have been the go-to fertilizer for coffee plant care for decades, though CBD fertilizers are becoming more popular because they are more environmentally friendly.
The best coffee plant care practices say you should prune a coffee plant in the spring before fertilizing it each year.
Remove any old or dead branches, and detach any leaves growing directly from the base of the trunk. Detach young shoots growing vertically from old wood that sprouts from one side of the trunk.
Pests and Diseases
Coffee Leaf Rust
The most troubling worldwide fungus that has the potential to wipe out an entire country’s harvest. It starts as a rust-like dust and is most seen in Arabica coffee grown in warm, humid conditions at low altitudes.
Plants with this disease cannot fully ripen; if they do, the fruit will produce unusable beans. Weak or old plants are more likely to be affected by this disease, so proper coffee plant care can help prevent it.
Coffee wilt is caused by a fungus that blocks water and sap circulation. Prevent this disease by not wounding your tree when you are removing weeds or fertilizing it. Also, do not allow animals to graze on your tree.
Pink disease is another fungal infection that appears as pink webbing on branches, which causes them to lose their leaves and die. Planting in moderate-density soil helps prevent Pink Disease.
Coffee Berry Borer
Coffee Berry Borer is a worldwide pest considered the most damaging insect to coffee plants. It drastically affects the production of coffee. Berries infected with Coffee Berry Borer should be burned or buried at least 18 inches deep.
When to Harvest
It can take four years of consistent coffee plant care before a coffee plant bears fruit.
October to December is the major coffee bean harvest season in the United States. As soon as the coffee cherries turn red, they are ready for harvest.
How to Harvest
Your coffee beans can be foraged by hand by strip picking (removing all the cherries at once, whether ready or not) or selectively picking ready beans. Not all cherries mature at once, so selective picking ensures you have the highest quality beans for roasting.
The fruit must be processed immediately after harvest to prevent oxygen from combining with it and impairing the flavor.
This involves pulping the cherries to remove the skin and the layers around the beans. Beans are then immersed in water, sinking to the bottom. This takes 8 to 36 hours
You will notice a new shell forming around the beans during the soaking process, which must also be removed.
They will then need to be dried. You can do this in a food dehydrator on the lowest setting for a few days. After they’re dry, you will notice another skin formed that needs to be removed before roasting.
Use a small coffee roaster to roast the beans. Roasting times may vary based on the machine and your preferences.
Wrapping up the Coffee Plant Care Guide
With this guide, you’re ready to grow and care for your own coffee plant and, in time – even brew a cup of your own home-grown Joe!
Are you looking for more information on how to make the most of your coffee plant? Check out 10 Surprising Uses for Coffee Grounds.
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