Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Unfinished business: Coffea arabica

My big huge Coffea is no more. Sort of. It always was multiple plants in the same pot, but the biggest one started dropping leaves and branches after it came in for the winter. Eventually I chopped off the top 5 feet / 1.5 m, give or take, but the leaves are still falling, just more slowly. I'm not sure what happened; my best guess is that having the plant sitting on the cold concrete floor of the plant room was too cold for too long. Though that wouldn't explain why the next-largest plant in that pot has done fine, and has added about a foot and a half (0.5 m) of new growth during the winter even though it was in the same soil.

The plant used to be slightly taller than the stake.

Possibly light was a problem too: the Coffea had been living in the northwest corner of the plant room, which was cold, but bright. It was too big to put back there this winter, though, so it wound up further from windows, getting a lot less light.

In any case. The plant is dead(-ish), but it lives on in spirit, because I'd harvested a ton of seeds from it before it died, and those seeds have been sprouting for a few weeks now. (The tiny first batch took 57 days before the first seed did something visible, the big second batch took less than 67 but I don't know how many exactly; the big third batch took 45 days, and I'm still waiting on the big fourth batch; so far it's taken about 44 days, so I should be seeing sprouts very soon.) I've been pulling seedlings out of the vermiculite and potting them into soil when I see the seed leaves, like this:

I've been putting three seedlings together per pot, and I'm already up to 26 pots, plus six pots from last year. It's theoretically possible, based on the number of seeds I harvested, that I could wind up with 150 Coffea plants at some point. I do like Coffea arabica a lot, and I never want seeds I start to fail, exactly, but in this particular instance I wouldn't mind if . . . fewer seeds succeeded than usual.


Elke Schwarzer said...

That was exactly the same with my coffee plant. It was three in the same pot and all but one died on me. The leaves were not falling off, just hanging there, drooping and looking really dead.
I hat to cut two of the three plants down, the third ist thriving.
Leave-shedding after getting the plants indoors in autumn is pretty normal, but this hanging-leaves problem definitely is not.

Laura @ Raise Your Garden said...


I have a coffee plant too. But my plant is only about 5 inches tall, still, I'm so proud of it!!!

I mean, I live in Buffalo, keep it in my sunniest window and basically do my best for it.

Then, my mother comes over. She gave me the plant in the first place and always complains it never has enough water. But I thought these plants liked to dry out a bit and then get deluged with water?!? Help! We don't have coffee plants in Buffalo, so I need all the help I can get!

And...is there any hope for coffee beans for me or not? I would love to think I'd get a few coffee beans if I keep nurturing my plant. Wish I could send a pic to get a full evaluation but I'm not that great with technology. Great post! Thanks!

mr_subjunctive said...

Laura @ Raise Your Garden:

Well, it's complicated.

Your mom's not wrong. They do like a lot of water. That said, if you're watering before the leaves droop, and the plant seems to be doing fine (leaves are solid green, not dropping lots of leaves at once, producing steady new growth), you probably don't need to change anything.

You don't usually see flowers until the plant is about 4-5 years old (at about 4-5 feet tall); once you start seeing flowers, berries are pretty much inevitable. If your plant is only about 5 inches tall, then either you've only had it a short time and it's about 4-6 months old, or it's potbound and should be moved up to a slightly larger pot. (I up-pot my plants about every year, year and a half.)