Pruning a coffee tree

(Question)

I was given a 6 foot tall coffee tree that is desperately in need of pruning as the former owners never did anything but periodically repot it. It is very skinny and top heavy, with foliage only on the top 3 feet. As it needs to come inside for the winter, I’m concerned it’ll only grow taller and not bushier without some kind of trimming. The trunk is not very thick—about 2″ at the base and thinning out to about 1″ for the remainder. Should I cut the top off and try to re-root it? Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thx.

(Answer)

Coffee plants prefer dappled sunlight in southern latitudes, and full sunlight in Northern latitudes. They are actually understory or marginal plants so they  do not like a lot of direct, harsh sunlight. Plants that are exposed to too much light will develop leaf-browning. Coffee plants require  regular watering and high humidity. Reduce watering and let the soil dry out during winter months. These plants love a rich, peat-based soil with adequate drainage. Plants should be fed with a weak 10-10-10- fertilizer during the growing season; however, fertilizer should be cut back to once a month during the winter. A healthy coffee plant can grow up to six feet tall.  The best time to prune and repot your coffee plant is early spring to keep it bushy and full.  Use clean pruning shears to cut the stem at a 45° angle, 6mm above a leaf axil (the place where a leaf attaches to the stem). Normally, to encourage branching and bushing out  the central leader  the plant would be cut  down to 50cm when the plant reaches 75 cm in height.

Alternatively you can propagate your coffee plant by taking tip cuttings. Once again, spring is the best time to take these cuttings. A tip cutting is usually comprised of the tip bud and a length of stem that contains 2-3 nodes (point of leaf attachment). Using a sharp knife make a clean, diagonal cut just above a node . Dip the cut end in some rooting hormone.  Place the cuttings  into a well draining potting soil medium such as that used for growing cactus and  mix in 20% perlite. Make sure that the soil is moist and does not dry out. Roots should develop in roughly 4 to 6 weeks.

Good Luck!