Tips to Grow and Care for Kentucky Coffee Trees


Whether it is a plant, a tree, or just a regular gardening day, planting a Kentucky coffee tree in your garden will undoubtedly make a one-of-a-kind statement. The tall tree has large, unusually colored leaves and large, woody, decorative pods.

If you want to plant Kentucky coffee trees in your yard, this blog is for you. We have covered some of the most important care tips and growing processes you should know. Let's explore with us.

What Is a Kentucky Coffee Tree?

The Kentucky coffee tree, also named American coffee berry, Kentucky mahogany, nicker tree, and stump tree, is a large, native, picturesque, deciduous, leguminous tree with spreading branches and striking summer foliage. It's an ornamental shade tree with enormous leaves, sometimes up to 3 feet long and 2 feet wide, that emerge as pinkish-bronze, then turn blue-green.

The majestic Kentucky coffee tree grows best in large, open areas with full sun. It's adaptable to a wide range of soil conditions and thrives in all types of temperatures and humidity levels except extreme heat.

Some Facts About the Kentucky Coffee Tree

Botanical Name Gymnocladus dioicus
Mature size60ft x 40ft over 50 years, slow-growing
Soil typeBroad tolerance but prefers deep, fertile loam
Time of year to plantDormant season, November to April
Flowering time of yearSummer
Flower colorSmall, star-shaped, greenish-white

Searching for How to Grow a Kentucky Coffee Tree for Your Home Garden? Let’s Find Out!

Whether in your front yard or backyard, a Kentucky coffee tree needs a medium to large space to grow, for it will reach over 60 feet eventually (within 50 years). Before growing one, you must know some of the facts about Kentucky coffee trees.

Initially, it grows slowly, but once established, it grows faster, putting on between 12 and 24 inches per year. Also, the Kentucky Coffee Tree 5 ft is more considerable.

Furthermore, it is one of the last trees to leaf up in the spring, late May to early June, and one of the first to lose its leaves in the fall. Other than that, it is an attractive option in yards that need a windbreak or shelterbelt.

Let's return to the main topic of how to grow the Kentucky coffee tree plant.

  1. The first step is to start by digging over a 1-meter square, making sure to dig around the loosened soil.
  2. Then, remove any weeds and other plants competing for moisture and nutrients while your tree grows. Use well-rotted manure or fertilizer to improve the soil in the planting area, but do not add it to the planting hole.
  3. Dig a slightly bigger plant hole than the root ball and place the plant carefully in the hole.
  4. Check that the top of the root ball is level with the ground and backfill with the dug-out soil.
  5. Firm the soil with your heel and check that the tree is upright. Now, wet the planting area with a bucket of water.

Growing Kentucky Coffee Tree From a Seed

If you plan to grow a Kentucky coffee tree from seed, you may face a little difficulty because of the hard exterior coating. You must first remove the outer layer to get the seeds to germinate. There are several methods for doing this, including filing off the coating, soaking seeds in sulfuric acid, or pouring boiling water over them and soaking them for 24 hours (simplest method).

After 24 hours, inspect the soaking seeds for discoloration, misshapen, or floating seeds and discard them. The remaining seeds can be sown immediately into pots with a 1:1 ratio of all-purpose potting soil and perlite. Water and drain the ground before making a small hole for the seed. Place pots in partial sunlight and keep the soil moist for up to 1 month or until the seeds germinate.

Growing a Kentucky Coffee Tree From a Seedling

The local garden nursery, online and offline, sells Kentucky coffee tree seedlings and also puts up different tree sale offers. They typically grow in small pots or trays and in partial sunlight. This seedling should extend 4 to 6 inches tall within months. When transplanting from a seedling, you should use organic fertilizer.

Growing a Kentucky Coffee Tree From a Cutting

It is also possible to grow Kentucky coffee trees from dormant root-cutting. This root-cutting should be young and taken from vigorous trees during their dormant months. Plant the root cutting horizontally, about 1 inch deep, in a pot filled with a peat, sand, and grit mixture after removing any lateral root shoots and tiny root fibers.

Kentucky Coffee Tree Care

Below, we have discussed some essential aspects of caring for your Kentucky coffee tree.


There is a wide range of soil conditions where they can grow, but the best is to grow in sandy loam. Also, as they are drought-tolerant trees, they are fine in dry spots.


The Kentucky coffee tree thrives in at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight. The tree can withstand some shade.


During prolonged drought, this tree will benefit from additional watering at its base every seven to ten days. However, it is drought-tolerant and should not require extra water.

Temperature and Humidity

The Kentucky coffee tree is not picky about temperature or humidity and can withstand harsh winters. It is unlikely to thrive in growing zones higher than 8. Also, it has difficulty growing in hot, dry climates.


Fertilize the Kentucky coffee tree with fertilizers that promote strong, woody growth rather than excessive foliage. Because the tree is a nitrogen fixer, avoid fertilizing with nitrogen-containing products.

More Care Tips

  • Water newly planted trees regularly during the first spring and summer. After the first season, trees only require watering during extended periods of dryness. Mulching with compost helps to retain moisture in the soil and keeps weeds and grass at bay.

  • There is no need to prune Kentucky coffee trees regularly; simply remove any diseased, dead, or crossing shoots that may appear in late winter or early spring.

  • Fertilization is only required when the trees are young, and after pruning and before hoeing into the surface in the spring, apply a general-purpose fertilizer to the root area.

Gardening is about more than just beautifying personal space; it's a way we can contribute to the health of our planet.

Growing a Kentucky coffee tree from seed may seem like a formidable task, but with the proper care and patience, it's an achievable gardening project that promises a great reward. Not only will you have a unique, robust tree, but you'll also be contributing to the health of your local ecosystem. With this guide, you're ready to embark on your Kentucky coffee tree-growing journey!

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