How to Care for a Coffee Plant
Also called Arabian coffee, coffee plant (Coffea arabica) is one of several species responsible for providing the coveted beans used to make the coffee beverage. Coffee plant is an upright, evergreen shrub that showcases shiny, dark green leaves, star-shaped white blooms and bright red berries, which encase the hard seeds known as coffee beans. Coffee plant can be grown outdoors in frost-free gardens, or indoors in a container.
Avoid Direct Sunlight
Coffee plant grows outdoors in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 11, where it requires light shade or filtered sunlight. In the wild, coffee plant typically grows under trees. Choose a protected area free from hot, drying winds. If you're planting multiple shrubs, allow 36 to 60 inches of space between plants. Coffee plant doesn't tolerate salty soil, so it's not a good choice for coastal gardens.
Use Well-Draining Soil
Coffee plant tolerates range of soil types, though it will produce its best growth in a deep, well-draining soil with a pH between 4.2 and 6.0. Chlorosis, an unattractive yellowing of the leaves, will likely occur in soils with a pH above 7. In spring or fall, scatter 1/2 cup of an 8-8-8 fertilizer evenly on the ground under the shrub. Water afterwards to help the fertilizer disperse into the soil. Keep the fertilizer off plant stems and leaves.
Check for Pests
Mealybugs, thrips, scale insects and mites all attack coffee plant, sucking up plant sap and causing leaf damage and decreased vigor. To dislodge pests, wash the shrub with a direct stream of water. For more severe infestations, spray the shrub with horticultural oil. Thoroughly mix 2 to 5 tablespoons of horticultural oil in 1 gallon of water and use a hand sprayer to spray the shrub evenly, coating the stems and both the undersides and tops of leaves until wet. Protect yourself by wearing rubber gloves, long sleeves and pants, and store remaining oil in a secure area away from children and pets.
Grow Coffee Plant Indoors
In cooler climates, you can grow coffee plant as a house plant. Use a container with a hole in the bottom for drainage, and a well-draining potting soil. Place the plant in a bright, sunny window. When spring frosts have passed, move the plant outdoors for the summer in a lightly shaded spot. Water the plant regularly to keep the soil moist but not wet, and prune or pinch it back as needed to control size and keep its shape attractive. Repot the coffee plant every year or two in a larger container, refilling the pot with fresh soil. Fertilize once or twice a month during the growing season with 14 drops per 1 quart of water of a 10-10-10 liquid houseplant fertilizer, or a similar fertilizer, according to the directions on the label.
Michelle Wishhart is a writer based in Portland, Ore. She has been writing professionally since 2005, starting with her position as a staff arts writer for City on a Hill Press, an alternative weekly newspaper in Santa Cruz, Calif. An avid gardener, Wishhart worked as a Wholesale Nursery Grower at Encinal Nursery for two years. Wishhart holds a Bachelor of Arts in fine arts and English literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz.