Planting Shade Trees


Importance of shade tree Shade trees need to be well established before coffee trees are planted out. Plant shade trees one year before planting coffee. Do not plant shade trees at the same time or after planting the coffee seedlings.

Shade protects young coffee plants from drought stress and over exposure to sun, which causes yellowing and death of leaves, tree overbearing and/or dieback in older trees. Shade also promotes a better balance between flowering and growth resulting in better cherry production. Legumes used as shade trees contribute substantially to soil health by providing organic matter and nutrients from leaf fall and prunings, and fix nitrogen from the air to restore soil fertility and structure. Shade trees also reduce the incidence of frost.

Recommended shade trees Numerous species can be used as shade trees - the preferred types include:
  • Erythrina subumbrans (Dadap). Used as coffee shade and for pepper supports in many areas of S-SE Asia. It is fast growing and easily propagated from cuttings.

  • Grevillea robusta (Silver Oak). Used in Myanmar for more than 70 years and in Sri Lanka for tea shade since 1856. The tree can grow to 50 m if not pruned. Good shade and fuel.

Shade tree spacing Suggested spacing for Erythrina, Grevillea, Gliricidia and Cassia is 14 x 13 ft or 170 trees/acre (5 x 5 m or 555 trees/ha), and Melia and Paulownia is 19 x 19 ft 120 trees/acre (6 x 6 m or 277 trees/ha).

Plant shade trees within the coffee rows. Remove lower limbs from young shade trees as they grow.