Mature coffee plants in full flower
How to grow a coffee plant from seed

Everyone is familiar with coffee, and you can purchase the beans readily enough when required to ground down and make a steaming cup of coffee. However, be aware that you cannot germinate these beans as they have been roasted prior to package - rendering them effectively lifeless.

The actual bean is of course the seed. When harvested and cultivated correctly will germinate and grow into a new coffee plant capable of producing its own beans. The two most commonly used species for coffee production is Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora. Coffea arabica is indigenous to the forests of the southwestern highlands of Ethiopia, while Coffea canephora has its origins in central and western sub-Saharan Africa

To grow a coffee plant from seed you will first need to purchase fresh, viable coffee seeds. These can usually be found at specialist seed suppliers online or available in good quality garden centers.

Once you have received your coffee seeds they will need to be soaked in tepid, sterilised or distilled water for 24 hours. Cooled, previously boiled water will be fine

Using a modular seed tray filled with damp sand or preferably wet vermiculite in which the excess water has been drained sow the seeds by pressing inseed into the surface of the media, but do not bury. Otherwise, you can place the seeds between moist hessian material, which should be watered twice a day. Drain off the excess water as the roots will not survive waterlogged conditions. Place the coffee seeds in a warm bright position but out of direct sunlight. Using a heated propagator will provide the fastest germination times, use a temperature of between 18-22 degrees Celsius. Germination time will be between 2 and 6 months depending on rooting temperature.

Once the coffee seeds have germinated and are large enough to handle, very carefully remove it from modular tray hessian fabric disturbing the root system as little as possible. Those seedlings grown in vermiculite should lift out with the least damage.

Using 9-10 cm terracotta pots containing a well-drained slightly acidic (ericaceous) loam soil with a high humus content, make a hole about 1.25 cm deep and gently plant the coffee seedling. If you are growing a large number of seedlings then consider adding well-rotted manure, bone meal, and dried blood to the compost mixture. The seeds should be watered daily to keep the roots moist at all times, but again allow any excess water to drain away.

Orchid fertilizer can be used once a month.

The coffee plant has evolved to grow in tropical conditions and so cannot be left to grow outside in mediterranean or temperate climates. Once established, water twice a week, keep the soil moist but well drained. You can expect your speciment to reach flowering age after 2-3 years, which of course are followed by coffee berries.

Main image credit - CC BY-SA 3.0,

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