All About Growing Okra

Growing okra is easy in warm climates, but even Northern gardeners can plant okra in sun-warmed containers. This guide includes descriptions of the types of okra, how to plant okra, and how to harvest okra pods in their prime.

  • Grow okra this summer to enjoy some creative cuisine in your kitchen. Think cornmeal-dredged fried okra, okra muffins, okra succotash and much more.
    Illustration By Keith Ward

(For details on growing many other vegetables and fruits, visit our Crop at a Glance collection page.)

A semi-tropical member of the hibiscus family, okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) produces edible flowers, pods and seeds. Okra grows best where both days and nights stay warm in summer, and it is among the easiest summer crops to grow in the humid Southeast. Where growing seasons are cooler, dwarf varieties can be grown in containers. Okra requires full sun and soil temperatures above 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Types of Okra

Early dwarf okra varieties suitable for small beds and large containers include fast-maturing hybrids such as ‘Annie Oakley II,’ ‘Cajun Delight’ and ‘Baby Bubba.’ These varieties seldom grow more than 4 feet tall, and they start producing pods about 55 days after planting.

Main-season okra varieties include super-productive ‘Clemson Spineless’ and numerous tall heirlooms such as ‘Stewart’s Zeebest’ and ‘Perkins Long Pod,’ which mature about 60 days after planting. These are the good choices if you are growing okra for pickling or freezing.

Red okra varieties produce dramatic orange to burgundy pods, which turn green when cooked. They are not as productive as green-podded varieties, but red okras such as ‘Burgundy,’ ‘Red Velvet’ and ‘Hill Country Red’ make beautiful edible ornamentals.

How to Plant Okra

Okra will grow in a range of soil types provided the pH is between 5.8 and 6.8. Maximize sun exposure when growing okra, because this crop cannot tolerate shade. Loosen the soil to at least 12 inches, and mix in a 1 inch layer of compost along with a standard application of a balanced organic fertilizer. Plant okra in late spring or early summer, two weeks or more after your last frost has passed. Soak hard okra seeds in plain water overnight before planting, and discard any seeds that float to the top. Plant okra seeds 1 inch deep and 4 inches apart, spacing rows at least 30 inches apart. When okra seedlings are 4 inches tall, thin them to at least 18 inches apart.



Fall 2021!

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