Are Coffee Grounds Good For Plants?

by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM Published on , Last Updated on

A bowl full of coffee beans. Coffee grounds can be used as a mulching agent

You only need to walk past a coffee shop in any American city to see that our country loves Java. With so much coffee being consumed on a daily basis, it’s encouraging to learn that there is a productive use for all those grinds. Next time you make a cup, save your coffee grounds and add them to the soil in your garden. For best results, use organic coffee if you will be consuming the fruits or vegetables you fertilize. Approximately 60% of the world’s coffee beans are sprayed with potentially harmful pesticides.

Coffee Grounds as a Mulching Agent

Coffee’s breakdown materials can be used as a mulching and fertilizing agent for gardens. Aesthetically, coffee grounds can be used to make elegant black borders in flower gardens. The rich blackness offers a beautiful contrast to colored flowers and green herbs. For best results, mix with other forms of organic mulch. When used alone, the coffee tends to create a rich sludge that prevents the necessary air and water from entering.

Coffee Grounds as a Compost Addition

Adding coffee to your compost or worm bin is a great idea. Again, it creates a nitrogen-rich soil result, and gardeners swear that worms fed with coffee will flourish. Researchers have also found that coffee grounds aid in keeping ideal temperatures in compost piles[1]. This allows the compost to stay free of potentially harmful pathogens that affect delicate seedlings later.

Coffee as a Fertilizer

As a fertilizer, used coffee grounds are slightly acidic and full of nitrogen, a mineral that aids vegetable and plant growth. Coffee grounds are particularly good for tomato plants, which thrive on nitrogen. When used for planting, the grounds create a natural acidic form of bacteria, which boosts the growth of acid-loving plants like tomatoes, roses, blueberries and evergreens. According to The Composting Council of Canada, adding coffee to soil increases the nutritional value, betters the texture and fertility of the soil, and aids in attracting earthworms[2].

Coffee as a Pesticide

Coffee ground mulch has the added benefit of deterring veggie- and flower-munching slugs and snails. There are also other organic pesticides that can also deter certain garden pests.

How to Use Coffee Grounds in Your Garden

Don’t use coffee grounds that have fermented or rotted. Use fresh organic grounds. Drip grounds tend to work better than boiled grounds, as they are higher in nitrogen content. You can also sprinkle some of the used grounds around flowers and vegetables before watering them for a slow release of nitrogen. Try buying compostable unbleached coffee filters, as this makes it easy to just throw both grinds and filters into your compost box.

For a quick fertilizing spray, dilute the grounds in purified water and spray directly on plants. Experts recommend using a half-pound of wet grounds to five gallons of water. You can also directly sprinkle grounds into houseplant soil or in your outdoor vegetable boxes.

Where to Get the Grounds?

coffee grounds on spoon

Most homes and offices have at least one coffee drinker, usually more. Ask the person who purchases the coffee to start buying organic so people can recycle the grounds. This is an easy way to contribute to a greener world!

References (2)
  1. Oregon State University. Coffee grounds perk up compost pile with nitrogen. News & Research Communications. 3 Jul. 2008.
  2. Susan Antler. At Home With Compost. Compost Council of Canada.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Global Healing Center does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Global Healing Center are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.

  • beauley

    Coffee grounds do contain some plant food nutrients, but their greatest benefit is in holding needed water. Just dry cantaloupe peels or better yet,,,banana peel.

  • definitely use organic coffee grounds for fertilizing your vegetables, wouldn’t want those harmful pesticides that you have no problem drinking in your coffee to end up in your strawberries too.

  • A great article Edward, thank you.
    I write a great deal about using coffee grounds in the garden and really enjoy seeing others promote this age old practice.
    My site is dedicated to the topic – please stop by and say hi.

  • Ihatebullshit

    The recomendation about using organic coffee is simply hilarious!
    Dear Dr. Group, have you ever read what you write before publishing?
    Pure genious!!

  • I’m curious if you could be more specific about the acidic bacteria that you’ve mentioned below. Do you happen to have a common (or scientific) name that you could share?

    Thanks. KS
    “What is more, the grounds, when used for planting, create a natural acidic form of bacteria which boosts the growth of acid-loving plants like tomatoes, roses, blueberries and evergreens.”

  • Oakley Dogger

    Great Article Edward, Thanks!
    I just started a balcony garden and blogging about it. Would you mind if I quote you on my blog?

  • Ashwin

    A good way to get lots of coffee grounds for free is to call up a local coffee shop in the morning, tell them that you want to use their used coffee grounds for your garden, and ask them if they can save it and give them to you at the end of the day. I’ve been going to my local Starbucks about once a week for the past few weeks and getting about 5-10 pounds of coffee grounds that way. I would go every day, but I have no idea what to do with so much coffee grounds!

  • Thomas

    It’s perfectly fine to use ANY kind of coffee grounds in your compost and garden – no chemicals for you to worry about. At that stage it’s ALL organic anyway. You people worry too much.

    Anything truly harmful wouldn’t be sold in the first place, and whatever might have been there would be long gone after harvest, roasting, brewing, composting, and then the uptake cycle into the plant you’re growing.

    Again, you worry too much.

  • gary

    The facts of this discussion are this, just about anything you can eat, that produces waste, can be used to help fortify your garden soil…..Anything you take off fruits or veggies, that you would eat, can go into your garden……..The only thing you really don`t want is things we consider garbage……bread…meats leftovers, dairy,… things of this nature……..Coffee grounds, tea or tea bags, or all kinds of thing like this can be used, and they all work just fine………

  • chelle

    Also ground up egg shells…..I save mine in an ice cream pail for a week or two and then grind them.

  • Thank you so much. I have reblogged.

  • Pricia Lim

    Hi Alisa, I am staying in Sengkang and wondering how I can arrange to get some coffee grounds for my plants with Starbucks, Compass Point?

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  • Swiss Kinist

    That is a pretty ridiculous comment. The FDA approves scores of harmful products that go into our food because the FDA is owned by big business. Then we have GOOD things like raw milk, illegal in many states.

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  • Great articles, I use them with tomatoes plants.

  • sha warma


  • lynette mayo

    What ever happened to Coffee Enemas? l did them a lot in the 70’s. what health conditions can this help !

  • Bob Newitski

    So the non organic grpunds have pesticides that you want to avoid but you also run water through them and drink the runoff? 2+2 is 5 again?

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