Cacao trees are the source of the cocoa bean. The beans grow in pods on the tree and after roasting become a source of chocolate. Cacao trees grow in rain forests shaded by upper story trees. They are not sturdy trees and need protection from strong winds. The trees are also not hardy and will succumb to freezing temperatures. Texas has winds, occasional freezes and a general arid climate, which makes growing the cacao tree a bit of a challenge. It can be done and is probably easiest when the tree is grown in a pot so it can be moved to shelter when conditions become dangerous.
Place the pot on the dolly so it can be moved easily. Fill the pot with 2 parts potting soil, 1 part peat and 1 part compost. The peat will help hold moisture in the soil, and the compost gives it the nutritional kick the plant needs to start off right.
Scoop out a hole 1 to 2 inches wider than the roots of the seedling. Gently spread the roots out on the plant and place it in the hole. Fill the hole with the soil mix and press it in around the roots to firm the earth.
Place the pot in a semi-shady location with afternoon shelter. Put one of the stakes within 2 inches of the trunk and use the plant ties to secure it. This will help the tree grow straight and strong. Place the other stake on the other side of the trunk. The tree should be out of direct hard wind.
Water the cacao plant every day when temperatures are hot. Ideal growing temperatures are from 65 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. When temperatures are hotter, the tree may need watering twice a day. It should not dry out and the water should pour from the drainage holes at each watering, ensuring the roots are getting moisture.
Move the plant to shade in the middle of the day. In summer you should provide the plant with continuous shade. Drape the shade fabric over the two stakes to provide it some protection from the sun. Remove in the evenings.
Fertilize the tree when it is 1 year old. It should receive 1 lb. of balanced fertilizer every other month. From November through February, the tree should only be fertilized once.
Hand pollinate the flowers with a small paint brush when they appear. The cacao tree is pollinated by an insect that does not live in Texas, so this is the only way to encourage the formation of pods.
Harvest the pods when they are ripe. They will be golden red with yellow at the edges. The seeds can be removed by slicing open the pod and scooping out the gooey seeds.