Attempts to grow a tropical plant in a non-tropical zone do not let me go ... I am waiting for the promised fresh cocoa beans from the Philippines and arm myself with theory before practice - I will try to grow a cocoa tree at home in a container.

Everything that is on the network on this topic has been carefully studied and set out below. There is a chance that I am not the only one who has long been warming a dream from the cocoa tree in the middle lane.

What is cocoa tree like?

The Theobroma cocoa, also called the cocoa tree and cocoa tree, is a small evergreen tree in the mallow family.  Its seeds, cocoa beans, are used to make chocolate grated, cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and chocolate.  The largest producer of cocoa beans in 2018 was Côte d'Ivoire, which accounted for 37% of global production.

A chocolate tree naturally can grow up to 6 meters. The leaves are elongated, delicate and thin. The trunk is of medium thickness, moderately branched. Fruiting up to 60 years, lives up to 100 years.

How To Grow a Cocoa Tree

Cocoa grove in the Philippines

A stalk or a seed?

If you can get a stalk of a cocoa tree, great. The root system of a cocoa tree vegetatively propagated by cuttings always remains compact. When cocoa grows naturally from seeds, the root takes on a rod-like shape and goes deep into the soil. Seedlings grown from seeds will not be able to develop normally in a container, they need to be transplanted into a greenhouse after a few years.

Photo by Jochen Weber, cocoa bean sprout

The seeds are suitable for planting only a few days from the moment they are removed from the pulp of the stalk. The main problem of growing cocoa from seeds is the acquisition of the freshest, still moist, viable grains. Here you will have to take the seller's word for it, because the cocoa pod will go at least from Sri Lanka.

seedling prepared for moving to a greenhouse

A seedling prepared for moving to a greenhouse, Canada.

Another plus of the cutting is the buds on a twig. According to the rules, twigs with one or two buds are used for cuttings, which increases the chance to harvest your own crop of cocoa beans.

How much does it all cost?

On Ebay, for $ 7- $ 10, you can buy a good fresh pod containing at least 20 cocoa beans with free shipping. A tree from a cuttings, 40-50 cm tall, will cost less than $ 50, grown from seeds - $ 15- $ 25.

Learn more : Over the past year over 13,200 families have also already successfully used the very same technique

Cocoa growing conditions

Before we get involved in this adventure, let's figure out the required conditions for keeping the cocoa tree. Given its tropical roots, this is not the easiest plant for the middle lane. And nevertheless, we have tamed the tomatoes ...

Native locations for cocoa are within 10 degrees north or south of the equator, humid tropical climate. Nevertheless, the conditions of a greenhouse with diffused light, a greenhouse or a warm veranda will suit him perfectly. Humidity not less than 60%, temperature from 18 to 32 degrees Celsius and constant fertilization - the formula for success.

Cocoa pods or fruit

Cocoa pods or fruit

There are young varieties that are more resistant to temperate climates, but you will have to look for them on the free market.

Lighting . Cocoa grows in tropical undergrowth, it is used to diffused light and protection from the wind. The open-air midday sun will incinerate the large, delicate leaves of the cocoa tree, accustomed to absorbing every photon lost by its more successful brethren in the tropics. One phyto-lamp in winter should help the plant develop properly.

Humidity . The optimal amount of moisture in the air is 70%, which is easy to achieve in a greenhouse and a densely populated greenhouse. But in the conditions of a winter veranda, an evaporator will help. There is a practice of creating an impromptu film greenhouse in winter, in which an air humidifier is installed. For a small tree, you can think of several acceptable ways to maintain humidity during the off-season.

Fertilizer . Cocoa is one of the few trees in constant need of nutritious fertilizer, rich in phosphorus and organic matter. Cocoa is especially gluttonous during the growing season.

Soil . Light, rapidly draining soil is required. Avoiding moisture stagnation is essential for healthy plant development. Next, I will analyze all the points in more detail.

Learn more : Over the past year over 13,200 families have also already successfully used the very same technique

What is generally needed to grow a cocoa tree at home:

  • Seeds, cuttings or seedlings
  • The soil
  • Compost
  • Organic fertilizer
  • Film, polyethylene, bags
  • Water
  • Humidifier
  • Supplement with phyto-lamp 

How to grow cocoa from seeds

With fresh beans, germination problems never arise. It often happens that the seeds germinate in the nutritious oily environment of the fruit, and when you open the seed pod, you may find cocoa sprouts. By the way, I know a girl who harvested the first crop of cocoa beans in a Vermont greenhouse, and her seeds came to her from New Hampshire. Both climates are 4, when ideal for cocoa is USDA 11-13.

How To Grow a Cocoa Tree

By the way, the coolest greenhouses for the study and selection of cocoa trees are located in the suburbs of London. The main task of the British greenhouse laboratories is to keep the sprouts in quarantine and test new varieties.

Greenhouses-laboratories for the cultivation and study of cocoa in England.

Greenhouses-laboratories for the cultivation and study of cocoa in England.

So you have a fresh, intact yellow, orange, or brown pod. Open it very carefully, the skin is slippery, oily flesh. As soon as you have opened the fruit, immediately start planting - the beans cannot be dried.

It is advisable to carefully scarify. the seeds so that they germinate faster. But you can even not carry out any manipulations with the beans and plant directly in a sweet shell, if you are ready to provide them with a moist and warm incubator greenhouse with a stable temperature (just "put under the lamp"). She needs close control of the mold, although she usually doesn't like it under a lamp.

You have two options for planting : directly into the ground or germination in a zip-lock bag (container) in damp cotton wool. The second method brings faster and more visible results. Place the seeds in a hermetically sealed bag or container, in a damp gauze folded in several layers, or other material that can be easily removed later without access of light to the seeds. Provide seeds with a stable temperature between 24-28 degrees. Once a day, the bag can be ventilated and checked for sprouting. As soon as the seed is baked, it can be transplanted into a pot and placed in a greenhouse with lighting. At this stage, the lighting acts as a heating pad, and if you have an electric mat, this is generally ideal.

Well-ripened fruits can be soaked simply in warm water overnight, after having peeled them off. This is exactly what the author of the video below did:

Planting cocoa directly into the ground is not original. Do not tamp the medium-moistened soil, fertilized with compost and organic matter, deepen the seed by no more than 1 cm. The acidity of the soil is about 4.5-6.5. Mulch. It is very important that the earth and the pot do not hold water, there must be a "golden mean". For germination, it is good to add coconut coir to the soil, it loosens and keeps moisture in moderation.Perlite and vermiculite up to 10% of the volume of the soil will also help retain air and moisture in the cocoa pot.

Learn more : Over the past year over 13,200 families have also already successfully used the very same technique

Growing cocoa from cuttings is no different from cutting most shrubs and trees. Both the water method and rooting in the ground are suitable. I’m unlikely to get a twig from a chocolate tree, but if anything, I’ll root it with honey.

Seedlings should be protected from direct sunlight. The first 6-12 months young plants can grow in the shade, then - diffused light.

Cocoa tree care

Seedlings grow very quickly if they like the conditions . In a bright, warm room, the plant feels great, the main thing is not to forget about additional air humidification.

As the cocoa grows, it will need replanting . A clay or wooden container is a better choice than a plastic tub. Fertilize an adult tree with fish emulsion and compost  (you need a high phosphorus content), cocoa needs nutrition all the time: from the appearance of the first pair of true leaves every 14-21 days, increasing portions as it grows. When a chocolate tree is 12 to 18 months old, it will need about a kilogram of compost every month (when transplanted into the ground, up to two kilograms). From November to February, it is necessary to reduce the amount of fertilizer.

How To Grow a Cocoa Tree

Transplanting into the ground is possible only in a glazed greenhouse, the temperature in which does not drop below 18 degrees at night. For 10-12 hours a day, the temperature should be at least 22-24 degrees. If such conditions can be created, further instructions for transplanting into the ground.

You can transplant a tree that has reached 60-70 cm in height . The rooting hole should be three times the size of the root ball, return some of the fluffed soil to the hole and set the plant at the same level as in the pot. Fill the hole and water well, mulch. Leave a small circle around the trunk unmulched. Watering is abundant.

The cocoa needs to be trimmed. In the first year, several shoots will be tied on the trunk. Remove these shoots and keep the strongest ones.

Flowering and fruiting of the chocolate tree

The first flowering of cocoa should occur at 3-4 years of age or when it reaches a growth of 1.5 meters (in natural conditions, a tree can reach 6 meters in height). The first flowering does not always bear fruit, even under ideal conditions. For fruiting, cocoa does not require a second plant, although some sources write differently. Pollination will have to be done manually, in the early morning hours, as cocoa blooms in winter. Most of the flowers will dry out, this is normal. Protect the chocolate tree from powdery mildew and aphids.

How To Grow a Cocoa Tree

How To Grow a Cocoa Tree

Learn more : Over the past year over 13,200 families have also already successfully used the very same technique

The formation and growth of the fetus takes at least six months, usually about 8 months. Harvesting in the northern zones takes place in February-March. A healthy, happy young tree will give 4-5 pods in a greenhouse. I think growing cocoa is a real challenge for any plant enthusiast. Let's try

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