Denver Tree Care Encyclopedia: Kentucky Coffee Tree
americanarbor May 23, 2022

It got its name from early Kentucky settlers who thought the tree’s seeds looked like coffee beans, and they used them to build railway sleeper cars. Kentucky coffee trees can be found in backyards and parks throughout the Midwest, and they’re also scattered throughout Colorado. Let’s take a closer look at these trees and what conditions they need to grow healthy and strong.

What does the Kentucky coffee tree look like?

The Kentucky coffee tree can grow up to 75 feet tall and has an oval or round spread of 40 to 50 feet in width. They provide lots of shade for backyard picnics, but they grow slowly, at around 12 to 24 inches each year. Kentucky coffee trees produce green seed pods that are 5 to 10 inches in length that turn brown as the seasons change. They’re one of the last trees to produce leaves in the spring, but they’re well worth the wait. These trees produce lovely greenish-white flowers that bloom right when the leaves are maturing in late spring, and they smell like roses.

What does it need?

Kentucky coffee trees are easy to care for and they can withstand all kinds of environments. They can thrive in soils that are acidic or alkaline, and they don’t mind loamy, sandy, or clay soils. Kentucky coffee trees do prefer well-drained soil that’s moist, but they’re extremely drought-tolerant. More than anything, Kentucky coffee trees love the sun, and they prefer at least six hours of unfiltered sunlight every day.

When planting a Kentucky coffee tree in your yard, make sure it’s in a sunny spot where it will get plenty of sunlight each day. This is usually on the south side of your house or other structures that could obstruct it from the sun.

Where does it grow?

Native to the Midwest, Kentucky coffee trees grow best in hardiness zones 3 through 8. Although Denver is in a Mountain State, these trees grow well throughout the city since it’s in zones 5b and 6a. In fact, this tree can grow throughout Colorado with little problem at all. They’re drought-resistant and can handle just about any soil, and their branches are strong enough to withstand mountain winds with ease.

Why the Kentucky coffee tree grows well in Denver

The Kentucky coffee tree was first named in Kentucky, but it grows well throughout the Midwest and into the Mountain States. This is, in part, thanks to the tree’s impressive ability to grow in a variety of soils, environments and climates. The Kentucky coffee tree grows thick, strong branches that can handle Denver’s winter winds, and it can handle the varied loamy and clay soils that can be found throughout the city. They don’t have many issues with insects or diseases, and they’re extremely tolerant to pollution and droughts.

Additionally, Kentucky coffee trees grow very quickly when they’re young, developing a strong root structure that keeps them tough. As they continue to grow, they slow down and reach their full height over many years. This allows the Kentucky coffee tree to remain firmly rooted in the ground as it grows and matures.

These trees are the perfect choice if you’re looking for shade trees, since their leaves filter light and allow it to pass through gently. They’re also lovely ornamental trees that will add beauty to your landscape. 

If you’d like to learn more about the Kentucky coffee tree, or you’ve got questions about adding some to your yard, contact us. Our tree experts at American Arbor Care would be happy to help you.

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