Ever thought about growing your own coffee plant? There’s a Chinese proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” So, if you’ve been holding off your dream of enjoying coffee from beans of your own garden, now is the right time to actualise it. But, if you didn’t know how to go about growing your own coffee plant, here is a guide to help you.
1. Decide where you want to grow your coffee
Coffee can grow properly in an enclosed space like your house or greenhouse. In fact, it’s one of the special plants you should have inside the house since it has an enchanting aroma and several health benefits. Its blooming flowers fill the space with a rich and sweet floral exotic scent, thus shelving the need for an air freshener. Nevertheless, coffee can also grow outdoors.
Growing coffee indoors
One of the reasons you’d want to have your coffee in an enclosed space is so that you can exercise proper control of its growing environment. Make sure you choose a room that has windows. A coffee plant should receive about 4-5 hours of sunlight each day. During cloudy or cold weather where there is no sunlight, you may opt for artificial lighting. Always, allow a lot of room for the plant since coffee plants can blossom into big trees.
Coffee requires temperatures of between 15 and 27 degrees Celsius. If you grow it indoors, make sure you have controlled temperatures that remain within this range throughout the day. During the night, do not allow it to drop below 7 degrees Celsius. The most important factor to remember here is consistent temperature. Constant fluctuation, especially to low levels, can destroy your coffee plant.
Growing coffee outdoors
Growing coffee outdoors is only ideal for people who live in warm climate areas. Otherwise, any drop in temperatures will surely kill the plant. In fact, a major challenge in outdoor coffee planting is the inability to ensure precise temperature control.
To plant coffee outdoors, identify a suitable growing area and weed out any tall unwanted plants. It could be helpful to test the soil first. Suitable soil for coffee growing should contain enough nitrogen, be well-drained, and gently acidic (have a PH of 6). It’s possible to improve both indoor and outdoor soils for coffee planting by adding coarse salt and organic well-rotted manure.
2. Decide whether to plant seeds, use cuttings, or buy a potted plant
Just like most plants, you can begin growing coffee from seeds, cuttings, or seedlings. For both seeds and cuttings, you will need to wait for several weeks before you can see the real plant.
If you are patient enough to wait through the germination period, look for a whole ripe cherry. You may get it from cultivators or green coffee suppliers. It’s useful to find fresh cherries as they germinate faster (within 2 months). Old beans may take up to 6 months. If you are lucky to visit the cultivator, select the seeds from a highly productive tree that doesn’t have any diseases or defects.
In case you get cherries covered with mucilage (the coat that appears fruity and sticky), strip them and obtain the 2 berries. This quickens germination as the seed doesn’t need to force its way out of the cherry. Now, soak your ready beans in water for about 24 hours. After 24 hours, remove and sow them in wet sand, burlap, or vermiculite and drain any excess water. Keep watering the seeds every day until they sprout. Once the seeds sprout, you can now transfer them into the pot or your chosen planting area.
Buying potted plant
If you can’t wait for so long, consider buying a potted plant from your nearest seedlings vendor. In fact, this might reduce the number of years you have to wait to harvest beans depending on how old the plant you get is. In some cases, you may have to transplant the bought plant into a larger pot that has more room for roots to grow deep.
The process isn’t very different from planting other trees using cuttings. You just need to get 5-6 inch tips, remove most of the leaves and dip in damp, well-treated soil. The soil should contain rooting compound of exceptional quality. Just to make sure you don’t interfere with the original tree, get the cuttings during spring when berries have already ripened. When using cuttings, roots should begin developing in about 4 weeks.
3. Take proper care of the plant
For your coffee tree to grow properly and yield plenty of fruits, there are regular care tasks you’ll need to perform. You should be prepared to water it regularly, add fertilizer, and prune wayward branches.
When it’s raining, you can rely on the rainwater to provide enough moisture for the plants outdoors. However, an indoor tree will require watering which should be carried out at least twice a week. You can reduce the cycle to once a week when it’s extremely cold, for instance, during winter. Choose one day for a full watering and another for half watering. A full watering involves soaking the entire soil in a lot of water and allowing it to drain. Continue with this routine until the tree is fully established and ready to bear fruits.
You can actually add fertiliser to the soil during the second half of full watering. This way, the fertiliser dissolves and soaks into the soil with the water. During the initial 6 months, use a citrus fertiliser. For warm seasons, you can apply the fertiliser within every 6 weeks. After the 6 months, switch to high-nitrogen fertilisers designed for orchids. Apply it at intervals of two weeks and increase the frequency as the weather becomes colder. It’s important to note that fertilisation is done only when it’s necessary.
It’s not mandatory that you prune your tree. However, some varieties of coffee trees can grow huge and occupy a lot of space. For you to tame them, you should begin pruning the leaves as early as when the tree is 20 inches high. You may pinch or cut off the growing tips from each stem so that the tree can develop lateral branches. Another reason for pruning is to encourage the growth of new branches in an old tree. This is done once in every 3 years. Avoid excessive pruning when dealing with a small coffee plant. Pruning can weaken and impede proper development of coffee species with small trees.
4. Harvesting the coffee beans
I know you are eager to taste coffee from your homegrown tree. However, you need to give it time. Coffee plants begin to bear fruits when they are 6 years old. But, you’ll wait for about 3 more years before you can get reliable, consistent yield from the crop. Cherries are picked when they are deep red in colour. In case you see them dropping off before they reach the deep red colour, this is a sign that the tree isn’t mature yet.
With a mature coffee plant in your house, you’ll enjoy a fresh brew of the amazing drink anytime you want. The growing process is also interesting and therapeutic. Besides, a coffee tree inside your house is a conversation starter – especially when it’s flowering or forming cherries.
Rudy Caretti has more than 15 years of experience in the coffee industry, a passion that started in Italy within the family business and brought him to found Gimoka Coffee UK and G Coffee Pod with a group of friends, who share the same passion.
Since he roasted his first batch of coffee seeds as a teenager, he was fascinated by the many ways it can be processed to get the many different distinctive flavours we all love.