Okra, also known as ladyfingers or gumbo, is an essential staple in southern cuisine. Stirred into succotash to fried to golden perfection, this vegetable is well known and easy to enjoy.
What’s lesser-known? Just how easy it is to grow at home.
Okra is a versatile and resilient container plant that can be grown even in small outdoor spaces. And though it’s typically cultivated in the heat of the deep south, you can actually grow it throughout the United States.
Want to try your hand at growing okra? Read on to discover all the tips, tricks, and hacks you need to grow amazing okra in your own backyard.
How to Grow Okra In Containers & Pots
Growing Okra in containers is fun and easy–if you have the right materials. Set yourself up for a bountiful harvest by researching varietals, picking the right container and even making sure the plants around your okra are doing the most to benefit your plant throughout its growing cycle.
Choose Your Okra Variety
There are many different varieties of okra, many of which do well in containers. We recommend using a dwarf variety, as regular varieties can grow over five feet tall and are not suitable for small spaces. If you live in a cooler environment, you might want to look for a varietal that matures quickly to best take advantage of a shorter warm season.
Pick A Large Container With Great Drainage
You’re looking for a container that is at least ten to twelve inches deep with a similar diameter. Good drainage will ensure that your plant gets the right amount of water without the fear of overwatering. Because okra needs a lot of heat, we also recommend getting a black container, which will absorb more sunlight and preserve soil temperature.
Fill Container With Proper Potting Soil
Okra does best with a soilless potting mix, full of organic matter and phosphorus-rich fertilizer. You can also fertilize the soil throughout the lifetime of your plant. Try composting your veggie scraps on top for an extra dose of nutrients.
Plant Okra Seeds In Container or Pot
When planting okra seeds, you should dig holes between 1/2 inch and an inch into your soil. If you are growing in a raised or garden bed, space your seeds between 12 and 18 inches apart. Okra plants will get large!
Choose Companion Plants
Companion plants are plants that are grown in close proximity to another plant that help ensure it has a good harvest. They can help drive away certain pests, attract more beneficial pollinators and, in some cases, can even enhance the taste of the plants with which they grow.
Okra has several companion plants that help it thrive. We get more into the ideal varietals below.
Common Container Okra Growing Problems & Issues
Like all plants, okra can run into issues that keep it from growing its best. One of the most common ones to watch for disease.
Okra is susceptible to “damping off” (a microorganism that prevents okra seeds from germination), yellow vein mosaic fungus, fusarium, enation leaf curl, and southern blight. If you are serious about preventing disease, you’ll want to be sure that your plants get plenty of sun, that your soil is above 70 degrees and that your fertilizers are low in nitrogen and high in phosphorus.
Okra Plant Care Tips & Growing Conditions
Setting yourself up for success starts in the beginning. Before you touch seed or soil, be sure that you are starting off during the right season, using the right materials, and are equipped with the nutrients your okra plant will need over a lifetime.
Ideal Potting Soil For Growing Okra in Containers
When you are first starting out, use a soilless potting mix that is full of organic matter and phosphorous-rich fertilizer. You’ll want to be sure that your soil has a neutral pH, between 6.5 and 7, and is at a warm 70 degrees for best results.
You should fertilize your okra plant regularly, both before and throughout their germination and life cycle. You’ll want to avoid fertilizer that has too much nitrogen, as the nitrogen can inhibit bloom development in your okra plant. Feel free to mix in compost throughout growing as well.
How much Sun Does Okra Need To Grow
Okra requires full sun, at least six to eight hours per day, and warm temperatures. If you are growing in a container, you may want to move it around your outdoor space to ensure it gets the light it needs.
How much Water does Okra Need
Okra is fairly resilient and can withstand an occasional dry spell if you forget to water for a couple of days. That said, you’ll have the most success if you give your plants around one inch of water per week. Picking a container that has good drainage can help ensure that your plant doesn’t get too much water.
Okra is susceptible to certain pests, including aphids, nematodes, flea beetles, stink bugs and whiteflies. The best way to prevent pests is to keep your plants warm and dry. You’ll also want to get ahead of any infestations before they begin, so check the base of the plant and the undersides of leaves often, picking off any little bugs that you find there.
If you find that your plant has been overrun by pests, you can try using commercial pesticides or insecticidal soap to curb infestation.
Does okra grow well in containers & pots?
Okra does great in containers. In fact, because okra plants grow to be so big, we recommend using a large container for each plant you grow. We also like container gardening because you can customize the soil and fertilizer to the plant without worrying about affecting other veggies in your garden. An added bonus–a portable container can be moved easily so that the okra can get the essential sunlight it needs.
When to Grow Okra?
Okra needs full sun and warm weather (it thrives in the Deep South for a reason). So no matter what, plant well after the last frost when the ground and air have warmed up.
Okra requires full sun, at least six to eight hours per day, and warm temperatures. Okra thrives when temperatures get above 85 degrees and continue to flourish with temperatures 90 degrees or higher. Even with temperatures edge near 100 degrees, your okra will continue to thrive.
Okra Companion Plants
The best gardeners understand the benefits of companion plants and use them to their advantage. If you want to maximize your harvest and be proactive about the health of your okra, here’s what you should plant around it:
- Basil: the strong smell of basil can ward off common pests such as aphids, whiteflies, flea beetles and stink bugs.
- Pepper plants: help to repel cabbage worms.
- Cucumbers: if you are growing in a raised bed or in garden soil, try planting some cucumbers around your okra. Both like heat and moist soil, so the time you take to maintain is almost worth double.
- Melons: similar to cucumber, melons love heat and water.
- Flowering annuals: attract pollinators by planting flowers such as zinnias, cosmos and calendula.
How long does it take to grow Okra?
Once it’s in the ground, okra grows relatively quickly. If you ensure that your plant has the right nutrients, sun, water and growing conditions, you can expect your plant to be close to harvest in between 50 and 65 days. Once you start seeing flowers, you are about a week away from harvest.
Okra Container Growing Stages
Okra’s life cycle can be broken into four parts:
In the beginning, it’s all about germination. Because they drop a taproot, you’ll want to germinate your okra seeds directly in soil. Plant them about 1/2 inch to one inch deep into nutrient-dense soil, give them a good drink of water put them in a spot that gets lots of sun.
Seeds will germinate in between two to twelve days. Help them develop strong roots by giving them plenty of sun and water.
It’s Time To Harvest
Okra will start to flower after between 50 and 65 days. About a week after flowering, pods will begin to develop and grow. When they reach around 1-3 inches in length, cut them off using sharp pruning sheers right at the base at the pod.
I Waited Too Long, Now What?
If you wait too long to harvest your pods, they will become tough and overly fibrous. Even if you have waited too long, it’s important to remove the overly ripe pods so that your plant can focus its nutrients and resources on other, less-developed pods.
How To Harvest Your Okra?
After around 50-65 days, your okra will be ready to harvest. Here’s what to look for, how to prune and how to store your bounty.
When to harvest Okra?
The early growth of okra is slow, but quickly picks up speed. The warmer the weather, the faster the growth. As they grow, your plants will gain height and the bigger leaves. Eventually, they’ll start to produce yellow blossoms followed by tender pods. Usually, the pods appear about 50-60 days after planting.
Once you see these pods, check your plants regularly. They will grow very quickly and can appear and mature within 2 or 3 days. When the pods are 2-4 inches long, harvest. They’ll get tough and stringy otherwise.
Harvest your pods by pruning the pods at the base of where they meet the leaf. Using sharp shears will help you get a clean cut.
How to Store Your Okra Harvest
Okra should be refrigerated, unwashed and loosely wrapped in a perforated plastic bag, in the crisper drawer. Make sure they are very dry, as wet pods have a tendency to get mushy and slimy.
Okra only lasts two to three days after harvest, so be sure to use it quickly for best results. Once the tips and ridges of the pods turn black, your okra has gone bad.
Okra Recipes We Love!
Okra is a delicious, nutritious and versatile ingredient in a variety of southern (and non-southern!) recipes. Here are a few of our favorites:
Grow Pro Okra Growing Tips
Our Grow Pros are experts at making gardening fun, easy and accessible. Here’s what they have to say about guaranteeing a successful okra harvest:
- Grow okra in containers–and take advantage of the portability. Growing okra in containers is the easiest way to ensure that your plant will get enough sunlight. Monitor your plant closely, especially in the beginning, to make sure that it is in full sun for between six and eight hours per day. If you need to, pick up the container and transfer it to a sunnier spot throughout the day.
- Clip the larger pods when possible. Okra pods can get pretty large. If you see one that you think is too big to eat, make sure that you harvest it anyway. Leaving it on the plant will take away precious nutrients and resources from other, less-developed areas.
- Create your own heat. Okra needs heat to thrive. If you don’t think your soil is warm enough, place a plastic sheet over your plant to trap in as much heat as possible.
Our Grow Pros Most Frequently Asked Questions
There are many reasons that okra seedlings might have trouble growing. To start, be sure that your plant is getting between six to eight hours of sunlight per day, that the soil temperature is above 70 degrees and that you are using organic fertilizer rich in phosphorous, not nitrogen. Also check that your okra is getting enough water.
Okra thrives in the deep south for a reasonu002du002dit loves hot climates. For the most bountiful harvest, plant your okra around two to three weeks after the last frost date.
Five gallon buckets are perfect for planting okra in containers. You’ll want one that’s at least ten to twelve inches deep with a similar diameter.
If you are planting in raised beds or a traditional vegetable garden, give your okra plants about twelve to eighteen inches on each side.
Choose a 5-gallon bucket that is at least ten inches deep and across. Start with a smaller variety of dwarf okra so that your plant doesn’t get too large for the container. Fill it with potting soil, organic matter, mulch and low-nitrogen fertilizers, then plant the seeds between 1/2 to 1 inch deep. Move your container to the sunniest spots to ensure that your okra plant gets enough sunlight, and water regularly.
Okra requires full sun to grow. When you choose to grow okra in a container, you give yourself the ability to move your plant into the sun as often as needed. Container gardening also allows for growers to have a home garden even if they live in a small space without a backyard.
A 5-gallon bucket is enough space for one okra plant. You want to be sure that it has enough room to grow.
Make sure you have a neutral soil pH, between 6.5 and 7. Choosing a potting mix that is rich in organic matter, and don’t be afraid to add in compost or additional balanced fertilizers throughout the growing season.
Container-grown okra will take about two to three months for blooms to begin to appear. Once you start seeing blooms, you can expect to harvest in about a week.
Okra does best when the temperature is above 85 degrees for multiple consecutive days.
Start Growing Your Own Okra!
Are your ready to start growing your own okra? Check out our Grow Bags, the perfect container for ensuring a healthy harvest, as well as recipes and other container vegetable gardening hacks on our blog. We also wrote another piece on growing okra during the summer you can look into!