Monday, August 5, 2013

Unfinished business: Coffea arabica

So I'm thinking it's time for an update on the Coffea arabica seedlings. The last time we checked in with them, in April, most of them had germinated, but there were no leaves to speak of.

My mid-May, the seed leaves (cotyledons) had pushed their way out of the seed coat, and there were the beginnings of some true leaves:

(18 May)

By early June, most of the seeds had produced some true leaves. I never did get germination from most of the group of seeds that I dried for four or five days (the three pots on the right), but the seeds dried for eight weeks (the six pots on the left) all did well.

(11 June)

By the end of June, I decided that they'd all pretty much done whatever they were going to do, and that it was time to transplant them to soil. I was really nervous about doing this, because they'd been doing so well in the vermiculite, and I wasn't sure how they would respond to the transplant, but I did it anyway --

(25 June)

-- and I think only one was lost, which was stunted to begin with. (One of the four-or-five-day group came up between the 11th and 25th of June, but it stalled; even after I removed its seed coat, it didn't grow or open the cotyledons or anything, and it died after transplant.)

So in summary: all 18 of the eight-week seeds germinated and survived transplant; only 4 of the 9 four-or-five-days seeds germinated, and only 3 of those survived transplant. Clearly an eight-week dry is better.

I moved them outside after transplanting, too, which seems to have been fine. By mid-July, they all appeared to be in good shape.

(12 July)

As of 2 August, there's some chlorosis starting on a few of them, which no doubt has to do with the fact that fertilizing the plants outside is a little more complicated than fertilizing the indoor ones, so I don't do it as often. Perhaps they should come back inside.

(2 August, with an adopted Murraya paniculata seedling that needed a place to live)

So they're not necessarily growing super quickly, or without any problems, but there's been a lot of progress since April, and I think the overall situation is still good. If nothing else, I've got a much better understanding of why small Coffea arabica plants are for sale everywhere I go: they're just really easy to produce, and you don't have to have all that many stock plants producing berries. Right now, my parent plant has at least a couple hundred berries developing on it, with a handful of flowers besides, and it can't be more than about eight years old. I don't know if I want to germinate all the seeds, when the berries are ripe, but I'm not ruling it out.


Ginny Burton said...

They are very handsome plants! Maybe you could have a contest with the seeds as prizes. Or start your own bonsai coffee plantation.

mr_subjunctive said...

Ginny Burton:

Coffee plantation is definitely under consideration, though not a bonsai one. (Though now that you bring it up, I wonder whether Coffea is even bonsaiable.) We do drink a lot of coffee here; it'd be neat to be able to produce some of our own supply. Probably not practical, granted. But neat.

gnomedeplume said...

Roasting seeds in a hot air popcorn popper works.

Is there any advantage in separating the seedlings and potting them up individually? Is it wiser to wait until they've grown larger? Is it necessary at all?

RMR said...

Are you keeping all of those. Can I buy one? Would that even work? Your posts on Coffea have me longing for one, but I'm far too lazy to go out looking in this miserable heat.

mr_subjunctive said...


It's probably marginally better for the seedlings to get their own pots, because there's a chance that they'll crowd one another out later, once the root systems get bigger and they have to compete for space. I left them potted together when I transplanted them mainly because eight pots takes up a lot less room than twenty-one pots, but also because I'm pondering trying to sell them, and fuller-looking plants are more sellable.

The original plant, that produced all of these, was originally about seven seeds planted together in a pot; only three of those are still alive, and two out of those three are probably not going to last much longer. But that's fine, so long as the remaining plant continues to grow so well.


Sure. Send me an e-mail and we'll figure something out.