The coffee plant belongs to the Coffea genus with around 100 different species. Coffea Arabica is originally from Ethiopia and is documented as being cultivated in Yemen in the 12th century, and currently represents around 60% of the coffee produced globally, with the Robusta variety (C. canephora) making up the rest. Antoine de Jussieu was the first to scientifically describe coffea arabica in the 1700’s. Carl Linnaeus placed the plant in the Coffea genus in 1737.
Arab scholars first recorded the use of coffee from roasted beans, noting that it helped extend their working hours. This technique spread to Turkey and Egypt, later making its way around the world by Yemeni traders to places like Indonesia, where coffee production began in 1699.
This plant grows around 30 – 39 feet tall outdoors and 6 feet when cultivated indoors and reaches maturity in 3-4 years. The leaves are oblong to elliptic-ovate in shape, as long as 3-5 inches and 1½–3 inches broad and dark green.
The scented flowers are colored white and grow in clusters. After pollination occurs, it produces green fruit called “cherries” that turn red or purple when ripe, each containing 2 seeds (beans).
You have to provide the plant with the correct growing conditions to get it to bloom indoors – the right temperature, enough sunlight every day, and damp, well-draining soil.
This plant prefers indirect sunlight since it naturally grows beneath the forest canopy and doesn’t like direct, harsh sunlight. Keep it close to a window and make sure that it gets enough indirect light every day. Plants exposed to excessive amounts of direct sunlight will suffer from leaf browning.
This plant loves water and requires both frequent and generous watering in its growing phase (April-October), like its rainforest habitat the soil must stay moist without getting waterlogged and not completely drying out to keep the plant happy.
Use a pot with enough holes for proper drainage to ensure that the soil doesn’t stay very wet after being watered. Reduce watering in winter.
This plant thrives in environments of high humidity although a humidity level of 50% or higher will suffice. Its leaf edges might become brown if the air is too arid. Misting the plant every day will help raise humidity levels.
The prime average temperature for this plant is a day temperature range between 70-80°F and a night temperature range between 65-70°F. Higher temperatures can help speed up growth, but this is not ideal if you are growing this plant to produce coffee beans. The cherries need to ripen slowly and steadily. This plant does not tolerate temperatures below 64°F.
This plant loves an acidic, rich, organic, peat-based soil with good drainage so if the plant is not prospering, add a bit of organic matter like peat moss to raise the soil pH level. The ideal pH level range for the plant is 4.5–6.
Repot this plant every year at the start of spring, steadily increasing the pot size, making sure the pot has lots of drainage holes If necessary, it can be pruned to the desired size, restricting its pot size, and pruning the roots to keep the plant manageable.
The pot must be just 1-2 sizes larger as the roots need to expand with your pot. You might tend to over-water the plant if the pot is too large, while the plant might become root bound if the pot is small. These plants grow vigorously with strong root systems so it is necessary to repot often.
There are 3 methods to propagate this plant – from cuttings or seeds as well as by air layering (marcotting), a technique where branches are rooted while attached to the plant.
Propagation from cuttings
Choose an 8-10 inch long cutting, removing all but two upper leaves, and insert it in a damp potting mix, keeping the soil constantly moist. Rooting will take several weeks, you’ll know that the roots have formed when you encounter resistance when gently tugging on the cutting. Transplant it into a suitable container.
Propagation from seeds
Coffee beans bought in stores cannot germinate as they are already roasted. You need seeds directly from your plant or “green” seeds can be sourced online. Sow the seeds in moist well-draining sand and water every day. The seeds will begin to germinate in 2-4 months. Carefully remove them after they’ve germinated and develop a few leaves and plant them in well-draining soil. Water them two times a week.
Propagation from air layering
This technique of propagation is relatively easy to perform; roots are encouraged to form by wounding part of a healthy branch while it is attached to the plant. Cut the bark around the stem below a node by cutting in a circle around the stem, making another similar cut 1-2 inches below the first cut then connect both cuts with a straight cut to pry the bark loose.
This bare portion of the stem should be scrapped, removing the slippery coating on the stem to stop the wound from healing and reconnecting.
A handful of damp moss or dust of coconut coir is placed around this exposed portion and wrapped with a transparent piece of plastic and both ends tied off. This enables us to see when rooting has been established.
Alternatively, the lower end of the cut can be tied off with the plastic sheet and the rooting medium is gradually added until it covers the uppercut and then tied to the stem. This technique is more useful with any crumbly rooting medium if not held securely.
Once rooting has been taken, cut away the branch closer to the side of the plant, remove the plastic, and plant in a suitable container.
Dilute a recommended dose of liquid fertilizer and feed the plant every 2 weeks during its growing season and cut back fertilizing it to once in 4 weeks in winter. The plant shouldn’t be fertilized for a year after repotting.
It needs a little pruning to shape the plant and help it grow bushier so it won’t waste energy growing higher.
This plant when grown indoors will at times suffer damage from infestations of pests like mealybugs, mites, and aphids, inspect the plant often for signs of infestations and treat the plant with insecticides or organic pesticides like neem oil to prevent them spreading.
Fungal diseases such as leaf spots can make brown spots appear on leaves. Cutaway infected leaves and immediately trim inner branches to provide better air circulation for the plant.
Leaf scorch or burn turns leaves brown and drops off, this is usually when the plant receives too much sun. Merely ensure the plant is given more indirect light.
Brown patches appearing on leaves are usually caused by irregular watering or under-watering or both. The plant loves having its soil kept moist at all times and suffers damage if the soil becomes dry.
Yellow leaves are usually caused by overwatering. Remember, this plant loves water but doesn’t like being water-logged. Make sure the container has several drainage holes and the soil drains well.