Apartment plants

The Coffee

Coffee at home

The coffea arabica is a shrub or small tree originating in Ethiopia and Yemen; the other most famous coffee species is coffea robusta, widespread in nature in many tropical areas of Africa. From these two species, various cultivar and hybrid varieties originated, spread in cultivation in most of the tropical regions of the globe, from Australia to South America. They produce a large shrub, which can reach 6-8 m in height; in the apartment it is cultivated in pots, and generally does not exceed two meters in height. It produces a slender stem, with a hirsute appearance, with broad, rounded crown; the leaves are oval, or lanceolate, shiny, dark green. The flowers bloom on the old wood, directly on the stem and on the branches, are white, and vaguely reminiscent of orange blossoms. the flowers are followed by the fruits, of green-colored drupes, which recall olives, which become bright red when ripe. Inside the fruits there are two small green seeds, which toasted and processed become the coffee that many of us use to drink every morning. Coffee is one of the most cultivated plants in the world, and this cultivation has naturalized the plant even in places far removed from the areas of origin.
The plants grown in the apartment are evergreen, like the sisters grown in nature, but often do not produce flowers, or fruits if grown in pots in the apartment.

How to grow coffee

Cultivation of coffee as a houseplant is not particularly difficult. Like all plants from tropical areas, it requires average high temperatures in every month of the year combined with high humidity and excellent lighting.
There coffee plant it is grown as a houseplant due to its decorative foliage; in practice we say that it is cultivated as a ficus plant, therefore like most of the tropical plants. It needs a good soil, possibly with an acid ph, deep, fertile, and very well drained. It is positioned in a well-lit area of ​​the house, but without direct sunlight, away from direct heat sources, and possibly in an area of ​​the house with good air exchange, to avoid the development of parasites; however, we avoid areas where it can be affected by excessively cold air. Water them regularly, always waiting for the soil to dry between one watering and another; they can withstand short periods of drought, so in indecision it is advisable to water once less rather than once too often.

Origins and history

There coffee plant (Coffea arabica) belongs to the Rubiaceae family. It is native to East Africa, particularly from Ethiopia. However, its cultivation is today distributed in all tropical and subtropical areas of the world, from Africa to Asia to Latin America.
It is an evergreen shrub that, in full ground and in the right conditions, can reach 10 m in height. The leaves are medium green, shiny and oval in shape. They are the greatest attraction as regards the specimens used as an indoor plant. Flowering occurs in full summer: the individual flower heads, even in groups of 15, are of a beautiful bright white and give off a sweet and aromatic scent. From these develop small and graceful shiny fruits: first green, then yellow and finally red, always darker, until complete maturation: inside there are two seeds (what we call "beans").

Cultivation needs coffee plant

From March to October the waterings will be quite regular, in the rest of the year it is watered only sporadically. In the vegetative season a good fertilizer is supplied for green plants, every 12-15 days; remember to choose a balanced fertilizer for green plants, with the same title of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. When we choose a fertilizer we always check that it contains, in addition to the usual three macroelements, also microelements such as magnesium, iron, boron, zinc, manganese; their presence is important and fundamental, like that of macroelements, if the fertilizers we use do not contain microelements (as often happens in low quality fertilizers) our potted plants will tend to deteriorate over the years.
Coffea specimens grown in pots are not particularly luxuriant, so in general it is not necessary to prune them.
If possible remember to bring our plants outdoors during the summer, so that they enjoy a more ventilated and cooler climate.
Coffee is a tropical plant, which does not tolerate temperatures below 10 ° C; however it seems that the flowering is stimulated by the right succession of the seasons, it is therefore more probable that the plant cultivated in greenhouse produces flowers than the specimens forced in the apartment for the whole year. If we do not have a greenhouse we can in winter shelter our coffee sample in a bright and slightly heated stairwell.

Coffee qualities and defects

The coffee plants they have been grown for millennia, to produce the famous drink, now used all over the world; coffee contains an alkaloid that we all know: caffeine; sometimes praised, often demonized. Caffeine carries out a tonic and stimulating action that is well known to all; perhaps not everyone knows that this alkaloid is present not only in coffee but also in you, in cola, in cocoa, in guarana. Caffeine is a psychoactive substance that promotes the waking state and keeps sleep away; it also performs the action of increasing blood circulation for a short time and slightly, therefore it is not recommended in case of hypertension. Caffeine expounds its action quickly, and tends over time to favor its tolerance, so that constant and large quantities tend to make its effects mild or null. Generally the consumption by children is not recommended. In large doses caffeine could also lead to death, but to achieve this effect it would be necessary to ingest hundreds of cups of coffee in a short period of time. In addition to being used to produce the famous drink, caffeine performs its action even at the topical level, in fact it is used in creams and anticellulite and slimming ointments.

Climate and exposure for coffee

From this point of view it is rather delicate: it does not bear the cold at all. The minimum temperature at which it can be exposed is 14 ° C. The ideal is, however, to always keep it in a range between 18 and 21 ° C, with little excursion between day and night.
To obtain the best results, it would be ideal to grow it in a temperate greenhouse or in a heated veranda: we will obtain excellent conditions of light, temperature and humidity. Good results are also obtained in the apartment. The important thing is to guarantee an extremely bright exposure, avoiding however the direct sun (which could cause leaf burns). The south and west windows are the best: shield them with a light curtain during the summer.

Grow coffee outside

Coffee can be moved outside when the warm weather arrives, when the minimum temperatures do not fall below 15 ° C (ideally from mid-May to early June). We choose a luminous location, but not sunny and very sheltered, perhaps under a pergola or a deciduous tree. It is also important that there are no drafts that can cause sudden leaf drops.
Keep in mind that flowering will certainly be less abundant than that which we would have had in controlled climatic conditions.

Plant coffee

Good-sized seedlings are sold quite commonly in nurseries, usually in the spring. That is also the right time to do a repotting, since the coffee, to grow vigorously, needs a lot of space for the root system. Furthermore, a large container will help to keep the ambient humidity high. Choose one at least 45 cm in diameter and depth. For adult specimens we never go below 60 cm in any size.
On the bottom we create a thick draining layer. On the drain holes we place an earthenware crock: it is in fact extremely important that they do not get clogged and guarantee an optimal release of excess liquids. We insert the plant and fill it with soil for flowering plants, making sure that it contains a good amount of soil improver.
The plants will be repotted at most once every two years, bringing plenty of organic matter.

Watering of coffee and humidity

For its health it is essential to keep the substratum fresh and very high environmental humidity, especially from March to November, with increasing temperatures. In this period it is good to supply water about 2 times a week: we never let the soil dry completely (let's make sure we insert a finger deep), but at the same time, we avoid water stagnation (and even the use of pots), a very frequent cause of root rot.
However, a beautiful plant is only obtained in a very humid environment: this can help us with electric humidifiers and leaf vaporisations. The first sign of deficiency, from this point of view, are the dry leaf tips.
For all uses we always prefer demineralized or rainwater: excessive salinity can lead to the appearance of dark spots on the foliage.


Family, genus, species

Rubiaceae, Coffea Arabica
Type of plant Fruit shrub
Origin East Africa
Foliage Evergreen, oval, shiny
Habit Erect, conical or pyramidal
Use Indoor or temperate greenhouse plant
Height at maturity Up to 5 m
Growth rate slow
Maintenance High
Water needs average
Minimum temperature 14 ° C
Ideal temperature 18-21 ° C
Exposure Very bright, no full sun
Ground Rich in organic substance, well drained
Fertilizer Every 15 days, for flowering plants or tomatoes
soil pH subacido
Soil moisture high
Environmental humidity high
Propagation cutting, sowing



March may
Pruning May June
Flowering June-October (in the right conditions throughout the year)
Collection 6 to 12 months after flowering
Sowing Late spring
Talea summer
Vegetative rest October to March

In winter

If we keep the plant indoors, in a moderately heated room (15-18 ° C) we will have to reduce the watering. Usually the only intervention is when the lower half of the vessel begins to dry out: indicatively a weekly water supply is sufficient.
Even the light can be a little reduced, although normally its intensity changes naturally due to the season. In this period (with internal temperatures instead around 20 ° C, in a heated room) we can also expose it to direct sunlight, which rarely damages it.

Fertilizing coffee

Coffee is a very demanding plant in this respect: in particular it is quickly affected by the lack of microelements. To obtain good growth, flowering and fruiting we make a liquid fertilizer with a high potassium content every 15 days (those for flowering plants or for tomatoes are fine). At the beginning of winter it is good to sprinkle on the surface a few handfuls of well-seasoned flour manure, to be gently absorbed into the soil.

Pruning and cleaning the coffee plant

The plant, if in good pedoclimatic conditions, can grow even up to 5 meters in height. Generally its size is kept more contained thanks to pruning and trimming that make it even more compact and aesthetically pleasing. The trunks also lignify better and branch more effectively. It is cut just above the 3rd or 4th bud: from there secondary branches will be born that will be further trimmed.
This type of operation is carried out at the end of spring, only on plants in full form: those that struggle could undergo a lymph withdrawal and a ramular desiccation.

Pests and diseases of the coffee plant

Coffee is unfortunately sensitive to many pathogens and pathophysiologies.
Chlorosis is very frequent, caused by a lack of microelements: we fertilize with complete products and avoid the use of calcareous water for irrigation.
Other frequent problems are rust and anthracnose: usually robust plants are not affected. In case of strong attacks we use specific pesticides, first removing all the affected leaves or fruits.
Common pests are aphids, cochineal and red spider mites. The latter is prevented and fights with high environmental humidity, the others using specific products (especially for severe attacks).

Coffee plant propagation

New seedlings can be obtained by sowing or cutting
Sowing: carried out using very fresh beans, since their germination capacity lasts only a few weeks: buy them directly and from reliable retailers, possibly specialized in tropical plants. They should always be stored at high temperatures of at least 25 ° C.
Let's place them on the substrate (or on absorbent paper): we keep the environment very humid and with a constant temperature between 25 and 28 ° C. Germination is very slow: it can take up to two months. Then gently move the seedlings into pots at least 40 cm deep and fertilize properly.
In summer, we take branches of the year: they must be only partially lignified. We put them in a very light substrate and we always keep wet (we put a transparent plastic cap. We aerate, however, often to prevent rot from occurring. Rooting should take place within 30-40 days, then we can transfer it to the final vessel.

Coffee collection

Before fructifying the plant must reach adulthood: generally it does not occur before the 4th year. The fruits ripen very slowly: depending on the climate they can take from 6 to 12 months. Flowering, like fruiting, can take place at any time of the year and the plant can simultaneously bear flowers and fruits, even at different stages of maturation. In our climates, however, it is very difficult to reach full maturity.
The fruits are picked when they become a beautiful dark red, almost garnet: they open and extract from each one or two grains. Before using them, they must be roasted (in the microwave, in the oven or in a pan) and ground.
To preserve them well, it is good to put them in an airtight jar, kept in the dark and at a constant temperature.

The Coffee: History and curiosity about coffee

The two most widespread varieties of coffee are Robusta and Arabica. The second is much more valuable because it is more aromatic, but also much more delicate and difficult to cultivate.
The first to cultivate and use these grains were the Arabs, starting in the fifteenth century, in Yemen, in the port city of Mocha (from which the name of a variety and coffee maker derives). The coffee name instead derives from the Arabic "qahwa" which means "invigorating"
In the first Europeans they met him in the mid-sixteenth century in Constantinople, but the importation began only a century later, when the first cafés opened in Vienna.