What is Cocoa Bean Mulch?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Cocoa bean mulch is a garden mulch made from the hulls of cocoa beans. The hulls are removed when the beans are processed to make chocolate products. They make excellent mulch because they retain moisture well and deliver lots of useful nutrients to the soil, and many garden supply stores carry cocoa bean mulch for their customers, or can order it by request. People who live near a facility where whole cocoa beans are processed can also ask about taking the hulls for mulch, as some chocolate companies are happy to give their hulls away.

Cocoa bean mulch is made from the hulls of cocoa beans.
Cocoa bean mulch is made from the hulls of cocoa beans.

Mulch is used to help condition the soil while encouraging it to stay moist, keeping weeds down, and protecting the roots of plants from harsh weather. A number of different materials can be used for mulching, including straw, wood chips, and leaves. Some mulches are not suitable for all plants, or have an appearance which is not desirable to gardeners, and these are important considerations when selecting mulch.

Cocoa beans deliver lots of nutrients to soil.
Cocoa beans deliver lots of nutrients to soil.

In the case of cocoa bean mulch, the hulls can be used on any type of plants. The mulch is dark brown to black, and it will darken with age, rather than fading, as some mulches do. Cocoa bean mulch can be spread very thinly, and it has a chocolate aroma which will linger for a few weeks after it is laid down. Some gardeners find this an enjoyable side benefit, while others impatiently wait for the smell to dissipate, and it is something to think about, as it can be quite strong. The sharp hulls will also deter animal visitors and snails.

This mulch will naturally mold or mildew a bit in some climates, and this is not a cause for concern. It also tends to break down very quickly. Some gardeners report that cocoa bean mulch breaks down after a single season, while others get a year of use out of it; it really depends on the individual conditions in the garden. It also needs to be watered after it is spread so that the light hulls do not float away.

There is an additional note of caution about cocoa bean mulch which pet owners should be aware of when selecting mulch. Cocoa hulls contain theobromine, a chemical compound which is toxic to dogs and cats. If pets eat the mulch, they may become sick. Very few reported deaths have been associated with cocoa bean mulch, but it is a risk. If pet owners want to use this mulch, they may want to seek out a treated theobromine-free product which will be safer for their animals and pets in the neighborhood.

Using cocoa bean mulch may help gardens retain more moisture.
Using cocoa bean mulch may help gardens retain more moisture.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I have no dogs or cats, but have deer in my backyard often. I took down a large box elder tree and was told cocoa mulch would keep those horrible box elder beetles from coming back as there is another tree in a neighboring yard about 50 yard away. But I am concerned for the deer. Does anyone know if it would hurt them?


I have tried several different kinds of landscaping mulch and most of them seem to work pretty much the same.

When we moved to a log home a few years ago, we were told that using a cedar mulch would be the best at keeping the bugs away. I love the smell of the cedar mulch and have used it all around the plants and flowers by my house.

This cocoa bean mulch also sounds like a good option. I remember seeing some at a specialty garden shop, but not knowing much about it. I will have to ask some questions next time I am in there and maybe try a bag to see how it works.


I like the idea that this cocoa bean mulch darkens with age instead of getting lighter in the sun like my pine bark mulch does.

It seems like by the end of the season the other mulch products look pretty weathered, and it sounds like this might hold up better.

It would also be worth a try to see if it would keep some of the deer away. If it is known to deter animal visitors, I wonder if the deer would stay clear of it too.


The benefits of using cocoa bean mulch would be something I would be interested in, but I have two dogs and a cat and that doesn't sound like it would be a very good idea.

Since you are not supposed to feed chocolate to dogs, I could see where this might be a problem. My dogs would be able to smell the cocoa scent right away and probably think this was some kind of treat for them.

With the cocoa bean mulch toxicity warning mentioned, I think it is best if I stick with the cedar mulch I normally use.

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