Caffeine and plant growth

Will Caffeine Affect Plant Growth – Tips On Fertilizing Plants With Caffeine

Coffee contains caffeine, which is addictive. Caffeine, in the form of coffee (and mildly in the form of CHOCOLATE!), might be said to make the world go round, as many of us rely on its stimulating benefits. Caffeine, in fact, has intrigued scientists, leading to recent studies regarding caffeine use in gardens. What have they discovered? Read on to find out about caffeine uses in gardens.

Fertilizing Plants with Caffeine

Many gardeners, including myself, add coffee grounds directly to the garden or into the compost. The gradually breaking down of the grounds improves the quality of the soil. They contain about 2% nitrogen by volume, and as they break down, the nitrogen is released.

This makes it sound like fertilizing plants with caffeine would be an excellent idea, but pay attention to the part about breaking down. Un-composted coffee grounds may actually stunt the growth of plants. It is better to add them to the compost bin and allow the microorganisms to break them down. Fertilizing plants with caffeine will definitely affect plant growth but not necessarily in a positive manner.

Will Caffeine Affect Plant Growth?

What purpose does caffeine serve, other than to keep us awake? In coffee plants, the caffeine building enzymes are members of N-methyltransferases, which are found in all plants and build a variety of compounds. In the case of caffeine, the N-methyltranferase gene mutated, creating a biological weapon.

For instance, when coffee leaves drop, they contaminate the soil with caffeine, which curtails germination of other plants, lessening competition. Obviously, that means too much caffeine can have a detrimental effect on plant growth.

Caffeine, a chemical stimulant, increases the biological processes in not only humans but plants as well. These processes include the ability to photosynthesize and absorb water and nutrients from the soil. It also increases the pH levels in the soil. This increase in acidity can be toxic to some plants.

Studies involving the use of caffeine on plants have shown that, initially, cell growth rates are stable but soon the caffeine begins to kill or distort these cells, resulting in a dead or stunted plant.

Caffeine as an Insect Repellent

Caffeine use in the garden isn’t all doom and gloom, however. Additional scientific studies have shown caffeine to be an effective slug and snail killer. It also kills mosquito larvae, hornworms, milkweed bugs, and butterfly larvae. The use of caffeine as an insect repellent or killer apparently interferes with food consumption and reproduction, and also results in distorted behavior by suppressing enzymes in the insects’ nervous systems. It is a naturally derived ingredient, unlike commercial insecticides that are full of chemicals.

Interestingly, while high doses of caffeine are toxic to insects, the nectar of coffee blossoms has trace amounts of caffeine. When insects feed on this spiked nectar, they get a jolt from the caffeine, which helps etch the scent of the flowers into their memories. This ensures that the pollinators will remember and revisit the plants, thereby spreading their pollen.

Other insects that feed on the leaves of coffee plants and other plants containing caffeine have, over time, evolved taste receptors that help them identify plants with caffeine and avoid them.

A final word on the use of coffee grounds in the garden. Coffee grounds contain potassium, which attracts earthworms, a boon to any garden. The release of some nitrogen is also a plus. It isn’t the caffeine in the grounds that has any bearing on increased plant growth, but the introduction of other minerals available in the coffee grounds. If the idea of caffeine in the garden has you spooked, however, use decaf grounds and allow them to break down before spreading the resulting compost.

Ask an Expert: Effect of caffeine on plant growth

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Can coffee stimulate plant growth?

By Jeff Lund
Freelance writer – Ketchikan, Alaska
@alaskalund on Instagram

Every year, there are car-sized plants shown at the Alaska State Fair. Well, any state fair, but the thing that makes it special in Alaska is the growing season is so short – just three months – but with 24 hours of daylight, it makes up for a lack of days.

I can’t look at the state record pumpkin (1,287 pounds) and not think it’s the Barry Bonds of the farm. That’s not just tender loving care or a green thumb. Something else is going on.

So that got me thinking, can coffee stimulate plant growth?
I had previously heard that adding coffee grounds to the soil around roses can stimulate growth as long as it’s not overdone. But is it the grounds specifically, or simply the addition of “organic matter” to the soil?

It seems that there would be elements in coffee grounds that would stimulate growth and apparently there is some legitimacy to this, but it depends, naturally, on the plant and who you ask.

Not surprisingly, this is a question little kids answer in science experiments, and even by scientists at the beginning of the 20th century.

Maybe the impact of coffee grounds on the growth of plants is a lot like an individual’s approach to health.

How to recycle coffee rounds

So, if the verdict is somewhat unclear with regards to coffee grounds as a plant stimulant, there have to be other things for which the grounds can be used.

Two of the most interesting ways to recycle grounds is to use them in candles, and to help clean a fireplace.

The coffee candle seems nice, but I’m not about to make that my Saturday night.

However, cleaning the fireplace is intriguing. I grew up in a home on an island in southeast Alaska and the primary heating source was a wood-burning fireplace. Shoveling out the ash was always a mess. Sprinkling the wet grounds to help keep plumes of ash from rising after each shovel seems legit. It’s not exactly a life hack by any means, but there is a chance that I might think about possibly doing it one day when I am back in my childhood home this summer doing what used to be a childhood chore.

This is an interesting list that includes a fishing application. Since I don’t use worms and only use bait when I’m fishing for king salmon or halibut it’s not applicable, but I do respect the attempt. The slightly abrasive texture of grounds makes them useful for scrubbing, but I’m not sure I’d want to scrub my dog with used PR Blend. Nor would I likely use it as a beauty use.

But I won’t judge anyone who does.

More Articles…

Does Coffee Stunt Your Growth?

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I love coffee but people tell me that it stunts your growth. Is that true?
– Tara*

No, coffee doesn’t stunt a person’s growth. How tall you are mostly depends on your

. Good nutrition is also important to reach your maximum height potential.

But coffee does contain caffeine. For most people, a cup or two of coffee a day doesn’t do any harm. But if you’re drinking more — especially if you’re also getting caffeine from other sources, like soda or energy drinks — you may want to cut back. That’s because high doses of caffeine can cause restlessness, anxiety, dizziness, headaches, and insomnia.

Caffeine can cause problems for people who have heart problems or are taking some kinds of medicines.

It’s best to ask your doctor if you should stop or cut back on drinking coffee. If you decide to, do so gradually. Stopping suddenly can cause unpleasant symptoms such as headaches, irritability, and tiredness.

*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD Date reviewed: July 2018

Will Drinking Coffee Really Stunt Your Growth?

Coffee: It’s a beverage with lore and legend as rich as a double caramel latte.

An advertisement from the first coffeehouse in England promoted coffee as “good against sore eyes” and “excellent to prevent and cure the dropsy, gout, and scurvy.” In the early 1700s, Germans believed the beverage made women sterile. An old wives’ tale states that if bubbles appear in your java, you’re due to come into money — not a bad thing considering the price of a cuppa these days.


In more recent times, another idea took hold of the public’s imagination regarding coffee — that it had the power to stunt a child’s growth. But just as a pot of coffee boiling over doesn’t mean it’s going to rain (again from those old wives), the assertion that the drink makes for a nation of hobbits has been proven false.

How coffee got associated with this myth is cloaked in the espresso-colored steam of history, but most experts agree that it has something to do with an early study linking caffeine to reduced bone mass and osteoporosis. Those studies, however, were conducted on elderly people whose diets were lacking in calcium, which could easily have explained the loss of bone mass.

Subsequent studies showed that women aged 65 to 77 who drank about 18 ounces of caffeine daily did have greater bone loss over a three-year period than those who didn’t. But the effects occurred only in women with unusual variations in their vitamin D cell receptors — and were completely mitigated if the women ingested the recommended daily allowance of 1,200 mg of calcium a day .

Focusing exclusively on children, a more recent study tracked 81 teenagers for six years. The result? There was no difference in bone density between the biggest buzz catchers and those who drank the least amount of caffeine . But just because a cup of joe doesn’t keep little Joe pint-sized all his life doesn’t mean there isn’t cause to be concerned about children and coffee, as we’ll see in the next section.


The effects of caffeine

How does caffeine intake affect teenagers’ minds and bodies, and should we be worried? As clinical psychologist Gemma Cribb explains, “Caffeine acts as a central nervous system stimulant to increase alertness and make you feel less worn-out. It binds to the adenosine receptors in your brain, preventing the chemical from making you feel tired.”

And while feeling less tired may seem beneficial for overworked adults, the effects of caffeine in teenagers can be far-reaching. Studies show that caffeine consumption can affect a teenager’s concentration and ability to sleep, which in turn may slow the maturing process of their brains. And according to Nutrition Australia, because of their smaller body weight (on average), caffeine has more than twice the impact on children than it does on adults. This means children and young adolescents are more susceptible to caffeine-related symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia and nervousness.

Additionally, studies have suggested that the adolescent brain is more susceptible to stress and addiction due to the way the developing brain is wired. “During adolescence, the brain has the most neural connections it will ever have in your life,” Cribb explains. “Caffeine (with its effects on sleep) will disrupt your brain’s ability to form these connections.”

And in very rare cases, coffee could put pressure on the heart if consumed in very high doses, particularly where there could be an existing heart condition, reports the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Coffee vs energy drinks

Aside from coffee and tea, soft drinks such as Coca Cola, and in particular energy drinks, can include high levels of both caffeine and sugar. Cancer Council’s recent research found that 1 in 6 Australian teenage boys drink at least 52 litres of soft drink every year, which considering that some energy drinks can have as much as 320mg of caffeine in them (equivalent to 2–3 cups of coffee), is a reason for concern.

The mix of caffeine and sugar can also affect mood, according to dietitian Susie Burrell. She says that after drinking an energy drink, teenagers can “experience a ‘down’ period about 30-40 minutes afterwards”, which can lead to poor health choices. This correlates to research conducted by Cancer Council, which found that teenagers who drink soft drinks and energy drinks are twice as likely to also be consuming more junk food.

“Consuming too much caffeine can stop a teenager from getting adequate nutrition,” says Cribb. “Especially if they choose to drink coffee and soda rather than consuming more nutrient-dense foods, for example.”

The pressure to perform

The rise in teenagers’ caffeine consumption could easily be put down to marketing and popular culture embracing coffee and performance drinks, but Cribb believes it might be societal pressures that make caffeine more attractive to teenagers.

“There is a lot of pressure on teenagers to perform,” she says. “They feel the need to keep up with social media, their homework and the fast pace of modern life in general. And they see caffeine as giving them an edge.”

At what age is caffeine safe?

Burrell advises that adolescents under 14 should avoid caffeine where possible, and teenagers between 14 and 17 years of age should limit their intake to 100mg or less a day.

“Some teenagers are drinking 4 large coffees, an energy drink plus a cola drink in a day. That could equate to as much as 500-600mg of caffeine. That’s why, as a rule, energy drinks that are high in sugar and stimulants should be avoided altogether.”

“They’re all descendants of a common ancestor enzyme that started screwing around with xanthosine compounds,” said Victor A. Albert, an evolutionary biologist at the University at Buffalo and co-author of the new study.

Scientists had already determined that caffeine was also made in other plants, like tea and cacao, by N-methyltransferases. But by sequencing the coffee genome, Dr. Albert and his colleagues were able to make a more detailed comparison of the genes in different species. They discovered that in cacao, the enzymes manufacturing caffeine did not evolve from the same ancestors as those in coffee.

In other words, the coffee plant and cacao plant took different evolutionary paths to reach the same destination. Evolutionary biologists call this sort of process convergent evolution.

Birds, for example, evolved wings when their finger bones fused together and sprouted feathers more than 150 million years ago. Bats, on the other hand, evolved wings about 60 million years ago when their fingers stretched out and became covered in membranes.

When convergent evolution produces the same complex trait more than once, it’s usually a sign of a powerfully useful adaptation. Experiments with coffee plants offer some clues as to why evolution would reinvent caffeine so often.

When coffee leaves die and fall to the ground, they contaminate the soil with caffeine, which makes it difficult for other plants to germinate. Coffee may thus use caffeine to kill off the competition.

Coffee plants also use caffeine to ward off insects that would otherwise feast on their leaves and beans. At high doses, caffeine can be toxic to insects. As a result, insects have evolved taste receptors that help them avoid ingesting caffeine.

Why Plants Make Caffeine

So it seems that caffeinated plants are lucky to have this compound as part of their natural defences, but it doesn’t deter all attackers. For instance, caffeine doesn’t poison humans in the doses that we typically ingest (even a Monday morning dose), but it does cause addiction. It works by stopping the enzyme phosphodiesterase from breaking down a signalling substance called cyclic AMP (cAMP for short) and its close relatives. One of the actions of the stress hormone adrenaline is to increase the levels of cAMP in cells, so by preventing cells from breaking down cAMP, caffeine potentiates the action of adrenaline, and gives us a buzz. In even higher doses, and with prolonged use, it can trigger anxiety, muscle tremors, palpitations and fast heart rates, and profound withdrawal effects including headaches, inability to think clearly, and bad moods whenever you mistakenly switch to decaff !

Caffeine-containing plants may be safe from certain insects, vertebrates, bacteria and fungi, but they are preyed on by humans who love the rush it gives them. Not so lucky then, I guess? But there is a hypothesis that plants synthesise psychoactive compounds to target and manipulate humans in particular. In other words, if humans desire the plants, then they will cultivate them. The plants may get processed and eaten up by humans, but because they have been better cared for, they will be able to produce more offspring first. If this hypothesis is true, I think caffeine-producing plants should win whatever the highest international award is for human psychology.

Sources of caffeine

Caffeine is an alkaloid occurring naturally in some 60 plant species, of which cocoa beans, kola nuts, tea leaves and coffee beans are the most well-known. Other natural sources of caffeine include yerba maté, guarana berries, guayusa, and the yaupon holly1. Caffeine is added to many popular soft drinks, and is also a component of a number of pharmacological preparations and over-the-counter medicines including analgesics, diet-aids, and cold/flu remedies.

Typical amounts in food and beverages

The amount of caffeine consumed in beverages varies enormously and is dependent, for example, on the strength of the drink, and the amount consumed with cup size playing a key role. Coffea canephora (robusta) is known to contain more caffeine than Coffea Arabica (arabica)1-3. However, as a basic guideline an average sized cup of soluble coffee contains approximately 65mg caffeine, whilst a cup of roast and ground coffee contains around 85mg. A 30ml espresso cup contains around 50-60mg caffeine. Finally, a can of cola or a cup of tea contains 25-45mg caffeine. Tea actually contains more caffeine than coffee on a dry weight basis, but a smaller weight of tea is generally used to prepare a brew. Decaffeinated coffee generally provides less than 3mg caffeine per cup. Cocoa and chocolate contain much smaller amounts of caffeine.

This information is intended for Healthcare professional audiences.
Please consider the environment before printing.

Ms Allen – Task 1 Caffeine 1 What purpose does caffeine…

Task 1: Caffeine 1.What purpose does caffeine serve for the living plant containing it?It acts as a natural pesticide. 2. Caffeine acts on the central nervous system as what class of drug?Caffeine acts as a central nervous system stimulant. 3. List five other names for caffeine. Mateine, Guaranine, Trimethylxanthine, Methyltheobromine, Theine. 4. What is the world’s primary source of caffeine?The world’s primary source of caffeine is the coffee bean. 5. Why does dark roast coffee have less caffeine than lighter roasts? If you are buying a cup of coffee and the coffee is measured by weight then dark roast will have slightly more caffeine. BUT if you buy a cup of coffee and it is measured by volume then light roast will be higher in caffeine because you will have more coffee grounds. 6. How much chocolate would you have to eat to get the same amount of caffeine found in two cups of regular coffee? You would have to eat about 20 chocolate bars to get the same amount of caffeine that two cups of coffee has. 1 chocolate bar has 10mg of caffeine and 1 cup of coffee has 100mg of caffeine.

How Caffeine Works

Caffeine is a naturally occurring chemical stimulant called trimethylxanthine. Its chemical formula is C8H10N4O2 (see Erowid: Caffeine Chemistry for an image of the molecular structure). It is a drug, and actually shares a number of traits with more notorious drugs such as amphetamines, cocaine and heroin. As we’ll explain in more detail in the next few pages, caffeine uses the same biochemical mechanisms as these other drugs to stimulate brain function: If you feel like your mind is racing after drinking one too many espressos, you’re not imagining things.

In its pure form, caffeine is a white crystalline powder that tastes very bitter. It is medically useful to stimulate the heart and also serves as a mild diuretic, increasing urine production to flush fluid out of the body.


Caffeine has been an integral part of global culture for hundreds of years. African folklore sets the discovery of coffee’s energizing properties around 800 A.D., European and Asian accounts indicate that coffee and tea were local staples as early as the 1400s. Although coffee was often seen as a rare luxury for societies far removed from coffee-growing regions, foods and drinks made from other caffeine-containing plants were likely part of humankind’s medical and nutritional arsenal since before recorded history .

Today, caffeine is used much as it has been for generations: It provides a “boost of energy” or a feeling of heightened alertness. Many former students can recall using strong coffee or caffeine pills to stay awake while cramming for finals. Likewise, drivers on long road trips often fill their cup holders with energy drinks or convenience-store coffees to help them push through to their destinations.

Remember, though, that caffeine shares some traits of those much harder drugs — including the ability to cause addiction. Many people feel as though they cannot function in the morning without a cup of coffee (and its caffeine-powered boost) to kick-start the day. Caffeine’s effects may be much milder than those of illicit drugs, but kicking a caffeine habit can be difficult for someone who has made the drug a large part of his or her diet and lifestyle.

Caffeine is unlike many other drugs in that it is abundant in what we eat and drink. Read on to learn more about what foods provide most of the world’s caffeine, and discover the many ways in which consuming caffeine has become part of global culture.

Body Work: Is decaf OK for kids?

Despite its name, decaf does, in fact, contain caffeine. The amount, though, is quite small — a 7-ounce cup contains 3 milligrams. For comparison’s sake, a regular cup of coffee contains 115 to 175 milligrams of caffeine, and many chocolate bars have about 30 milligrams.

Studies have not found evidence that moderate caffeine consumption harms children or adults. In particular, researchers have found no evidence of hyperactivity or increased risk of cancer, osteoporosis or heart disease.

Is it possible that if Theo develops a taste for decaf now that he’ll later move into the world of fully caffeinated brews? Sure. But it’s also quite possible that if you deny him now it will only stoke his thirst for coffee as he grows older. And, as I mentioned, moderate caffeine consumption hasn’t been associated with health risks. In fact, in a study last year from the National Cancer Institute, folks who drank two to three cups of coffee a day were found to have significantly lower death rates over a 13-year period than their non-java-juiced counterparts.

As a kid, I was told that drinking coffee could stunt my growth. Yet there’s no scientific evidence to support this claim. Still, I’ll never know if I could have grown to NFL proportions had I not begun drinking caffeinated iced tea at Theo’s age. Similarly, research has found no support for the idea that high daily caffeine intake interferes with teens’ bone growth and bone density.

6 Kinds of food that can stunt the growth of your child

Remember when you were a kid and your mother used to tell you that coffee would stunt your growth? It turns out she was wrong. However, there are certain kinds of food that can slow your child’s growth, if too much is consumed. Here is a list of foods you should watch out for if you want your child’s height to reach its full potential.

1. Junk food

There are so many reasons to cut junk food out of your children’s diet, and here’s one more. Junk food, as its name implies, have very little nutritional value, and does nothing but make your children’s stomachs full (and increase the risk of diabetes and obesity). Make sure that your child is only consuming a very limited amount of junk food.

Photo: Dreamstime

2. Soda

Carbonated drinks contain phosphorous, which is a useful mineral for development, but when consumed in large amounts can affect calcium levels. Studies have found that kids who consume more phosphorous have lower bone density. The more kids consume unhealthy foods like soda and junk food, the less likely they’d consume the proper nutrients. Limit soda consumption to help your child grow taller.

3. Rice

While rice by itself isn’t bad for your kids, a high-carbohydrate and low-protein diet slows your kids’ growth. If your child’s plate has more carbs than protein, this will probably stunt their growth. Children who have a more balanced diet with both carbohydrates AND protein are more likely to achieve their full height.

Click to the next page to read about more foods that stunt growth.

4. Soy

Though it hasn’t been scientifically proven that soy stunts growth, unfermented soy like soy milk, yogurt, and tofu contain phytic acid, which reduces calcium absorption. Calcium is vital for bone development, so consuming too much unfermented soy can affect your child’s growth.

5. Alcohol

Studies suggest that alcohol consumption can stunt growth, but unfortunately, plenty of kids who are still growing consume alcohol. Make sure your kids know about the dangers of alcohol, and model good drinking behavior.

6. Sugar

Kids who consume a lot of sugar are usually shorter than kids who have low-sugar diets. Like carbohydrates, sugar raises your body’s insulin levels and prevents the body from growing properly. Though you shouldn’t ban your child from consuming sugary treats, make sure they do so moderately.

READ: How to Grow Taller: What Parents Can Do to Help Their Children Reach Their Full Height Potential

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In the Loop: Mayo physician dispels popular coffee misconceptions

Is coffee good or bad for us? How much is too much? Can it stunt growth? Donald Hensrud, M.D., director of Mayo Clinic’s Healthy Living Program, provides answers to these much-debated questions.

The greatest of all holidays — International Coffee Day — was celebrated by all (we assume) on Sept. 29. If you’re like us, though, you don’t need a designated day to celebrate the joys of coffee because every day is Coffee Day. But should it be? Or is our favorite beverage doing nothing more than stunting our growth, dehydrating us, and putting us at an increased risk for other health problems?

To answer those questions, the Rochester Post-Bulletin recently asked the director of Mayo Clinic’s Healthy Living Program, and resident coffee guru, Donald Hensrud, M.D., for dispelling some of the most popular myths surrounding the coffee bean.

Here are some highlights:

  • Could coffee actually be good for us? Dr. Hensrud tells reporter Anne Halliwell it’s important to differentiate between coffee and the caffeine that it contains. “One of the things people don’t realize is that there are a lot of antioxidants in coffee. There’s fairly good data that coffee is protective against Type 2 diabetes. That effect is seen both in caffeinated and decaf coffee,” he says. And Dr. Hensrud points to a recent article in Mayo Clinic Proceedings “that showed that caffeine, separate from coffee, was related to lower overall mortality in a population study.”
  • Is it possible to drink too much coffee? Dr. Hensrud tells Halliwell that while “yes, it is” possible to have too much of a good (or great) thing, much of that revolves around potential side effects. “And these are well-known: problems sleeping, heartburn, urinary symptoms, especially in people who are predisposed,” he says. “So if people are having side effects from it, they should cut back.”
  • Does coffee dehydrate us? Dr. Hensrud says not as much as we might think, but that it depends on how much coffee we’re drinking throughout each day. “The body’s pretty smart, and if it’s dehydrated, if it needs fluid, it’ll hang onto it, even if it comes from coffee or alcohol,” the good doctor tells Halliwell. “Now, at large amounts, it might promote some dehydration.”
  • Can coffee really stunt our growth? Asked whether drinking coffee will stunt our (or our children’s) growth, Dr. Hensrud tells Halliwell that he’s “aware of no evidence of that, although I remember hearing that quite a bit when I was younger.” (Us, too. Thanks, mom and dad.)
  • What’s the right amount of coffee? Finally, there’s the question of an “ideal” amount of coffee we can drink every day. Dr. Hensrud says that, again, depends on how our daily grind (see what we did there?) is affecting us physically. With one important disclaimer. “If somebody’s not having side effects, the data on diabetes show that there’s a benefit — a dose-response relationship — up to six cups a day,” he says, while adding that, “The one caveat there is if someone’s trying to get pregnant, at high amounts, it does interfere with conception, and there’s an increased risk of miscarriage.”

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