Coffee Tree Guide: How To Identify and Grow Coffee Trees (Zones, Pics, Types)

Woman drinking coffee wants to learn about the coffee tree, such as how to identify types of coffee trees, coffee flowers, beans, plant and how to grow coffee trees, planting tips, and when to plant coffee trees

Planting a coffee tree may not exactly be the first thing that comes to mind when homeowners want to grow a tree, but you might be surprised to learn that many landscapers are choosing coffee trees for things other than just beans.

As an aromatic evergreen tree that will stand the test of time come winter, coffee trees are a popular landscaping options for home gardeners.

Moreover, even on a small scale, you can harvest the beans, roast them and enjoy your own homegrown brews.

This complete coffee tree guide explains how to identify coffee trees and how you can grow one yourself, as well as many types of varieties to choose.

Coffee plant

(Coffea arabica)

Coffee tree with red fruits in an oval frame on green background.
  • Location on the ICUN Red List- Conservation Status: Endangered (ICUN 3.1)
  • Family: Rubiaceae
  • Genus: Coffea
  • Leaf: Dark green, glossy, arranged in alternate patterns, measuring 1-3 inches long
  • Bark: Dark gray in color, fissures form on older trunks
  • Seed: Oval in shape, with a deep crease in the center
  • Blossoms: White, fragrant, star in shape, growing in 2-9 clusters
  • Fruit: Green, turning yellow and finally dark red when fully ripe, with two seeds
  • Native Habitat: Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan
  • Height: 6-15 feet tall
  • Canopy: 6-15 inches wide
  • Type: Evergreen
  • Native Growing Zone: USDA zones 10-12

How To Identify Coffee Plants: Coffee Tree

You can easily tell that you are looking at a coffee tree plantation when you see the following features.

Coffee Leaves

Covering the branches of the coffee tree are dark green glossy leaves that tend to grow in pairs in a simple, alternate pattern.

They measure 1-3 inches long, and you will also see that they have quite prominent veins, and the margins are sort of wavy.

Being broadleaf evergreens, you get to admire their beauty all through winter.

Coffee Flower

White flowering trees identification is pretty exciting, especially knowing that the coffee plant has some of the most showy ones.

Looking at their star shape and their fragrance that you may mistake as that of jasmine, the blossoms are such a sight to behold, especially since they grow in clusters of 2 to 9 flowers.1

Coffee Seeds/Coffee Bean

This is probably the most important part of the entire tree because here is where the coffee actually comes from.

Inside the fruits of the coffee cherries that turn bright red when ripe, there lies a pair of coffee seeds that are usually dark brown in color.

Looking at one, you immediately notice the deep ridge that almost splits a seed into two, that’s how you know that it’s a coffee bean.

Coffee Tree: In Which Form Is Coffee Grown?

The coffee tree is a gift that keeps on giving. There is so much to it that will make you want to have one growing right in your home.

From the evergreen leaves that stay stunning all through the year to the fragrant bright white flowers and wondrous coffee beans, you have to learn how to plant this precious tree.

Growing a Coffee Tree From a Seed

Like with most plants, one way to go about planting the coffee tree is from its seed.7

Not the store-bought one but the one from an actual living coffee plant, precisely from a ripened fruit/cherry; these have the highest germination rates.

Graphics with text showing the steps in growing a coffee tree from a seed.

You start by cleaning out any residue, then soaking the seeds for like 24 hours, then later sow an inch deep in soil and cover, watering lightly each day until germination takes place in about 6-8 weeks, and that’s about it.

Growing a Coffee Tree From a Cutting

Starting with seeds may be a little demanding, so many people opt for cuttings instead. All you need is to cut an 8-10 inch long branch from a healthy parent tree and plant it.

As long as the soil stays moist and you have quality potting mix, the roots should start forming in no time; you can gently tag to confirm if there is some sort of resistance from the ground.

Growing a Coffee Tree From a Seedling

If you want the fastest way out, all you have to do is get a coffee seedling from a trusted source and plant that instead. This is way more convenient, and you can head straight to the transplanting and caring for your tree.

With a little TLC, your seedling will be established and thriving.

What Is the Arabian Coffee Plant/ Arabica Coffee?

Coffea arabica/ Arabic coffee/ Arabian coffee, more commonly known as the coffee plant, is a famous one. It is widely known for the production of coffee beans that are ground to make coffee, a popular beverage, not just in the US, but also all over the globe.

The plant is relatively small, usually grown in tropical climates, particularly in Africa, where it is native. However, it is now grown in many other countries like Brazil and Vietnam, just to name a few.2

In just three or so years, the small coffee tree will start producing flowers which give way to berry-like fruits that are edible, but of course, their seeds are the most important part. The two seeds from the fruits are the famous coffee beans that are harvested and later processed into coffee.

Graphics with text that shows how to identify coffee plants through leaf, flowers, fruits, and bark.

You can either grow the tree as a houseplant or outdoors, even on a plantation on a large scale. This tree holds a lot of importance for tropical countries where it is solely grown for the commercial value of the beans, earning income and revenue.

Types of Coffee Plant

If you are a huge fan of coffee, you may wonder exactly how many types are available and of course, how distinct they are. There are four main types of beans, Arabica, Robusta, Excelsa, and Liberica, the first two being the most popular.

  1. Arabica coffee: This is by far the most common type of coffee that you will run into and may probably prefer growing.6 There is a reason why 60% of the world’s production comes from this type, the taste and aroma are unmatched, so it is of the best quality.
    On the downside, this is one of the hardest to grow, no thanks to its sensitive needs.
  2. Robusta coffee: Coming in second is the Robusta, mainly grown in Indonesia and Africa. These beans stand out because they are more round in shape, and what makes them a popular variety to grow is the fact that they are hardier and more resistant to diseases.
  3. Liberica coffee: Just from its name, you can tell that this type has something to do with the country Liberia, which is actually its origin. Although not that common, making up only 2% of the global supply, it is still renowned for its floral scent and smoky taste.
  4. Excelsa coffee: Previously, this was classified as an independent variety, but later on, deemed as one of the variants of Liberica coffee. The beans look just like those of Liberica, although somewhat more elongated.
    You will likely find it growing in Southeastern Asia, which produces almost the entire world supply.

Planting Tips for Coffee Tree

If you want to be a pro at planting coffee trees, there are some fine details that you will have to pay attention to.

Here are some tips that you may need:

When To Plant Coffees for the Best Yield

Considering that coffee thrives best in tropical climates where it is warm for the better part of the year, you can beat the system by choosing the perfect weather, say in spring, when you are certain that there is no danger of frost. It has to be warm else your coffee won’t germinate.

How Far Apart To Plant Coffees: Coffee Tree

Coffee trees are very particular about their sunlight and heat needs, so you have to be very keen when it comes to spacing. You cannot afford to make the mistake of overcrowding them, depriving them of their nutrients.

So to be safe, make sure you place seeds, cuttings, and seedlings at least 4-5 feet away from each other, or even more if you have the space.

Best Growing Conditions for Coffee Plant: Coffee Trees

For the healthiest and strongest coffee trees that produce faster, you might need to take the following factors into consideration.

Watering Needs for Coffee Plants

There are only two rules when it comes to coffee trees, never let the soil completely dry out, and never leave the soil waterlogged. They will still survive when watered once or twice a week, but no more or less than that.

How Much Sunlight Does Coffee Tree Need Each Day?

Interestingly, even though coffee trees grow in tropical climates, they prefer indirect sunlight. Being typically understory plants, they prefer the sunlight mild and preferably indirect, otherwise, you will constantly deal with leaf browning.5

Soil Requirements

Your best bet is to plant your coffee in acidic soil. So if you think that your plant is a tad bit slow to grow, you may have to add a little more organic matter to at least drop the pH levels to the recommended 6-6.5.

Fertilizer Needs

You can start off amending the soil once every few weeks at the initial stages, but later on, cut back to maybe once a month when the tree is older while avoiding fertilizing in the winter.8

Coffee Tree Growing Zone: Growing Zones for Coffee Tree (Where To Grow Coffee for the Best Yield)

If you are a seasoned gardener, then you are aware of the fact that planting zones are crucial even before you start planting.

You have to know whether your plant of interest will be comfortable in your area or not.

Photo of two or more people roaming around a coffee plantation.

(Image: Dennis Tang12)

Looking at the native habitat of the coffee tree, it doesn’t take much to tell that it prefers growing in warm, temperate regions, meaning that it needs to grow in USDA zones 10-12, which offer the best conditions in matters of heat levels. You can also grow it in colder climates, provided that it is in greenhouses, where you can easily regulate the conditions.

Companion Plants For Growing Coffees

It goes without saying that companion planting helps you solve so many problems, not just for you but also for your coffee tree. So, you have to be very selective when choosing what to grow alongside your precious tree since a wrong move could affect your yield or even endanger your plant’s life.

You can never go wrong with nitrogen fixers like beans and peas. They won’t compete with your plant and, to make it even more enticing, will actually add the nitrogen that your tree needs to the soil.

There are other perfect choices that will keep off pests from your coffee and generally boost its growth. For instance, consider planting potatoes, kale, and groundnuts.

Common Pests of the Coffee Tree

The arch nemesis of any gardener comes in the form of tiny bugs that feast on various plant parts, either causing damage or interfering with your yield, which is the last thing you want. Here are some of the common pests that you have to be on the lookout for.

  1. Coffee berry borer: This tiny beetle loves biting into coffee berries, leaving behind unsightly trees, tampering with fruit production, and sometimes transmitting diseases to the plant.
  2. Leaf miner: Just from the name, you can tell that this pest is interested in your coffee tree’s leaves. Once it attacks, what’s left is discolored leaves and deadly diseases.
  3. Mealybug: Gardeners know this insect all too well, no thanks to its sap-sucking skills. Your tree’s leaves and branches are in danger when they attack, and so is the entire tree.
  4. Thrips: Another huge fan of coffee tree leaves is the thrips, which leave discolorations, alter the shape and ruin fruit production.
  5. Mites: You don’t want mites anywhere around your coffee because they tend to cause chlorosis which interferes with photosynthesis.

Natural Pest Control for Coffee Tree

When pests attack, your first thought may be to use pesticides, but experts highly discourage this. If you want to keep the environment safe and avoid negatively impacting the ecosystem, it is best to go for integrated pest management options.9

For instance, you can deal with coffee borers by introducing wasps that hunt for the beetles to your garden or farm. You can also sprinkle mildew on your coffee trees to handle bean borers or use traps to capture the pests.4

Common Coffee Tree Diseases

Apart from pests, every gardener should also know that coffee trees are also susceptible to diseases.

Photo of a coffee tree almost ready for harvesting.

(Image: Dennis Tang13)

They may get an infection due to the environment or sometimes even their genes, so here are some common ones that you should be aware of.

  1. Berry disease: This one mainly attacks the coffee cherries, making them discolored and rendering them unusable.
  2. Rust: You also have to watch out for this fungal disease that focuses on the tree’s leaves, making them form yellow/ orange spots, making them later fall off.
  3. Root rot: From the name, you can tell just how deadly this disease really is. By attacking the tree’s roots and killing them, there is very little hope that your coffee plant will recover.
  4. Blight: There is also a bacterial infection that attacks the leaves of your coffee tree, discoloring them in the process and affecting photosynthesis.
  5. Mosaic virus: When you notice that your leaves are starting to form mosaic patterns on them, then that is a clear sign that this viral disease has struck.

How To Stop Coffee Tree Disease / Coffee Tree Disease Prevention

Prevention is better than trying to cure your coffee tree of deadly life-threatening diseases. You have to take really great care of your coffee to make sure that the diseases don’t get the slightest chance of attacking.

You have to plant in the perfect spots where the soil drains well and there is sufficient heat and sunlight. Also, make sure that you only plant when the air is warm, not cold, and not extremely hot.

Lastly, check that you properly space out your coffee trees when planting. If, by chance, your tree happens to get infected, you will have to act fast to stop the disease from spreading.

In the case of fungal, bacterial, and viral infections, that is about the best that you can do because most don’t have a known cure. You will start by pruning or chopping out the affected parts and burning them to prevent further infections from spreading through wind and air.

In severe cases where there is too much damage from the disease, you will have no other choice but to uproot the entire plant to keep the rest safe. Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages on the entire planet, and it is no wonder it is a multi-million cash crop industry.

Whether it is growing in the fields in central parts of Africa or in Southeast Asia, there is just something special about the aroma and uplifting taste of the roasted coffee beans. It makes you think about planting some of your own.

Interestingly, it doesn’t even have to be for the coffee; you can still plant it on a small scale as a landscaping or indoor feng shui tree. As long as you take great care of it, providing its light, heat, soil, and water requirements, your coffee tree will grow to be beautiful and bountiful, so give it a try.

Distribution of Coffee Farms/ Coffee Plantation Areas: Coffee Tree

If you are keen on the origin countries when buying your beverages, then you will find it quite interesting to learn that the quality of coffee, in fact, its aroma and taste, majorly depend on the soil, weather, and climate of where it comes from.

The best grows in high-altitude tropical climates where the soils are exceptionally rich in nutrients.

Photo of young and coffee seeds planted in a plant box.

(Image: F Delventhal11)

There are about 50 countries all around the world that fit the description, otherwise known as areas in the Bean Belt, including parts of America, Africa, and Asia.10 What about the Kentucky coffee tree?

Well, this tree comes from a totally different plant family and is not at all related to the arabica coffee. Another common question is the coffee carbon footprint, isn’t it too high?

That is true in many cases, especially considering all the elaborate processes that the beans go through before they get to your cup and also the food miles involved. Luckily, plant scientists are coming up with new coffee varieties that have got way lower carbon footprint and are more resistant to drought.

Coffee Tree Facts

If you are going to own a coffee tree, you would love to know some unique facts about it.

  1. The coffee tree is usually called a coffee plant because of how shrub-like it tends to grow because of frequent pruning, but in reality, coffee does grow on trees that can get pretty high if left alone.
  2. The fruits that come out of the coffee tree are actually cherries that come in three different colors, green, yellow, and red, according to the level of ripeness, and inside them lie two ‘beans,’ or the seeds of the cherries.
  3. Coffee trees take their time when growing, as much as 5 years before reaching their potential. The fruits form within the first five years and ripen in 6 months after formation.
  4. Each coffee has a distinct taste based on where it grows, all thanks to the prevailing conditions.
  5. Did you know that coffee plants can live for as long as 100 years, even though they stay productive when they are about 7-20 years old?3
  6. There is one problem when it comes to the cultivation of coffee, the fact that it typically loses its freshness after roasting, so it has to be kept in airtight containers, away from excessive heat and humidity.

Coffee Tree Symbolism

There is quite a long history when it comes to the coffee tree, with records stating that it was discovered in the 13th century in Ethiopia, till date where other countries in the world are now growing it. Caffeine has been credited by scientists for having many medicinal properties, including boosting the immune system and encouraging weight loss.

But apart from that, it is also riveting to learn that there is a cultural and spiritual significance attached to growing a coffee tree. For instance, coffee tree dreams are usually symbolic of intelligence, energy, perfection, or reawakening.

On the other hand, according to ancient literature, the coffee flowers were a symbol of passion and love, while planting the coffee tree itself in feng shui was attributed to positive energy and luck, particularly when growing it in your office or inside your house.

Frequently Asked Questions About Coffee Tree

Where Do Coffee Trees Grow?

Coffee trees are very particular about where they grow, which is why you will likely find them only on the ‘Bean Belt’ or areas between the tropics. They effortlessly grow in Africa, the Middle East, America (Central and Southern parts), and Asia (South East).

What Is Coffee Tree Growth Rate? (How Long It Takes To Grow Coffee Tree)?

Compared to other plants that you may want to grow, coffee is probably one of the slowest growers because it could take as much as five years before the fruits show. Even after fruiting, you will have to wait another 6 months before they ripen and are ready for harvesting.

How Much Carbon Does Coffee Tree Sequester?

The amount of carbon that a coffee tree sequesters varies greatly based on the region where it grows and, sometimes, the type of plants growing around it. For instance, studies have shown that the trees sequestered 18.8-48.5 tonnes of carbon per hectare in Ethiopia, while in other regions, the level can be as high as 130 C02/ ha.

Read More About Coffee Tree


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