Tropical Gardening: Hawaii chocolate and orchids are perfect gifts for Mom

  • Courtesy of VOLTAIRE MOISE Chocolates are popular as Mother’s Day gifts. A living cacao plant is another option that can create interest in the garden.

We just celebrated Cinco de Mayo and Boys’ Day a few days ago, but don’t let that distract you from the really big day. It is Mother’s Day on Sunday, and if you forget any of those favorite women in your life, you are in real trouble!

Trying to wrack your brains for just the right last minute gift can be frustrating.


Don’t panic. Relax and be creative at the same time.

This is a great time to visit garden shops and nurseries to take care of those last-minute gifts. Orchid plants make the perfect gifts for those special friends and relatives. You also might find cacao plants available. They are an interesting addition to the garden. They do require shade and wind protection, and grow best below 2,000 feet in elevation.

Locally-grown chocolate makes yummy gifts as well.

Speaking about chocolate, University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Extension agents working with cacao farmers noted that Hawaii chocolate is a rapidly growing new crop. In 2018, more than 81 acres were harvested with a yield of almost 44,000 pounds. The past two years showed increases in acreage and yields as well. In the next few years the acreage is expected to more than double.

If you are interested in cacao farming, processing and the market, you can contact the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources for information.

Hawaii chocolates and orchids are a good start on your Mother’s Day gift quest, but there are many other options.

To avoid the headaches, enjoy your shopping by being different. You would be surprised at how many different plants make great gifts. With a little love and care, you can give a gift that really has some meaning.

All the foliage plants can be spruced up with bright ribbons and clever cards, but some plants are more in keeping with the special occasion than others. In giving living plants, use your imagination with the containers, decorations and wrapping. You can put more love in this type of gift than most others unless you consider handmade bedspreads, homemade cookies and other delectable edibles.

Flowers are a natural. Hydrangeas are traditional for Mom.

Most folks think of hydrangeas as a cool climate shrub that does best in Volcano, Kaloko Mauka and Waimea, but they can be grown almost anywhere in Hawaii given enough water and some shade in warmer lowland areas.

Orchids, bromeliads and anthurium varieties are appropriate as well. Then there are hibiscus varieties with flowers from white to red and yellow with every color in between. The many gardenia varieties with white flowers and green leaves on pendulous branches make a fragrant gift. The cinnamon gardenia, tiare and endemic Hawaii gardenias are favorites. Some azaleas and several new tropical rhododendrons are even on the market.

The fun of giving plants to your mom, sister, daughter or wife is that you can then plan together on how to best present them in the home or garden. It is a bonding experience for those who prepare and give the gift as well as the special lady who receives it.

In getting your gifts ready, start with the right container. Wooden tubs are excellent since wood prevents rapid drying out of the soil. Jardinieres usually lack drainage holes, which can cause a watering problem. Clay pots are fine and can be painted to blend with the colors in the home. Brass and copper are ideal for table and mantle arrangements. But, as these containers are usually small, pay careful attention to supplies of water and fertilizer.

If you ran out of time, as a last resort you might consider a gift certificate from a local nursery for flowers or plants.


To be satisfactory, plants must do more than merely survive. They must maintain an attractive appearance with a minimum of care. For problem interiors, check with your local garden center or nursery to help you make the right choice.

This information is supplied by the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. For more information contact the UHCTAHR Master Gardener Helpline at 322-4893 in Kona or 981-5199 in Hilo.

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