growing climate florida vs. hawaii - cacao

wildlifegardenAugust 4, 2006

hello hawaii,

i am trying to figure out how it is that cacao seems to grow so easily in your climate and why florida gardeners here are having to give it such special treatment just to keep its leaves from burning even in the shade. i am awaiting the arrival of my 2 trees i just ordered.

our elevation and humidity and rainfall are similar to waialua where i see dole has their cacao orchard. everyone here gives their trees almost complete shade where dole only shades them from morning and late afternoon sun. that just doesnt make sense to me.

does anyone have any thoughts on how our growing conditions might differ?


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Average data can be so misleading.
In the maritime tropics like Hawaii & the Caribbean islands, the temperature varies very little during the year. The highest recorded temps. ever on N.Oahu was probably in the mid 90's, and the lowest recorded temps. ever in the mid 50's, with a average swing of 30 or so degs. F.
In the sub-tropics like central FL, you've probably experienced several consecutive days of high 90's or even the occasional 100+ furnace in summer, and then there is the citrus freeze in winter.
So while on average, both places look as if the summer temp is somewhere in the 80's, there is a greater extreme in the sub-tropics.

Also, since tropical trees live outside all year in the tropics, they have 6 months to warm up and 6 months to cool down over the 30 deg annual temp swing. In FL you'll need to move your Theobroma in/out as the weather demands, and being gardners we're impatient, so the poor trees will have much less time to get used to these temp changes. STRESS.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2006 at 4:09AM
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au natural,
thank you for the enlightenment. I had not thought of the points you bring up. I will be happy to move (although grudgingly) my cacaos inside for cold temps, however, I would love to let them get some sun (since the hurricanes took away all my shade trees). they have arrived and are presently on my front porch under the roof. do you have any suggestions. our summer sun is definitely brutal but we have yet to reach anything higher than 95 degrees.


    Bookmark   August 7, 2006 at 4:36PM
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hotzcatz(Hamakua, Hawaii)

Aloha Michelle,

From what I remember, young cacao trees grow in the shade of the adult trees so the young ones need protection from the sun while the adult trees like full sun. Maybe you could grow something fast growing like bananas to provide shade while the cacao trees are young?

A friend of mine harvested some cacao pods and did whatever was necessary to make chocolate. She said it turned out pretty well, but was a bit of work. Her use of the term "a bit of work" is a bit scarey considering she has been known to grow wheat to make bread and doesn't consider that to be much work at all. Next time I see her maybe I'll be able to talk her out of a seedling or two since she said some were sprouting under her tree.

A hui hou,

    Bookmark   August 8, 2006 at 10:44PM
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thank you cathy,
I do have 3 banana trees and they seem to be growing ever so slowly. I was aware this would be a "labor of love" but I am vegan and so for me food has not been easy or convenient in so so long. I would love to hear what your wheat-growing friend has to say about the process.

thanks and aloha,

    Bookmark   August 9, 2006 at 4:09PM
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hotzcatz(Hamakua, Hawaii)

Aloha Michelle,

Perhaps you could put your cacao trees in big pots under the banana trees and then cover the whole thing with mulch and compost and then add lots of water. The bananas at least should then grow like crazy.

I forgot to ask about the cacao the last time I saw my friend, I'll try to remember next time.

A hui hou,

    Bookmark   October 6, 2006 at 11:08PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Only Miami and vicinity anything like lowland Hawaii. I see you have put 9b for your USDA zone, you are comparing it with something like USDA 10 or 11.

Most parts of mainland get real cold at some point, even northern Florida has had -35F within period of records being kept. In the East there are no tall mountains to keep the most aggressive Arctic fronts from penetrating all the way to the Gulf.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 11:44PM
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in zone 9b Florida we are definitely not Hawaii. You must understand that when Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, Cocoa, etc get down to 40 degrees (and lower) to a zone 10/11 plant like Cacao that IS freezing! Hawaii's climate is much more moderated (and yes I know that parts of the Big Island are covered in snow--Mauna Kea for example)than our Florida weather. We have a definite cool season and then the sauna season with 100 degrees. And then during our cool season the humidity drops way low.

Just because we are all in Florida and we think the winter is so mild just remember that most of our landscape plants come from even more southern locations than our state--try South America!

I had a client in Vero Beach who has a coffee shop on A1A and they barely were able to keep their cacao plants living...we're just not right for it.

Be prepared to give it lots of TLC, protect from temperatures below 50 degrees, and give it nice, high shade.


    Bookmark   October 22, 2006 at 12:47AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

50F in Honolulu would be like an Arctic Blast.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2006 at 1:57AM
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hotzcatz(Hamakua, Hawaii)

I think the record low in Honolulu is 55 and it is freezing cold since nobody has any heaters in their houses.

We just got back from a trip to Florida at Christmastime and it was sort of similar to Hawaii yet different. There is no dirt in Florida. It is all sand and it doesn't seem like the soil would be very acidic. Do hydrangeas grow in Florida? Are they pink or blue? I'd bet they are bright pink there whereas in Hawaii they are bright blue (unless soil conditioners have been added).

I suspect the cacao likes semi-shade and loads of humidity while growing although I've heard once they get grown they are more tolerant.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2007 at 5:31PM
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There is no comparison. Hawaii is tropical and can grow the tropical vegetation. Florida is not tropical and that is why it can't . North Florida is not even a trasitional area. . It is the Temperate Zone just like the rest of the mainland.

Accept your area as is and stop trying to be tropical when you are not.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 5:15PM
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I noted on the weather yesterday (June 11) that the average high was 87 degrees and the record high was only 2 degrees higher - 89. Not many places in the world with weather THAT little variation.

One thing to note is that you not only need to keep cacao in the shade, but also out of high wind when small.

We're trying to get cacao production going here on the Garden Isle....

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 1:57AM
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