Who is using Cocoa Shells?

Yesterday I helped with a garden that was finished with cocoa shell mulch.   I have seen it and even had it used on projects regularly in in England, but here in the greater Boston area, it simply is not that prevalent.  I am on a hunt to buy it locally (I just contacted my favorite chocolate maker that attends my farmers market) or at least source it in large and wholesale quantities.  Anyone have a good contact?

cocoa shell garden mulch

image by littlewinggg

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Hi, I'm Rochelle and for 18 years I have worked as a landscape designer, author/writer, and design teacher. I've designed residential and hospitality (for hotels, restaurants, and spas) gardens across the USA and in the UK, Europe and the Middle East. After many years of teaching garden design topics in person, I launched the PITH + VIGOR Boot Camp series in early 2018. Through my blog, social media, and online courses (Garden Design Bootcamp and Planting Design Boot Camp) I aim to help homeowners learn how to confidently design and create home gardens that reflect their own personal and unique style.


  1. Sprout on May 22, 2009 at 9:31 am

    My mom used cocoa hulls for decades! Yummm….! And she always got them at the now defunct Spag’s.

  2. michelle d. on May 22, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    I don’t use it for a variety of reasons.
    1. It molds.
    2. Dogs are allergic to it and I don’t want to take that chance .

  3. kim on May 22, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    I was just thinking about cocoa mulch this morning when I was at Vallente’s Farm in Needham, they have bags of it.

  4. Sheila H on May 22, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    I agree wtih Michelle. It’s toxic to dogs if they swallow it and it’s expensive. I prefer using chocolate (dyed brown) mulch. They last longer if applied at 4 inches thick (3 years).

  5. Fern @ Life on the Balcony on May 22, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    I was going to say the same thing as Michelle. It has the same effect on dogs as chocolate.

  6. Tyson on May 23, 2009 at 1:44 am

    I worked for a retail nursery that did a good business in selling cocoa husks. We had a chemist (who now teaches AP Chemistry at a local high school) who did her research and determined that the husks have 3 x the amount of the chemical found in chocolate that provokes an allergic reaction in dogs. Which means they would have to consume 1/3 the amount found in chocolate to have a fatal reaction. With that in mind, it does smell lovely, and is a great deterrent to cats who have a penchant for relieving themselves in garden beds….they can’t stand putting their paws in the stuff. Also very attractive, but short lived in windy areas. Blommers out of Chicago distributes.

    • rochelle on May 23, 2009 at 10:38 am

      I don’t have a dog (and no plans to get one) –so I am not going to worry about that at least at my own home….but will make sure I mention it to a friend who is using them who is planning to get a puppy later this summer.
      Also, I read that if you soak them with water when you lay them down, they will then lock together as they dry and prevent the wind blowing effect – also only need to spread about 1″ think- so perhaps you need less of these than regular mulch.

  7. louise garwood on May 24, 2009 at 7:34 am

    I have seen them used in many Metrowest Boston residential garden settings. Typically a high end product, advantage only being in the aesthetic, a more refined appearance compared to bark mulch. Usually client has irrigation in beds which moistens them enough to not do the pre-wetting you mention rochelle. And yes an inch or two covers very well. I like the look and smell.
    BTW – came across this: didnt know if you had covered it..Outdoor rugs by Loire Manne
    any info on this product? Looks potentially cool.

  8. louise garwood on May 24, 2009 at 7:41 am
  9. Amanda Thomsen on June 6, 2009 at 8:50 am

    I will only use chocolate mulch- to find it I emailed these guys http://www.nationalcocoashell.com/index2.php and they told me it was made at the factory down the street. Ahem. Embarrassing. But they can tell you who has it near you.
    I have a dog too, he’s smart enough to not eat mulch. Imagine that.

  10. louise garwood on June 24, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    hey check this out…buckwheat hull mulch…

    • rochelle on June 24, 2009 at 9:37 pm

      Louise, I used buckwheat hulls for the first time last week….they were so great to spread…very lightweight and they had a beautiful silky look once installed. Except for the price, I will definitely want to use them again.

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