Q. Can you tell me about coffee plants? Can I grow them in the North East?
Coffea arabica (coffee plant) is sometimes grown as a houseplant. It cannot tolerate low temperatures below 55 degrees. It is native to northeast tropical Africa (Southern Ethiopia, South Sudan (Boma Plateau); and possibly East Tropical Africa (Kenya, Mt Marsabit). It prefers a humid environment or leaf tips will turn brown or black. It is actually the major source of the familiar coffee bean (one of the two seeds held within a fleshy fruit). This shrub, which is single-stemmed when young but gradually becomes bushy, can grow 15 feet high outdoors but seldom grows more than 4 feet indoors. The dark green, glossy leaves are arranged on the stems in opposite pairs, are elliptic in shape, with pointed tips and undulating edges, and they grow up to 6 inches long and 2 inches wide. It takes about three or four years to produce 1/4-inch-wide, star-shaped, fragrant, white flowers, usually in mid summer or early fall. Booms are followed by 1/2-inch long fruits, which change color from green to red and then to nearly black. The dwarf form, C.a. 'Nana' may begin to bear flowers and fruit when only 1 1/2-2 feet tall.
Courtesy of the NYBG Plant Information Service
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