What Is Coco Coir? Types, Garden Uses, and Tips

Coco Coir
Photo Credit

Discover an excellent, sustainable soil amendment

Print Friendly and PDF

Coco coir sounds like a delicious new drink, but it’s actually an excellent amendment to your garden soil. A sustainable alternative to peat moss, coco coir provides increased water retention and aeration—AND it’s pest-resistant! It’s also a good-looking, tidier mulch that doesn’t require reapplying. Learn more about coconut coir and how to use it in your garden properly.

What is Coco Coir?

Coco coir is made from coconut husks. Once considered trash, these husks are used to make rope, rugs, doormats, brushes, and upholstery stuffing. 

Coconut palms are grown throughout the tropics, and they can be harvested every 45 days, making them an abundant renewable resource. After being soaked, dried, aged, and shredded, the fibers are ready for use in your garden in several ways.

Raw coconut coir and coconut shells
Raw coconut coir (dry coconut shell and fiber). Credit: FeriDhaniHasri

Different Types

There are three types of coco coir:

  1. Coir pith, also called “coir peat” or fiber dust: Finely ground-up pieces of coconut husk. It looks and feels just like peat moss and, with a few exceptions, can be used in much the same way in your garden. Hydroponic growers have used it for years by hydroponic growers to support their plants instead of soil.
  2. Coir chips: Large chunks of husk often found in potting mixes for bromeliads and orchids. The chips retain water while creating air pockets for the plants’ roots. Coir also makes an excellent mulch.
  3. Fiber coir: Made from long strands of coco fiber that can be formed into basket liners and molded into biodegradable pots.
Hanging baskets with coco coir liners
Attract coco coir liners; basket with geraniums and sweet potato plants. Credit: Rosemarie Mosteller

Brown fiber is the type of coir most often seen, especially for horticultural use. It’s made from mature coconuts. The thick fibers that cover the outside of the coconut shell contain high amounts of lignin, making them stronger than other natural fibers such as flax and cotton, but since they have less cellulose, they are not as flexible. 

Pots made from coco coir
Coco coir pots. Credit: Bowonpat Sakaew


Here are seven (of many) benefits of using coco coir.

  1. As repurposed waste from the coconut industry, it is 100% biodegradable.
  2. Easier to get wet than peat and holds 30% more moisture.
  3. Unlike acidic peat moss, coco coir is pH neutral, so no lime is needed to sweeten the soil it is added to. 
  4. It is slow to decompose and is rot-resistant.
  5. Most garden pests shun it.
  6. It is disease and weed-free.
  7. Even though it retains moisture, it drains well, is fluffy, aerates the soil, and doesn’t compact.

How To Use Coco Coir

When shopping for coco coir, it can be found ready-to-use in bags or compressed into bricks that need to be rehydrated before use. Look for chemical-free coir that has been aged, dried, and flushed of salts. Many companies offer OMRI-listed products that are perfect for your organic garden.

Coco coir bricks
Coco coir or “coir peat” often comes in brick form. Credit: Nor Gal

To Rehydrate the Bricks

  1. Place bricks in a large, wide container and add warm water a little at a time. 
  2. As they soak it up, break the bricks apart to expose more of the dry centers until all the water has been absorbed.
  3. Eventually, they should expand to about six times their volume. Don’t overdo the water, or you’ll end up with a soupy mess! 
  4. Fluff it up, and it’s ready to use.

Coco coir is a great soil conditioner. Dig it into clay soil to improve drainage or in sandy soil to aid moisture retention. 

It’s still a bit more expensive than peat, but a more sustainable, environmentally friendly (and more effective) alternative to peat moss. Give it a try! You may find that this excellent amendment works better and is worth the extra cost.

Coco Coir for Containers

  • If you are potting up large containers that constantly dry out, adding coco coir to the potting mix will help retain moisture. The bits of fiber are like little sponges.
  • Coco chips hold even more moisture, so add a large handful to the bottom of a container to prevent it from drying out too fast while allowing it to drain properly and not get waterlogged. 

A Great Mulch

Coco chips also make a great mulch, keeping the soil moist and protecting it from the sun’s radiation. Unlike bark mulch, coco chips don’t scatter, so they don’t require reapplication. 

Mulch made from coco coir
Coco coir mulch. Credit: Martin Baliga

I have seen coco coir being used on a large scale. In my area a local farmer has been growing her tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and basil hydroponically in grow bags filled with coco fiber dust in her high tunnels. She has no problems with disease, the yields are great, and the fruits are delicious!

About The Author

Robin Sweetser

Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. Read More from Robin Sweetser