Growing Okra Plants ~ How to Grow Lots!

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Okra plants are easy to grow and great for beginner gardeners. If you have an area that gets lots of sun and live in a warm climate, start growing okra. It’s a warm season vegetable that will flourish.

Okra thrives in heat, especially in tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate areas; it hates the cold. If you try growing it at the wrong time, you won’t have success. The good news is okra seeds germinate quickly. 

Be sure to not overwater; it doesn’t like to be wet. Start with well-draining soil, and note humidity and rainfall.

In addition to being hardy and simple to grow, it doesn’t take up a lot of garden space. It grows tall, up to 5 – 6 feet, but it doesn’t spread out. It’s lean and grows upward, which means you can maximize your space. The stalks are tough and sturdy and produce lots of pods per plant. 

How many pods depends if you are in a hardiness zone that suits them.

If you live in southern United States or are in growing zone 7a or 7b, you will likely get 30+ pods per plant throughout the season. In zone 9b, they may grow more pods over time because it’s a longer season. However, because it’s drier, you will likely need to water more.

Okra plants are hardy. You can plant them in pots, containers, a garden bed, or right in the ground. 

Use this planting guide to learn how to grow okra from seed or transplant from a start, what soil to use, feeding, how much to water, harvesting, and other tips to ensure you grow lots of pods.

Once the pods start growing, they grow quickly. You’ll want to be out every other day to harvest them.

Growing Okra

One reason okra is easy to grow is that it tolerates different types of soil and climates. The most important things are:

  • It gets 6+ hours of sunlight daily
  • The roots don’t remain wet
  • Outside temps are 75 degrees or warmer

With these conditions, you will be able to grow okra. If you live in a warmer climate, you will enjoy okra for a long growing season.

Okra is a warm weather crop. It needs heat. Plant seeds or starts when it’s at least 65 degrees F when you test the soil to 4″ deep. To do this, get a basic soil thermometer.

Okra seeds won’t germinate if it’s too cold; the seeds will rot in the ground. 

Okra grows fast in temperatures that range from 75 – 90 degrees. Temperature is the key to a successful harvest.

Where Does Okra Grow Best? 

Okra is an annual. Okra grows the best in hardiness zones 6 – 11. You can grow okra in zone 5 but will need to take greater care with the plants. It does especially well in the south in growing zone 7 and zone 8. In zones 9, 10, and 11, watch for early consistent temperatures over 100 degrees which can stunt growth if they aren’t watered enough. 

Experts say if you can grow tomatoes in your garden, you can grow okra.  Okra plants loves the heat. If you live in a warm or hot climate, you can grow it.

Names for Okra

There are many names for okra pods. Some of them are gumbo, okro, ochro, lady’s fingers, kopi arab, and bhindi. It’s scientific name is Abelmoschus esculentus.

What Kind of Soil Does Okra Like?

Okra is hardy and does well in many types of soil. It even grows well where the soil is poor. Therefore, it’s something to try in areas of your garden where you haven’t been able to grow anything.

Okra will tolerate poor soil as long as the soil is well-draining. It’s okay to have a bit of clay and native soil mixed in. Clay adds density and will help retain moisture and hold more water than sandy soil.

However, too much clay can become waterlogged or alternatively dry out. 

That said, okra grows best in loam-based compost. The soil needs to be able to dry out a bit and not be constantly wet. You don’t want okra to become waterlogged or you will have problems with root rot.

Okra needs slightly acidic to neutral soil. You can do a soil test for pH. A pH reading of 5 – 6.5 is ideal for okra. 

Till to a depth of 8″ – 10″. Create a fertile bed with free-draining soil with lots of organic matter including compost. As the plants mature, add organic fertilizer with nitrogen to help the plant continue to producing pods.

It may be helpful to add nitrogen to the soil during the mid-to-late season. Okra uses a lot of energy to produce pods, and extra nitrogen can boost their production. Choose a complete fertilizer, organic if you can. 

okra plant
Okra plant growing pods ~ Image credit: Dawn Head

How to Grow Okra

You can plant okra seeds in small pots to transfer later, or you can plant the seeds directly into the ground or container you want to ultimately have them growing in. This may depend what month you plant the seeds.

If you plant when there is still frost and freezing temperatures, start in small pots to transplant after the last frost. If you plant directly into the ground, after the last frost, you will still want to be sure the ground is a minimum of 65 degrees F at 4″ deep.

Planting okra from seed

Okra seeds take a little longer than other seeds to germinate because of their hard shell. To make them germinate faster, soak the seeds in a glass of water overnight.

How deep to plant okra

When you plant okra seeds, plant three seeds per pot or area. Plant the seeds 3/4″ – 1″ deep. You should see growth in 4 – 10 days. When they grow to an inch, keep the strongest and largest one, and snip the other two. You just want to grow one okra plant in each space.

Transplanting starts

If okra grows in your area, you will likely find starts (small okra plants that are already growing) at your local nursery. This gives you a head start as you will be starting with an established plant.

To transplant them at home:

  1. Dig a hole that’s deep enough to contain the pot the plant is in
  2. Gently loosen plant from container
  3. Take care to not disturb the roots
  4. Put plant in hole, keeping it upright, and fill in with soil
  5. Press down lightly to secure plant; add soil as needed
  6. Water around the plant, not at the stem

How far apart do you plant okra?

You should plant okra seeds or transplants you started in small pots 8″ – 12″ apart.

growing okra plants
Growing okra plants in garden bed ~ Image credit: Dawn Head

Heat-loving plants

It’s essential to plant okra at the right time. Depending on where you live, this may mean the spring or the middle of summer. They love the heat and will struggle in the cold.

If you are in a cool or cold climate and want to grow okra, it’s best to start okra in the summer. They will thrive in temperatures between 75 – 90 degrees F.

Where to Plant Okra

To be successful growing okra, you must place them in full sun. They need full sun. Okra need a minimum of 6 – 8 hours of full sun each day. They need a lot of energy to produce pods. 

Okra grows well in the south as well as in arid climates. Shade will stunt okra plant growth. However, if you are in a hardiness zone of 9 or higher, they can have partial shade during the day because they will have heat throughout the day.

Feeding Okra Plants

While okra grows easily in the beginning, it helps to enrich the soil to help it produce all season. As mentioned, okra grows well in many types of soil. It helps to start with quality soil, however,

For optimum growth, sprinkle organic fertilizer after 4 – 6 weeks of planting.

If you don’t own livestock, you can buy well-rested, rotted, old manure from horses, chickens, cows, etc. Using organic fertilizer will help boost pod production.

Adding compost around the base of the plant mid-season will give it a boost so it keeps producing. Especially mid-way through the season, when the okra plants are 18″ – 24″ tall, they will benefit from nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer.

It takes a lot of energy for okra to produce seed pods. Feeding extra nutrients will help ensure optimum growth and help the okra plant to produce all season. 

Growing Okra from Seeds

Depending on where you live, you may not find okra starts at nurseries and garden centers. Instead, learn how to plant okra seeds.

Step 1: Decide if you are going to plant the seeds directly into the garden, pot, planter, container, garden bed, etc. Your other option is to plant the seeds in a small pot to transplant later. Okra transplants well.

Step 2: Soak okra seeds overnight in a glass of water.

Soaking the seeds in a cup of water before planting them will speed up the germination process. With their hard shells, okra are sometimes slow to germinate. Soaking them in water overnight will help them germinate faster.

Step 3: Plant okra seeds three per hole. Plant them 3/4″ – 1″ into the soil.

Step 4: As they grow, remove the two weakest plants by snipping them off with scissors.

Wait a few days, and then transplant. If you planted the seeds in the area you are growing okra plants, there is nothing you need to do after keeping the strongest plant.

Step 5: Transplant okra plants. Choose an area that will receive 6+ hours of sun per day. Space the okra plants at least 8″ apart. Give them water and check every few days.

Tip for growing okra from seed: Start okra seeds in pots or trays. Sowing them directly into the garden or garden bed can be unpredictable. You will better control their environment by starting them in small pots and then transplanting them.

okra flower
Okra flower will turn into a pod ~ Image credit: Dawn Head

When to Plant Okra

In most areas, the okra planting season is in the spring, after the last frost. The warmer the better. Okra loves to be warm.

  • The ideal temperature for planting okra seeds or transplants is 65 degrees F or higher at a depth of 4 inches.
  • The ideal growing temperature is 75 – 90 degrees. 

How to Plant Okra

How deep do you plant okra?

Plant seeds 3/4″ – 1″ deep.

How far apart do you space okra?

When you plant okra, space out the plants 8″ – 12″ apart. 

Putting them to close together will stunt their growth. They won’t grow to their ideal height of 4 feet and taller. In addition, you will get just a few pods per plant instead of 20+. Give them room to grow.

growing okra in pot
Growing okra in pots; flower turning into a pod ~ Image credit: Dawn Head

Okra in Planters & Pots

You can grow okra in containers. If you start them from seed directly in the pot, plant three okra seeds. As they grow, snip off the two weaker plants. It’s best to grow one okra plant per container.

Growing okra in containers means you can have them on a patio, balcony, deck, outside your door, and any smaller space. You can also have the benefit of putting them in ideal conditions. You may have less critters and insects when you grow okra in containers.

Growing Okra in a Garden

Just as you can grow okra in a pot, you can grow okra in a garden or garden bed. It’s important to give them space. See below for companion plants to okra.

Does Okra Need a Lot of Water?

Being consistent with watering is key. By keeping to a regular watering cycle for okra, you can ensure a good crop. You may want to use a moisture meter to check the soil. You don’t want okra roots to remain wet or they will get root rot. Okra tolerates mild drought and dry conditions. 

Depending on where you live, okra will need a minimum of 1 – 2″ of water per week. It will need more in hotter, drier climates.

How Long Does Okra Take to Grow?

Okra takes 50 – 65 days to grow and mature. The plants will continue to produce pods if they are receiving sunlight, fertilizer, and proper water. If you have a longer growing season, this means more okra!

Harvesting Okra

It’s important to know when okra is ready to pick. Once okra pods start growing, they grow quickly. Harvest okra when they are between 3″ – 5″ long for most varieties. 

It is best to harvest okra when they are small. The larger they grow, the more woody they get. Okra become hard. They also become more slimy. Therefore, harvest okra when they are young and tender. 

When the okra pods first start growing, harvest okra when they are small. Prepare them, and see if you like them. Then, wait to pick another one when it grows larger and compare the tastes to see what you like better.

Okra pods blend in. You need to look for the okra; the pods are sometimes hard to see. 

How to pick okra

It’s important to pick okra every other day at the most. Give the plant time to rest between pickings. Take small pruning shears, a knife or scissors and snip them off. They are often difficult to pick by hand.

harvesting okra pods
Harvest okra pods when they are 3 – 5″ in length ~ Image credit: Dawn Head

What Does Okra Taste Like?

Okra has a unique texture. If it’s harvested late, it will be woody and grainy. It will be difficult to chew and eat. You can try pickling it or saving it for the seeds.

There is a slimy interior along with seeds. The outer shell is a pod. You can eat that too. Younger okra, 2 – 3″ long, will be more tender and tasty. It’s important to pick okra before it grows too long.

Okra get gooier as they get longer. You can eat okra raw or cooked. Red okra tastes the same as green okra.

You can also eat okra leaves raw when young or cooked as they get older. In addition, you can eat okra flowers in salads. Note, if you eat the flowers, they won’t grow into pods. 

Many people don’t favor okra for it’s gooey texture; however, it’s great for digestion and feeds good gut bacteria.

What Do You Do with Okra?

Many people fry okra and use it in recipes. You can also store okra by canning, pickling, or freezing it. 

Eat okra raw or cooked. The entire okra plant is edible. You can eat okra leaves in salad or cook them as you would other greens. In addition, you can eat the okra pod raw. This includes the outer shell and seeds.

trimmed okra pods
Trimmed okra pods ~ Image credit: Dawn Head

What to do with okra if it’s too woody?

You may opt to pickle them if they get too big. In addition, you can save the seeds for next year. You can toss inedible ones in your compost tumbler.

Plant care

When considering okra plant care, it’s most important they get 6+ hours of sunlight each day.

What do okra plants look like?
Okra plant growing in a pot ~ Image credit: Dawn Head

Okra varieties

There are many varieties of okra but you may be limited to what seeds you find at your local garden center, nursery, and local hardware store. You can also check Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart, etc.

There are green, red, purple varieties. Here are some varieties of okra:

  • Clemson’s Spineless
  • Crimson Spineless 80
  • Go Big
  • Cajun Delight
  • Emerald
  • Blondy
  • Burgundy
  • Cow Horn

Crop rotation

Don’t plant okra in the same spot each year, no matter how well it grew. When you rotate crops, you minimize insects.

However, if you are growing okra in a container or in a garden bed where you remove the soil and replace it with new soil, then you can grow it in the same place. The important thing is to use good quality soil the next season.


What do okra plants look like?

Okra grows into a pretty plant. It has one thick stem and produces gorgeous flowers and green leaves with a touch of red. 

How much okra can you get from one plant?

If your okra plants have ideal conditions, they can produce 20 – 30+ pods per plant. In a warmer hardiness zone such as zone 9b, you will have a longer growing season, into the fall or longer. Okra is a good choice for fall and winter vegetable gardens in some areas.

How long does it take for okra seeds to grow?

When you plant okra from seed, it will start to grow within 4 – 12 days typically.

When is the best time to plant okra?

After the last frost, when the soil is at least 65 degrees F when you measure down to 4″. Use a soil thermometer to test.

Is okra easy to grow?

One of the main advantages to growing okra is it’s ability to grow in poor soil. Okra is easy to grow if you live in growing zone 7 or higher. Growing okra is easy because they are hardy by nature and quick growing.

How hard is it to grow okra?

If you live in a warm or hot climate, and plant okra after the last frost in soil that’s 65 degrees or warmer, okra will grow easily. It’s a great choice for beginning gardeners. 

Can you grow okra in a pot?

Yes, you can grow okra in a pot, planter or container. Grow one okra plant per pot. They grow taller and produce more pods with space. Be sure it has drain holes to prevent root rot. Position the container so it gets 6+ hours of sun per day.

Does okra need a trellis?

You can stake them to give them more stability but not necessary. They have sturdy stems, even in fierce windstorms. They may lean, especially when a mature plant has several pods growing simultaneously. You can stake them or use a trellis for okra if you want to keep them stable. But again, it’s not necessary.

Where will okra grow best?

Okra grows best in growing zones 7 and higher. They love the heat. If you live in zone 6 or below, it’s important to grow okra plants when it’s warm enough.

Can you eat okra flowers?

You’ll see after an okra flowers, it quickly starts growing an okra pod. Okra flowers are beautiful in salads but don’t pick them unless you have an abundance of okra growing. When you pick the flowers, the okra pods can’t grow.

What plants well with okra?

Companion plants for okra include tomatillo, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and cucumbers.

Why aren’t my okra plants growing?

You may have planted your okra seeds too early or they may have become too wet and not germinated. If you already have some growth, it may be they aren’t getting enough sun. Also, if they are too close to each other or other plants, they may not grow well. Okra needs space to grow well. 

ants eating okra pods
Ants invaded these okra pods ~ Image credit: Dawn Head

What’s eating my okra?

Depending on where you live, you may have ants, stink bugs, flea beetles, aphids, corn earworms, root pests and more. Nematodes infest okra roots. 

If you have root pests in your garden, you can add Neem Cake or Pellets to the soil when transplanting the okra seedlings. It’ll act as a underground pest repellent and a slow release fertilizer.

Can I sow okra seeds immediately after harvesting from the plant?

Let the okra seeds you harvest from your okra set through the winter months. Allow them to air dry after harvesting. Then store them in an airtight container in the freezer.

How tall does okra grow?

When given ideal conditions, okra grows to be 4 – 5 feet tall. 

When should I pick okra?

Pick okra every other day, not two days in a row. The longer they get, the more fibrous and woody they become. They won’t taste as good and will be difficult to chew. Ideally, you will want to pick okra when they are young and tender, no longer than finger length. Many people prefer them at around 3″ long.

You should see the pods growing after 60 days. There are typically four days from the flower to the pod. 

It’s important to harvest okra every other day at the most. Be sure to pick them because they grow so fast they will be unusable. Don’t leave them for too long. 

Why grow okra?

Okra is easy to grow and does well in warm and hot climates. You can easily grow it in a pot or container if you don’t have a garden. It grows upwards, and doesn’t take a lot of space. It’s spindly and doesn’t have a lot of leaves. You can eat the entire pods, flowers as well as the okra leaves.

Growing at Home

Okra gardening is rewarding and helps you toward the path of sustainability. Growing okra from seed is easy. Once they start growing, it’s easy to transplant okra into gardens or containers.

It’s a great choice for beginner gardeners because it’s easy to grow. It’s hardy, does well in the heat, and is somewhat drought tolerant. In addition, it’s a pretty plant with a thick stalk, pale flowers, fast-growing pods, and interesting leaves. The pods are 100% edible.

It’s important to plant okra after the last frost. The soil needs to be a minimum of 65 degrees at a depth of 4″.

There’s a lot you can do with it. Try growing this warm weather veggie, and enjoy a bounty!

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