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COFFEA arabica

Image of Coffea arabica

Gerald L. Klingaman

Family

Rubiaceae

Botanical Name

COFFEA arabica

Plant Common Name

Arabian Coffee, Coffee

General Description

Arabian or Arabica coffee is a lovely upright evergreen shrub with graceful gray-barked branches, fragrant white flowers and fruits (drupes) that yield some of the best coffee for drinking. Native to Ethiopia but now cultivated in wooded, high-altitude plantations throughout the tropics, Arabica coffee is by far the most economically important of all coffees, accounting for as much as 80 percent of all coffee grown worldwide.

Coffea arabica has been long cultivated and enjoyed by a variety of cultures. Early Ethiopians chewed the leaves and fruits to dispel fatigue. Coffee reached the Arab world by the 14th century and Europe by the 17th century. The Arabs protected their trade commodity closely, but the Dutch were able to secure seeds and start their own plantations in the East Indies. From then on it became a favorite drink throughout the western world and beyond.

The handsome, glossy, dark-green leaves of coffee shrubs are oval and often have wavy edges. The most flowers are produced in the wet season, usually in spring, and a lighter flush may be produced again in drier seasons. The small, white starry flowers are bee-pollinated and give rise to coffee beans, which are actually drupes and not true beans. The green fruits mature to red or purple. It is at this time they are harvested.

Post-harvest, the outer flesh of the fruits (sometimes called "cherries") are removed to reveal tan “beans.” These are then dried and the outer hulls cracked and removed and the inner beans roasted. Coffee can be roasted in various ways, from light to dark, which helps define the flavor and color of the final product.

Coffee shrubs typically grow in cool, tropical to subtropical high-altitude locations with distinct wet and dry growing seasons. They thrive in sites with partial or diffused sun and rich, fertile, well-drained soil with average pH. Some of the best coffee grows in volcanic soil. Coffee is sensitive to both frost and excessive heat.

More ornamental cultivars, such as the dwarf 'Nana', are sometimes available though most selections are strictly commercial and rarely available to the home gardener. Close relatives of Arabica coffee, including Coffea canephora (robusta coffee) and Coffea liberica (Liberian coffee), are also cultivated.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    10 - 15

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Broadleaf Evergreen

  • Sun Exposure

    Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    10'-15' / 3.0m - 4.6m

  • Width

    6'-8' / 1.8m - 2.4m

  • Bloom Time

    Early Spring, Spring

  • Native To

    Middle Africa

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White

  • Fruit Color

    Red

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Bark Color

    Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    Yes

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Fissured

  • Usage

    Alpine, Edible, Hedges, Houseplant, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Birds

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes