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Cocoa Tree, Cacao
Theobroma cacao

Family: Malvaceae (mal-VAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Theobroma (thee-OH-broh-muh) (Info)
Species: cacao (kah-KAY-oh) (Info)

Category:

Edible Fruits and Nuts

Trees

Tropicals and Tender Perennials

Height:

15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)

20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

Spacing:

12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)

Hardiness:

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:

Light Shade

Danger:

N/A

Bloom Color:

White/Near White

Cream/Tan

Bloom Time:

Blooms all year

Foliage:

Evergreen

Other details:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:

5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Non-patented

Propagation Methods:

From seed; germinate in a damp paper towel

Seed Collecting:

Seed does not store well; sow as soon as possible

Regional

This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Hayward, California

Boca Raton, Florida

Hollywood, Florida

Merritt Island, Florida

West Palm Beach, Florida

Honomu, Hawaii

Kurtistown, Hawaii

Wailuku, Hawaii

New Orleans, Louisiana

Seattle, Washington

show all

Gardeners' Notes:

10
positives
5
neutrals
0
negatives
RatingContent
Positive

On Apr 11, 2015, BayAreaTropics from Hayward, CA wrote:

I grew it in a greenhouse years ago. I'm surprised nobody mentioned the rich aroma of a ripe pod cut open.

The seedlings sprout fast and easy on warm mats.

Get one of these to make pods and you can lead tours..people love them.

Positive

On Jan 25, 2013, hemantpandya88 from Udaipur
India wrote:

Hi dave, my name is hemant pandya and i am from india....i wanted some theobroma cacao seeds.....so that i can also grow some of its plants....and i searched everywhere for its seeds but i couldn't succeed.........but when i visited your blog i got some hope that may be i can get some seeds from you....so i wanted to know that if there is any possibility for you to send me some of these seeds.... I'll be really thankfull.....please tell me if you can provide the seeds or not so that i can give u my address........

Neutral

On Nov 27, 2011, TNAndy from Sevierville, TN wrote:

I tried growing Cacao in Tennessee a couple of times over several years. These plants are extremely tender and tend to die if exposed to temperatures below about 40 degrees Fahrenheit (about 5 degrees Celsius). If the leaves wilt due to cold, the plant will surely expire--but this takes weeks. I've seen Cacao growing in the ground in the moist parts of Hawaii. I don't expect it would survive the winter outdoors anywhere else in the USA.

Despite these difficulties, growing Chocolate trees is just so cool I can't resist buying them. I replaced the heater in my sunroom and added some insulation, so I tried again this year, this time starting with seeds.

Growing from seed is effortless if the seeds are fresh. I bought one pod's worth (46 seeds) from a seed w... read more

Positive

On Apr 17, 2011, Rhapsody616 from Long Beach, CA wrote:

Planted them fresh from the pod, I have 15 little theobroma cacao Forastero happy and growing

Neutral

On Oct 25, 2009, trifinafiend3 from Tampa, FL wrote:

Hi there. Several of you mentioned you were able to locate seeds when I've only been able to find already germinated seedlings available online. If you could provides the links or the sources I'd be very appreciative

-Thank you!!!

Positive

On Aug 18, 2007, ladydragonspell from Henderson, NV wrote:

I bought a red pod off of eBay which had 28 seeds. After reading on here how to plant them i tried both( this site was a great help to me), in a plastic bag and just put them in good soil with plastic over them. 26 seeds sprouted. Now that so many are growing i am thinking that I may need a greenhouse. I live in Nevada so winterizing it doesn't really need to be done. However I am worried about the summer months. Does any one have any pointers about what i should do next with my plants so all will continue to live and how to develop a greenhouse for them?

Positive

On Apr 6, 2007, wtliftr from Wilson's Mills, NC wrote:

OK, so I bought a cocoa pod off of the internet (from Florida), received it in the mail, and planted 15 of the 17 seeds, ate the other 2. It's been barely a week, and all 15 of the seeds have sprouted! I planted the seeds in a black plastic tray (from a microwaveable dinner) filled with ordinary potting soil. I watered the soil, and slipped the entire tray into a gallon sized ziploc bag. Then I set the entire thing in a warm sunny window. Now, 8 days later, all 15 seeds are sprouting. How much easier can you get? Looking forward to having fresh chocolate in a few years...

Positive

On Jul 25, 2005, tovis from Dorr, MI wrote:

I grow this plant and I have a new set that is currently germinating and had great success.

Neutral

On Apr 9, 2005, sleepybenja from North Port, FL wrote:

I always wanted one. Was told it is very difficult to start them from seed, so they are not available often.

Positive

On May 5, 2004, DIRTGIRL911 from Old Bridge, NJ wrote:

I've worked in a greenhouse maintaining crops of theobroma cacao. did LOTS of hand pollination. the key is to do it early in the morning, not too long after the flowers open. The pollen doesn't stay viable/stigmas not receptive for very long. Crossing with a different tree, even of the same variety helps a lot. self incompatibility is a pain in the rear... when you bring the pollen to the stigma, rub it right at the tip to where it frays a bit. it worked for me, no scientific backing on that, but it surely got the job done!!

Positive

On Apr 7, 2004, foodiesleuth from Honomu, HI (Zone 11) wrote:

Cacao is being cultivated commercially now on the Big Island of Hawaii. I have a small tree in my back yard, planted last fall. It has grown about a foot and half since it was planted. We have quite rainy conditions where we live with already 48.35 inches of rain falling year to date (April 7, 2004) - the area where I live is in the vicinity of the rainiest city in the world, Hilo

Neutral

On Apr 6, 2004, Monocromatico from Rio de Janeiro
Brazil (Zone 11) wrote:

Even though its not native from the forests of Rio de Janeiro, I have seen a few of these plants growing naturally in our area. Ocasionally, they are planted on yards, but most of them are in the Botanical Garden or the Hortum near the National Museum.

Besides the nuts used to make chocolate, the fruit has a white pulp that is edible, but has a weird taste.

In Bahia state, where most of the Cacao is planted commercially, they have faced in the last 2 decades problems with a certain fungus that ends up killing the trees.

Positive

On Apr 2, 2004, mikevan from Comanche, TX wrote:

Mine is successfully flowering for the first time this year as well. It produced flowers last year but I believe soil roaches in their container ate them. I over-summered the trees outside and the ants took care of that problem. Now I've got two bunches of flowers on one of my 3 forasteros with a solitary open flower (just this morning). I don't think the flower can self, but geez - having a pod or two growing would be so cool. I wonder if the pollen can at least be saved for future flowers?

For anyone considering cultivating - seeds/plants are notoriously difficult to find because the seeds have practically zero shelf-life - mine came from a friend who cut a pod for me and sent me the seeds. In the 5 days it took to get to me, the seeds already had roots. Once you have them... read more

Positive

On Nov 25, 2003, duliticola from Longfield, Kent
United Kingdom (Zone 8b) wrote:

This plant is supposed to need constantly warm and humid conditions to grow. All I can say is that I have one in my computer room which I grew from a seed collected in N.Cuba and which has lived its life in front of a S. facing window which has net curtains across it. The RH has never been > 50 % and is normally around 46% ( measured with a modern calibrated digital laboratory instrument). Due to problems with the domestic heating the temperature in the room last winter was often below 50 F. It has large attractive leaves, which are initially red or shrimp pink and change to yellowy green and finally dark green as they mature. Mature leaves are glossy and 13"-18" long.

The plant is 4 years old and has started to flower. I know that in the wild they are pollinated by midge... read more

Neutral

On Sep 28, 2003, IslandJim from Keizer, OR (Zone 8b) wrote:

The roasted seeds of this plant are ground to make--ta-da--chocolate.

The only live specimen of this plant that I have seen is growing in the orchid house at Marie Selby Botanical Garden, Sarasota, Florida. That means it's way too tender for my backyard.

But I find flowers and fruits forming directly on trunks and branches compelling. What survival mechanisms are at work here? And why? The only other plants that flower and fruit like that [that come to mind here and now, at least] are the eastern and western redbuds, the American beautyberry, and the Jew plums. And they don't seem to have a lot of environment in common with the cacao. Or each other, for that matter.