plants. gardens. friends.

digthedirt is about gardening, outdoor living and loving our planet!

learn more »

Eight Tips For Growing Fantastic Okra

by Tee Riddle (TeeRiddle)

'Clemson Spineless' Okra Plants
« 1 of 6 »

Okra is a popular crop in Southeastern portions of America. It is useful in soups and stews, but is most known as an ingredient in gumbo. Okra can be grown in almost any region, but there are some things you should know before adding it to your vegetable garden. <br/> <br/>Here are eight tips for growing fantastic okra in your garden.

The origins of okra can be traced back to West Africa, and it was commonly grown by the Egyptians in the 12th and 13th centuries. Okra was then distributed throughout the Mediterranean and into Europe, and finally introduced to the southeastern U.S. in the early 18th century. It was even grown by Thomas Jefferson in his Monticello garden during the 1780's.

Okra has many culinary uses in soups and stews, but is most famous as a main ingredient in gumbo. It is also believed that okra holds some medicinal purposes for helping to ease sore throat and acid reflux.

Many gardeners grow okra for it's delicious pods and for the beautiful hibiscus-like flowers. Here in the southeast, battered with flour, or cornmeal, and fried is the preferred method for preparing okra.

If you are interested in adding this unique plant to your vegetable garden, here are eight tips for growing fantastic okra.


Give Okra Full Sun and Warm Temperatures

Growing okra requires full sun, at least six to eight hours per day, and warm temperatures. Okra thrives when temperatures get above 75°F, and continue to flourish with temperatures 90°F or higher. There are a few cultivars that grow well in cooler conditions, such as 'North & South', which can be successfully grown as far north as Maine.

Okra seeds can be started indoors four to six weeks before the last frost date, or sown directly in the garden once the soil temperatures reach between 70°F and 75°F. Transplanting okra seedlings in the garden can be successful, but you must be careful not to damage the long taproot.

Okra Needs Some Space

When planting okra, space the plants 18 to 24 inches apart. Okra needs some room to increase air circulation around the plants. Proper spacing will reduce the risk of disease, such as powdery mildew, from spreading to other plants.

Provide Thick Layers of Mulch

Place a four to six inch thick layer of mulch around okra seedlings once they reach about three inches tall. Straw mulch is probably the best mulch to place around okra, but any type of organic mulch will do. Mulch helps to suppress nutrient-robbing weeds and will raise the temperature of the soil quicker in spring. This is very important if you live in a slightly cooler region because it will help speed up the growth of the plant.

Do Not Over Water

Since okra comes from West Africa, it should be safe to say it is very drought tolerant. In fact, okra performs best when the soil is allowed to dry out some between waterings. Over watering okra can cause root rot and disfigured plants. Depending on rain fall amounts, okra does best with about 1/2-inch of water per week. The great thing about growing okra is you can actually go without watering them for a month and the plants will never miss a beat!

Provide Support

You may think I'm saying okra needs counseling, but what I actually mean is you may need to stake-up okra as it matures. Mature plants can grow very tall - in excess of seven feet in some varieties.

The okra pods tend to grow up as the plant grows, so it can get top-heavy once it gets above six feet in height. A stake or some type of support may be needed if the plant starts to lean over. I've had okra get so tall I needed a ladder to harvest the pods at the top.
Pick Pods Early and Often

A common mistake with growing okra is harvesting the pods too late. Many gardeners will allow the pods to grow six to eight inches long. This will cause the pods to become tough and have a woody taste.

Okra pods should be harvested once the pods reach a length of one to four inches for most varieties. Harvesting the pods early will provide you with tender, delicious pods and will promote more pod growth on your plant.

Once the blooms appear on the plant keep a close eye on them - the pods will be ready to harvest in a couple days.

Cabbage_worm_garden_pics_12_28_2009_019.detailWatch for Stinkbugs

Fortunately, okra does not have many insect pests or disease issues, but you should keep an eye out for stinkbugs. Stinkbugs, or Leaf-footed bugs can affect the pods of the okra plant. The stinkbugs feed on the young pods causing them to become bumpy. If the bumpiness is minor the pods are probably fine to eat, but if there are extreme cases the pods should be discarded.

If you find stinkbugs on your okra, you can use Bt spray to ward off the stinkbugs. Another remedy is using ground cayenne pepper mixed with water and apply to plant leaves. The stinkbugs get one whiff of the cayenne pepper and go elsewhere.



You Can Eat The Blooms Too!

Okra is in the same family as hibiscus and have edible flowers. The okra blooms can be added raw to salads, or battered and deep fried. Another superb way to enjoy the blooms, is by stuffing with cream cheese and baking.

Add Okra To Your Garden This Year

Okra can be a great addition to any vegetable garden and a very nutritional part of the menu. You will enjoy growing this beautiful, exotic looking plant and will love the gumbo even more!


vegetables, Okra, tips for growing okra


hi. this is great information thank you so much. im going to eat me some okra blooms. hey i just wanted to add something on growing okra in containers. i have a balcony garden so containers are my only option so this is what has worked for me to give okra plenty of air space .i stager the plants in height. one plant on the floor next one on a plant stand next one on floor and so on so far its worked very well. also about polinators heres what i did i took 6 peices of dry bamboo stood 3 in one corner 3 in another had bees in about a week and a half. bingo polinaters. it was great, i found that tip on a UK site they build beautiful elaborate structures for bees in their gardens. they are so simple and they work. proof is in my 6 bamboo sticks. OH warning. i have been stung already so dont do what i did look befor you sit down a bee may be using your chair.
goldenraintree commented on 09/28/13
Hello How are you today i hope you are fine, My Name is Mercy, I will want us to be friends, for something important which I would like to share with you, and we will get to know each other better i am waiting for your responds in private email ID ( ) <br/> <br/> <br/>
marcydiané commented on 06/01/12
Will okra grow in a green house container? Help!
grow it commented on 04/02/12
can anyone please tell me if the stink bugs are what is leaving what looks like dirt on my okra buds.they are on alot of my rose of sharons and hibiscus also and if so,what can i use organticlt to stop them.iv not seen any stinkbugs on the plants.i also have a question on a different type of flower plant that also has the same podding action i have seen 6-8 bug that look like ladybugs only there black with white spots and they wont let the plant bloom. <br/>am this year changing to organtic and usaully the insectaside kills everything <br/>im a hopeless case some time so i have not much knowlege and any resonds wlll sure help me or even give me some url to look at . HELP!!!! <br/>
parrotlady48 commented on 10/21/10
What an awesome post! I have never tried okra but might consider it after reading your article on it. I had no idea the blooms were so beautiful or edible. Do you have a recipe for the stuffed blooms? I&#x27;d love to know more about it.
gardengirl commented on 05/20/10
Thank you gardengirl! I think you will enjoy growing okra in your garden. My recipe for the stuffed okra blooms is very simple. Just cut the bloom off the plant right at the very back of the bloom. I usually gather about six to eight blooms. Wash them off and remove the center, or stigma, then rinse them off under cool water to remove any dirt and pollen. Next, lay the blooms on a cookie sheet with the bloom facing up and lightly drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Take a stick of softened cream cheese and mix in bacon bits, a sprinkle of chopped cilantro and finely chopped jalapeños (if you want a little kick!). Put them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 7 minutes or until the cream cheese begins to melt and get a bit gooey. Take out of the oven and immediately sprinkle chopped chives on top. Serve. They make awesome appetizers ;)
TeeRiddle replied: on 05/21/10
Oh, that sounds very very good! Have you ever tried it with hibiscus flowers? Are those edible too?
gardengirl replied: on 05/21/10
I have never tried hibiscus blooms to be honest. Since they are in the same family as okra, they should be fine, but I would definitely make sure before nibbling on them :-)
TeeRiddle replied: on 06/05/10
excellent info- thanks for this- it is a plant I never think of growing- now I will.
organic gardener commented on 05/19/10
Thanks! You will enjoy watching it grow. :-)
TeeRiddle replied: on 05/19/10
Sounds like a really good plant to grow in Los Angeles- I never think of growing okra- Might have to try this one next year. Thanks for all of the information - so much to learn, so little time.
butterfly commented on 05/18/10
Hi butterfly! Okra would grow like weeds in Los Angeles! The warm temperatures and sometimes dry conditions are a perfect match for okra.
TeeRiddle replied: on 05/19/10
This looks like a really fun plant to grow- wish I had more space, but don&#x27;t think it would do well in a container. Interesting to learn all about it though, as I do love fried okra.
Seedling commented on 05/18/10
Hi Seedling, you can grow okra in a container. It needs to be a deep container to allow room for the long taproot. There are dwarf varieties such as 'Baby Bubba' that grow great in a container. You can usually find seeds for it at Baker Creek Seeds. You should give it a try ;-)
TeeRiddle replied: on 05/18/10
Thank you for this amazing post on Okra! We have actually never grown it here, but maybe this year we could fit it in to the vegetable garden here.
dig the dirt editor commented on 05/18/10
Thank you! The great thing about okra is it does not take up much room, since the plant tends to grow more up than it does out. It's the perfect image of natural vertical gardening. All you need is a two foot by two foot area and you can grow one plant.
TeeRiddle replied: on 05/18/10