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Why Is My Coffee Plant Not Doing Well? Here’s How To Fix It

In my first year of caring for my coffee plants, it has been a rollercoaster. Last year, they were growing like crazy, even in the shade. But things took a turn for the worse this year. I tried changing their pots to a larger size to see if that would help, but they just kept deteriorating.

By mid-August, I knew something was seriously wrong. I moved them from the shady spot to a sunnier location, but there’s been little to no growth since then.

I’ve got three coffee plants, each in its own pot, and they’re all showing the same symptoms. Their previous spot only received morning sunlight, while their current spot gets sunlight from around noon until the evening. But after doing some digging and chatting with a plant expert, I figured out where I was going wrong.

In this article, I’ll walk you through the main reasons your coffee plant might be struggling and offer solutions with accompanying photos.

Why Is My Coffee Plant Drooping? Here’s A Symptom-By-Symptom Guide

Case 1: Leaves are falling off

If your coffee plant is shedding its leaves, the most common culprits are “cold temperatures,” “lack of sunlight,” and “over-drying.” Particularly in the fall and winter, your coffee plant might be dropping leaves because of the cold.

Keep an eye on young plants that are around 12 inches (30 cm) or shorter. Young coffee plants are especially sensitive to cold, and you’ll notice that their lower leaves might get damaged, leaving the plant looking sparse.

To keep your coffee plant from dying, it needs temperatures around 46°F (8°C). But to maintain those beautiful leaves, you’ll need at least 59°F (15°C).

And don’t forget about the sunlight! While coffee plants can tolerate some shade, insufficient sunlight will weaken the plant and cause it to shed leaves. Even in winter, make sure it gets as much light as possible.

A word of caution about moving it into direct sunlight

Coffee plants love sunlight, but be careful not to move them directly from indoors to strong outdoor light. This can lead to “leaf scorch,” a condition where the leaves turn brown as if they’ve been burnt. To prevent leaf scorch, don’t move your plant suddenly into bright light. Instead, take a few days to gradually acclimate it to the increased light levels.

If you’re keeping the plant indoors, start by placing it where it can receive soft light through lace curtains.

Case 2: Leaf Tips Are Drying Out

If the tips of your coffee plant’s leaves are turning brown and drying out, this is likely due to “root-bound” conditions. Coffee plants have roots that spread easily, often becoming cramped in their pots.

Take a look at the bottom of the pot; if roots are protruding, it’s time to act. Even if they aren’t, the plant may still be root-bound. I checked my coffee plant’s soil surface, and when I dug around just about 1-2 inches (2-3 cm), the roots were packed in there.

Leaving a root-bound condition untreated can cause the leaves to turn brown or even fall off. If you notice this, replant your coffee plant in a slightly larger pot during the warmer months, from spring to fall.

Signs Your Coffee Plant Is Root-Bound

  • Roots protrude from the bottom of the pot.
  • You haven’t replanted in over 2 years.
  • Water doesn’t easily soak into the soil after watering.

Case 3: Droopy Leaves

If your coffee plant’s leaves are drooping, inspect the surface of the soil. Dry soil indicates possible dehydration.

In this case, give it a good watering. If the soil is moist and the leaves are still drooping, you might be overwatering. Be particularly careful with watering in the winter.

Seasonal Watering Guide for Coffee Plants:

  • Spring & Fall (when temps are above around 68°F): Water generously when the soil dries out.
  • Summer: Water generously when the surface soil dries, ideally in the cooler evening hours.
  • Winter (when temps are below around 68°F): Wait 2-3 days after the soil dries before watering generously.

Case 4: Brown Leaves

If you notice brown spots appearing on your coffee plant’s otherwise glossy leaves, this could be a sign of “leaf scorch,” especially likely in the hot summer months.

This condition, unfortunately, is irreversible. Too much “leaf scorch” weakens the plant, making it susceptible to further stress.

Case 5: Leggy Growth

If your coffee plant suddenly looks weak and leggy this may be due to insufficient light. Also, consider factors like “cold” or “root rot.” I noticed that one of my coffee plant saplings lost its lower leaves due to cold, making it look quite sparse.

Coffee plants are typically sensitive to cold and often suffer from insufficient light indoors during the winter. A lack of light can lead to “legginess,” where the plant grows tall with wide gaps between leaves.

This not only makes the plant look bad but also weakens it, making it more susceptible to stress and pests. Unfortunately, you can’t reverse the legginess, but you can prevent it by placing your plant in a well-lit, well-ventilated area.

Case 6: The Coffee Plant Leaves are Deformed

If you’re noticing that your coffee plant is looking a bit down and the leaves are misshapen, there are some key culprits to consider: “fertilizer burn” and “pest damage.” Take a look at the photo below. Here, the deformed leaves are due to excessive fertilization.

During winter, coffee plants slow down their growth as the temperature drops. Consequently, their roots become less effective at absorbing moisture.

You might think, “It’s been a bit lackluster since autumn, maybe I should add some fertilizer!”

But in winter, the plant’s growth nearly halts due to lower temperatures, and adding unnecessary fertilizers or water can harm the roots. This can result in misshapen or damaged leaves.

So, what’s the deal with a pest called “scale insects” that commonly affects coffee plants?

Scale insects are close relatives of stink bugs and aphids, with an incredibly diverse range—there are more than 7,000 species worldwide!

These tiny critters, about 1mm in size (around 0.04 inches), look like white cotton and attach themselves to the underside of leaves and at the base, gradually weakening the plant as they suck its juices.

If the surface of the leaves feels sticky, it’s likely that scale insects are present. Once their population increases, they can be really bothersome and hard to get rid of.

Moreover, their excrement can also lead to sooty mold (a disease where leaves get covered in black soot).

If you spot them, remove and treat them as soon as possible, especially as they tend to appear more frequently from spring to fall.

Summary on Reviving a Dull Coffee Plant

We’ve explored various reasons and remedies for when your coffee plant isn’t at its best. While you may be tempted to water the plant excessively when it appears unhealthy, be cautious as this can lead to root rot.

Always observe your plant carefully and adjust your care techniques based on the time of year and existing conditions.

Common symptoms and their main causes:

  • Falling leaves: Likely due to “cold weather (in fall/winter),” “lack of sunlight,” “excessive dryness,” etc.
  • Tips of leaves drying: Mainly due to “root-bound” conditions.
  • Droopy leaves: Likely due to “excessive dryness,” “root rot (from overwatering),” etc.
  • Brown leaves: Caused mainly by “leaf burn (especially during high temperatures),” “cold weather,” etc.
  • Leggy growth: Most likely due to “insufficient light.”
  • Deformed leaves: Usually due to “fertilizer burn” or “pest infestation.”

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