Elisabeth C. Miller Library logo Miller Library Home UW Botanic Gardens Home UW Botanic Gardens Home book graphic

3501 NE 41st Street, Seattle, WA 98195 | (206) 543 0415 | Open: | Library Schedule

Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Coffea, House plants

I want to grow coffee plants but mine always end up spindly and slow-growing, with just a top-knot of leaves. I keep them indoors near my only natural light source, which is north-facing. The top foliage seems healthy and thick, in fact too thick for the thin stems to support unaided. I don't water until the soil is less than half 'wet.'
I've tried cutting the top off and replanting a couple inches of the root and stem, to no avail. I've been trying with multiple plants for 15 years to get this right and I just seem to have a perpetual 'black thumb.'
Should I toss my top-heavy plants?


Are you providing as many of the optimum conditions for your Coffea (coffee plant)as possible? They may not be getting enough light. According to Rodale's Encyclopedia of Indoor Gardening (edited by Anne Halpin, 1980), coffee plants prefer bright, indirect light from an eastern or protected southern exposure. Other needs include evenly moist (but not soggy) soil, frequent misting, and monthly feeding during the growing season with mild balanced fertilizer. In the winter, reduce watering, but don't let the plant dry out. Ideal temperatures are 70 to 80 degrees in the day and 60 to 65 degrees at night. This plant dislikes being rootbound, and if it needs repotting it is best to do this in late winter with fresh potting soil. To prevent leggy, straggly growth, this book recommends pinching the stems. Here is a bit more information on this plant, from Missouri Botanical Garden.

The other issue to consider besides lack of light (which is probably the main cause of the slow and spindly growth) is the plant's age. According to Reader's Digest Success with House Plants (1979), Coffea is single-stemmed when young, and only in time becomes bushy. If yours are younger plants, they may be out of balance now but could fill out as they mature.

Date 2018-03-01
Link to this record only (permalink)

Didn't find an answer to your question? Ask us directly!

Browse keywords

Search Again:

May 31 2018 13:14:08