Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Random plant event: Coffea arabica

I wasn't all that fond of Coffea when I first wrote its profile, back in 2008. I mean, I didn't hate it, either, but the foliage on my plant was pretty plain, it grew faster than some plants but not as fast as others, the form wasn't particularly exciting, it didn't flower, etc. I mean, it was a nice enough plant, but it didn't really stand out in the crowd for me.

That all started to change around this time last year, after I began using fertilizer with trace elements at every watering. I knew before this that my plant was probably not getting as much of something as it wanted, because the new growth was occasionally chlorotic, but I was still surprised at how rapid and extreme the reaction to the fertilizer was. A year after this picture was taken --

Coffea arabica, February 2011. Pot: 8" / 20 cm.

-- I happened to be pulling the plant out of its spot in the corner of the plant room, when I noticed two things. One, the plant has nearly doubled in height:

Coffea arabica, March 2012. Pot: ~11" / 28 cm.

Which is pretty cool all by itself. Second, though, I think I may be getting flowers soon, 'cause I noticed these buds:

And, I think the flowers are supposed to be self-fertile, so there's a decent shot at getting berries eventually, which interests me quite a bit. Even if there are never berries, I'll be pretty happy, though: I'm very interested in what the flowers smell like.

Whatever happens with the flowers and berries and so forth, C. arabica somehow managed to sneak onto my favorite plants list without me noticing until now. It's given me very little trouble (the aforementioned chlorosis, and a recent tendency of the smaller plants in the pot to get crowded out by the larger ones, but that's about it), it grows a lot faster when it has . . . nutrients available (*cough*), the leaves are shiny, and it's where coffee comes from. I suppose I could ask for something easier to propagate, but aside from that, what's not to like?

(P.S.: I realize it's hard to tell from those pictures that the plant's nearly doubled in height, but you'll just have to trust me. It's presently about 4 feet / 1.3 m tall, and has lived here for a little over five years, which is, one, just about exactly the height when they're supposed to start flowering, and two, a couple years late. Which is not surprising, given the whole lack-of-fertilizer thing.)


Anna dlC from Toronto said...

Yep, 5 years is about the time mine started to flower and produce a bean (literally ONE bean). It's flowering like crazy again right now and I've been fertilizing it so I'm hoping to see more than one bean this time around. The flowers don't have much of a scent and they don't last very long at all but they are pretty while they do. Mine grey another 1/2 foot at least since the last time I emailed you about it so I'll have to send an updated pic.

Unknown said...

Huh.. I used to have one of these buggers. The flowers do smell nice, but don't expect anything magnificent out of the fruit. At one point ours was literally covered in blooms, and the resulting harvest was a single tiny nut.

Andrea said...

It's amazing when you see a plant growing in a pot, because we see it planted in orchards or under coconut trees in our property. The flowers' scent is lovely, although i prefer the citrus scent. But the profuse white bloom is very beautiful too. I hope those buds are really flowers, good luck.

Andrea said...

I forgot, maybe you can do a little pinching on the apex so the lower branches will grow more, and it will not be so tall but spreading.

Christina said...

May I ask what kind of fertilizer are you using? My coffea plant looks quite pale - I use miracle-gro pour&feed and it works with all my plants except the coffea arabica.

Thank you for your answer.

mr_subjunctive said...

I use Miracle Gro as well; I think it's 24-8-16 with micronutrients.