When Life Gives You Coconuts. . .


If it’s one thing I have plenty of, it’s coconuts. In my tiny yard, there are 12 coconut-producing palms — and because coconut palms are always producing coconuts, you could say that I have a lovely and large bunch of them.

But when is a coconut not a coconut?

Before I give you the answer, now would probably be a good time for a brief coconut anatomy lesson. To help me out, here’s an illustration from Wayne’s Word.

Anatomy of a Coconut

Most people are familiar with coconuts available in the supermarket: softball-sized, covered in dark brown fiber (the endocarp), and lined with white coconut meat, also known as the endosperm. The husk, or outer shell, was removed prior to shipping.

On palm trees, coconuts are large, green, football-shaped objects. What you see is actually the outer shell (husk) of the coconut. Inside is a layer of fiber (mesocarp), then the supermarket coconut (the endocarp and endosperm), and water.


Very often, random harvesters will stop by the house and offer to cut down the mature green coconuts at no charge.  These will eventually be sold at local vegetable markets and at roadside stands because of the coconut water inside.  Just crack open with a machete and drink.

For the green coconuts that remain, though, their color eventually fades to brown and they fall from the tree. Very little water liquid is left. In fact, at this point, the coconut water has become more milk-like and the coconut meat has thickened along the inside wall of the inner shell. These brownish, football-shaped coconuts can be planted — after all, a coconut is really just a big seed, and the coconut that many of you are familiar with is the energy that helps to nourish the new sprout.

Coconut Sprout

Now, back to the question: when is a coconut not a coconut?


That’s the question I pondered after discovering several coconuts laying about the garden, each one chewed open — most likely by squirrels — and the sweet insides devoured.

When I took a look at the inside of the coconut, I noticed the hard outer shell and the inner lining of coconut fiber or coir — and the answer to my question hit me on the head like a falling coconut.

When is a coconut not a coconut?  When it’s a planter.


Yup, I thought. This could work.


I first enlisted Joe’s help to drill at least one drainage hole in the bottom of each coconut. Fascinating to think that a power tool was needed to do this, while the squirrel used its teeth.


I then filled each coconut with good potting soil, being sure to pack it in so the entire opening was filled.



For this project, I decided to use succulents for several reasons. First, since I have a variety of them already growing, it would keep the price down. All I had to do was take clippings — which leads me to the second reason: succulents are easy to root.

Succulent in Coconut

Because the openings in the coconuts were a bit tight, simply inserting clippings seemed much easier than purchasing a plant and having to cram a root ball into the coconut. I simply moved the dirt around, inserted the succulent clipping, tamped down, and watered.

Here’s the finished product.


In a few weeks, they will look like the coconut planters I started a few weeks ago.

Succulent in Coconut


I realize this project may not be possible for everyone.  For starters, you’ll certainly need a coconut — and a hungry squirrel.  But if you should ever find that life has given you coconuts  . . . make planters.


18 thoughts on “When Life Gives You Coconuts. . .

  1. I love that you made planters! Inspired! We had a couple of coconut palms way back when we lived in Miami. At one point I was ‘inspired’ to make coconut shrimp – it took me an entire day. You’re planters are truly genius!


    • Hi Caroline. I’m in awe that you attempted coconut shrimp — for me, that’s a dish best left to a restaurant! 🙂 I must say, I’m happy with the end result, but I don’t think I’ll be setting up a business. I have nightmarish visions of rows and rows of squirrels gnawing at coconuts in a sweatshop atmosphere. Yikes! 🙂

  2. O.K., so now I’m singing that damn song! Thanks, Kevin.

    Always a lesson. What’s His Name knew what He was doing when He put you up on the second floor, teaching what’s really important.
    (Oooo, “…up on the second floor.” Sounds like there’s a song in my heart. Reminds me of “Up on the roof…”) Now YOU can have a song or two stuck in your head! 🙂

    Thanks, once again, for a fantastic post. Brilliant idea.


  3. How can you have a tiny garden when you have 12 coconut tree’s ???!! I tasted a coconut in Costa Rica, it was sooooooo much better than the onces we can buy over here ! When they are for sale in our shops there is very little milk left and the flesh is hard and dry ! Nice planters by the way !

    • Hi Gwennie. Actually, coconut palms do not take up a lot of space. While they have a broad canopy, the trunk is on the slimmer side — so they all fit, frond tip to frond tip. 🙂

    • H. PD. I have a vision of starting up a cottage industry — picture a warehouse full of squirrels sitting at long rows of tables, gnawing at a never-ending supply of coconuts . . . . 🙂

  4. You’ve certainly got a loverly bunch of coconuts there. 😉 Great idea!

    I admit I’m wimpy enough to buy my coconuts in the form of packaged organic finely-shredded-for-baking, instead of doing a Survivor contestant impersonation with my chef’s knife. However, I have been inspired by your post to whip up a batch of Wild Blueberry and Coconut Muffins later today (thanks for the excuse!) 😀

    • Hello M’Lady. There’s nothing wrong with avoiding the Survivor method. I’ve watched the climbers — and it’s something I couldn’t do. They are fearless and confident and in amazing shape. Sometimes they use ladders. Other times they use spiked shoes and shimmy up. But they usually wield a machete while up there. And they’re fast! Enjoy the muffins!

  5. What a wonderful project! I’m quite envious. It wasn’t too long ago that I bought a coconut “planter” at a Goodwill store, and I, too, planted succulents and gave it to a friend! We don’t have coconut palms, but I’m intrigued by them. In the late ’90s I brought a Florida coconut home with me in my suitcase. I think you’re definitely on to something very special and as the succulents begin to fill in, your coconut planters are going to be really quite stunning! I hope sometime down the line you’ll do a follow-up post! 🙂

    • Hi Debra. If the squirrels keep it up, I should have plenty of planters! 🙂 They’re taking care of the most difficult part of the job. All I have to do is fill with dirt and plant. I’ll keep you posted! 🙂

  6. Pingback: Aloe, ‘ow Are You? | Nitty Gritty Dirt Man

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