Growing a coffee bean tree is a great way to gain access to “free” coffee beans year round. In subtropical climates, you can grow coffee trees outdoors. If you live in a colder climate, you can still grow your own coffee tree, just indoors. The hardest part of growing a coffee bean tree is getting the plant started. Starting a coffee plant from seed is a slow-going, hit-or-miss process, where you might get only one successful germination for every 50 seeds. You can also start a coffee plant from stem cuttings, which is a similar process but usually more successful. After the plant is started, however, growing and caring for your coffee bean tree is a breeze.
Starting From Seed
Purchase green, unroasted coffee beans from a coffee importer or get a whole coffee cherry from a coffee plant. When using a coffee cherry, peel the skin first. Soak 20 beans in an inch of water for 12 to 24 hours, until you see at least five to eight of the beans develop a tiny white bump on their ends.
Plant the germinated seeds in a pot that is 1 1/2 inches deep and filled with vermiculite. Water well to keep the vermiculite moist and cover the pot with plastic wrap. After about two months, you’ll see a small “gooseneck” sprout poking through the soil.
Continue to water the coffee plant well once per day. After three to four months, you’ll see the plant’s first leaves. At up to nine months, the coffee plant will have true leaves. Repot the plant when the roots become crowded.
Grow From Stem Cuttings
Select a stem that has at least two leaves and is 3/16 to 5/16 inch in diameter. Cut off the stem and remove one of the leaves. Split the second leaf in half.
Soak the “raw” end of the stem in rooting hormone for 15 seconds. Place the cutting in a small container with moist peat and cover with a polyethylene tent. Place the container in the shade.
Remove the tent as the cutting grows roots, and then repot it into a larger container as it grows.
How to Care for the Tree
Plant your young coffee bean tree in deep soil, whether indoors or outside. The roots must be able to reach down 3 to 6 feet into the ground. Your soil type can vary greatly, although coffee trees prefer more acidic soils with a pH of 4.5 to 6.
Water your coffee bean tree twice per week, consisting of one full watering and one half watering. A half watering is just watering the soil and allowing it to drain, while a full watering is adding water, allowing it to drain and then watering again with a fertilizer.
Expose your coffee bean tree to at least three or four hours per day of light. If you’re growing the tree indoors, it will thrive under artificial plant lighting.