Growing Okra

green okra pods on plant

In hot weather, okra pods grow fast. Keep them harvested by cutting them off at their short, woody stems with scissors or clippers. The leaf hairs are prickly, so you may want to wear gloves.

Grow okra in a raised bed where you can provide optimal soil and growing conditions.

This raised bed with dwarf okra provides good drainage, improved soil, and easy access.

As more gardeners discover that they really like okra, the range of this warm-natured hibiscus cousin is steadily edging northward. Growing okra requires warm weather, but by using seedlings, you can shave 3 weeks or more from its usual long season. As long as okra seedlings are handled gently, as if they were breakable eggs, they can be slipped into the garden – or into large containers – just as the hot season begins.

Soil, Planting, and Care

Okra needs warm soil and weather to grow well.

Okra seedlings don’t like cold. Plant well after the last spring frost when the ground and air have warmed.

Choose your sunniest spot for growing okra, and wait until the weather is warm to set out your plants. Plants like it when nights are at least in the 60s and days 85 or warmer. In the North, gardeners might wait until late June to plant, since pods appear within 2 months.

Okra grows best in soil with a near-neutral pH between 6.5 and 7.0, although it will do fine in a pH as high as 7.6. Plants benefit from a generous amount of compost or other rich organic matter, which should be thoroughly mixed into the soil before planting. If your soil is not rich, you can work bagged organic fertilizer or slow-release conventional fertilizer such as 4-6-6 or 19-19-19 into the soil at the rate recommended on the package, then feed the plants with Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Plant Food at planting and every couple of weeks thereafter.

Okra seedlings have fragile taproots that cannot be broken. Thoroughly water your seedlings an hour before you plant them. Gently break open the sides and bottoms of their biodegradable containers, separate the seedlings, and set them about 10 inches apart. Plant slightly deeper (about ½ inch) than they grew in their pots. Water the little plants if rain is not expected, but wait a few days before mulching to give the soil a chance to absorb the sun’s warmth. Okra is appreciated for its ability to withstand drought compared to other vegetables, but for good growth and production, you’ll need to water at least an inch a week, just as with other vegetables. Just know that if you run into an extended dry period and can’t seem to water enough, okra will be the last to suffer.

Okra is related to hibiscus and produces blooms that look similar to hibiscus flowers.

Okra flowers look like the blooms of a hibiscus, a close relative to okra. This flower is visited by ants.

The early growth of okra is often slow, but the plants grow much faster once summer starts sizzling. In addition to gaining height, okra’s leaves get bigger as the plants grow and begin producing yellow blossoms followed by tender pods. Plants are erect with a main trunk, making them look a little tree-like in the garden.

Troubleshooting

Cool weather is okra’s number-one enemy, and stressed plants may fall victim to verticillium and fusarium wilts, which are soil-borne diseases that cause them to wilt and die. Another serious pest is root knot nematode. Ants often climb up plants to steal sips of nectar but seldom cause serious damage. Fireants are the exception, as they can cause damage to developing flowers that forces them to abort. Other pests that you may run into include Japanese beetles, stink bugs, aphids, corn earworms, and flea beetles.

Harvest and Storage

summer vegetable harvest featuring okra

Proper care for your okra plants will yield a bountiful summer harvest!

Warm weather helps pods grow quickly, so check plants every day once they start producing. A pod can grow from nothing to full size in 2 or 3 days. Pods first appear at the base of the plant up so that by the end of the season you could be on your tiptoes to harvest.

Pods are ideal when 2 to 4 inches long; they get very tough and stringy if allowed to stay on the plant. Always remove any that are too big to eat because they keep the plant from producing.

Use pruning shears to cut the pods with a short stub of stem attached. Some people suffer uncomfortable itching from contact with okra’s stiff leaf hairs, so you may want to wear gloves and a long-sleeved shirt when gathering your okra. If a few pods slip by you and grow into giants, cut them off to keep them from exhausting the plant.

Okra plants grow very tall by the end of summer.

By the end of the season, full-sized okra plants will tower overhead as these do at the edge of a tree and shrub border.

In warm climates where summer lasts a long time, standard-sized plants can get 6 to 8 feet tall. In this case, many people prune in late summer by cutting back about one-third of the plants’ tops. Buds along the main stem then grow and produce a late crop.

Okra is a “cut-and-come-again” vegetable. Keep cutting the pods every day or two, and they will keep on coming.

FAQs

Do all okra varieties have spines?

Some varieties are listed as “spineless.” However, the term is a description of the okra pod itself, and not the plant. All plants have at least tiny, fuzzy spines that cause burning and itching when you rub against them. Wear long sleeves and gloves to harvest okra if you are bothered by the prickly plant.

What do you do with the extra okra plants in the planting cups when planting?

Plant as is. Do not try to separate them. They will grow fine.

My okra plants are about an inch tall, but are not growing at all. What can I do to help them along?

It has been too cool for okra to grow much. Okra likes hot weather. Temperatures in the 80s and higher will help.

After blooms appear on the plants, how long does it take okra to grow to harvest size?

Within two or three days after blooming, okra pods are ready for cutting. The tender pods are best for eating. The longer the pod stays on the plant, the more woody it becomes to the point where you can’t eat it. However, some gardeners let the pods mature and get woody to use for arrangements.

122 Comments

Leona

Hi, I live in Vancouver Wa. I would like to know iof orka will grow in Vancouver Wa.

Reply
Danielle Carroll

Hi Leona,
You can grow okra in Washington. This is a vegetable publication by the Washington State Univeristy extension with planting dates and guides for most of the home vegetables grown in your area. -danielle, Bonnie Plants

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Dana Patterson

This is my first year for a patio container garden in South Alabama. Everything was doing okay till about 2 weeks ago. I started noticing my okra plants looked like they were dying. When I was able to get a closer look at them they are covered in tiny reddish brown small little bugs sorta like flea size and the soil looked like small white termites in it. What should I do? I am not afraid to use chemicals on my plants just dont know which to use to get rid of the problem.

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Danielle Carroll

Hi Dana,
Your okra may have been invaded by aphids! Try a stiff spray of water first to try and knock the aphids off. This is the Alabama Cooperative Extension Home Garden Vegetables: Insect Control Recommendations. You will find insecticidal soap listed as well as a couple of others. – danielle, Bonnie Plants

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Janny

I’ve gardened for years and every year I try a new vegetable. I’m new to Arizona moving down from Seattle, so we’re talking different “worlds”. I’ve also had raised beds, and am lucky to have a walled yard to keep out the critters. This year I’m trying okra for the first time and so far only three of my four plants are happy. I’ve read up about this plant and am giving them every benefit. I know they like hot weather and I don’t over water them, but I do cage them. Do they like to be treated like peppers?

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Danielle Carroll

Hi Janny,
They like a very warm soil like pepper plants do. Okra plants can get tall, similar to corn although the two are completely different. Since you are new to Arizona gardening – I can only imagine how much it differs from the Seattle climate you are used to – I am attaching the vegetable growing manual from the Arizona extension system. I bet this will help you in your new zone :) – danielle, Bonnie Plants

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Brooke

We are near Fairbanks, Alaska. I have some Okra started on the top of my fridge and they have SHOT up. I actually didn’t realize HOW big they get, so we are going to have to get bigger planters for them.

If we use a 3-5 gallon pot for them, do they do well with being moved? It gets around 50* at night even through the summer and around 75* through the day. If I pull the pots inside at night, they’ll be fine right? I honestly have no idea as I’ve never been able to grow anything before this year.

Thanks,
~Brooke~

Reply
Danielle Carroll

Hello Brooke,
Odds are the okra plants are not going to like being taken in and out. But I sure do not want to discourage anyone from gardening, so I say go for it, and please let me know how it goes. Here are some gardening tips from University of Alaska Fairbanks extension. Good Luck! – danielle, Bonnie Plants

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sally

My okra has suddenly become deformed right where the new growth emerges. Flowers and fruit are stunted and the plant isn’t growing. What is this and what remedy, preferably organic, can be used. Is it contagious? Thanks.

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Danielle Carroll

Hello Sally,
Sounds like you are gardening in the South! This could be a few things. Deformed pods are sometimes caused by stink bugs and other leaf footed bugs, so keep an eye on it – identification is the first step in control. Small pods rotting on the tip ends once emerging is common when okra is planted closely together (sometimes in conjuntion with part shade conditions). The best thing to do is to monitor the okra daily. When the okra is pulled up after harvest, you may check the roots of the okra for nematodes. The publication here from the Univeristy of Florida will help show you what to look for. This is a good reason to rotate crops in the garden. -danielle, Bonnie Plants

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Davida Williams

when i first planted my garden everything was doing great but, after a couple weeks the veggies are turning yellow what could that be?
i live in SC

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Danielle Carroll

Hi Davida,
Were the veggies fertilized before or during planting? If they were not, it may be time to do so. Yellowing is a very good sign of nutrient deficiencies. -danielle, Bonnie Plants

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Davida Williams

could you please tell me how deep the roots go on squash,
and the okra and if the squash will grow inlarge to med. pots
the reason i’am asking is i have no room in my garden and little property

Thanks

Reply
Danielle Carroll

Hello Davida,
I wouldn’t use a container less than a foot deep for either. Squash need a lot of room to grow – a pot at least 24 inches in diameter. Here is a picture here of okra growing in a container. Just don’t overcrowd the plants in the container. – danielle, Bonnie Plants

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Mary Frances

I am in Georgia and have planted 2 okra plants I purchased about a month ago. But recently I have noticed there is something eating the leaves! The bigger dark green leaves are being consumed by something, but I can’t seem to find the suspect! I think the plant is still growing, but I need to know is there is anything I can spray on my plants to keep bugs away!

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Danielle Carroll

Hello Mary,
Before we spray anything, we need to determine what the pest is. Do the leaves have small holes in them, or could it be something larger like a browsing deer? This publication from your state extension office on growing okra details some of the common pests in your area. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

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linda waters

Sav.Ga. Having same problem. plants are being consumed by something eating away at the leaves. Not deer. Small back yard, fenced. I’ve put out slug pellets, nothing helping.

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Mark

How many okra seedlings can you plant in one area. Do you separate the plants or plant the entire pot of seedlings in one spot? How far apart should the plants/rows be?

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Danielle Carroll

Hi Mark,
If you are growing in long rows, space rows 36 inches apart with 12 inches between plants. For tighter spaces, like raised beds, you can plant the pot as is and thin sparingly. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

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Danielle Carroll

Hello Holly,
No support is needed for okra. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

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Keia

Can you grow okra in Columbus Ohio? I haven’t seen any plants, so I have to start with seeds. I am a first-time gardener. Thanks!

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Danielle Carroll

Hi Keia,
Growing okra in Ohio can be a little tricky as it is a long season veggie growing preferring the warmer temperatures. But, yes, it can be grown in Ohio. This article will give you advice on starting from seed in your area! – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

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Carissa

I started my okra out from seed. I have the clemless variety and tthe dwarf variety growing. The get nice and big about 5 inches or so, but only have 2 leaves at 5 inches tall. I have searched and searched about this problem on the internet but find nothing about if this is normal or not. I have some that just came up and are about 1-2 weeks old and are at 5 inches tall with only 2LEAVES. I am new at gardening, but this doesnt appear to be normal or is it? Please help me… I have it in store bought soil, with a slowly releaseing fertalizer sticks. Any thoughts or ideas?

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Carissa

I forgot to mention I keep them under a grow light indoors and they are also in an 18inch round planter pot.

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Carissa

Also I live in Arizona, USA (as i see other people from other countries use this website:-)) so we have plenty of warm weather here to share for everyone including these plants. If I put them outside thay will not only get eaten by the deer, but the rabbits, and whatever else decides to snakc on them. That and my yard has very bad soil thats why i had to go buy my dirt. We have whats called alkaline in the dirt here at my house and that kills off most plants except the ones that can live in it and the weeds as well. Plus I have already started seeing snakes around my area this year and definatly would not want to harvest any of those out of a garden… any advice for my okra? Please help and thanks ahead of the time.

Reply
Danielle Carroll

You may want to consider a raised bed. It is often a great solution for poor soils. Here are some plans for raised beds. This is from your home state’s extension system on okra in Arizona :)

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Danielle Carroll

Hi Carissa,
I see…how far are you keeping the lights above the plants? Lights are usually placed about 3 inches above the seedlings and raised as the seedling grow to prevent ‘leggy’ plants.

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Danielle Carroll

Hi Carissa,
That sounds normal to me. If the seeds were planted a couple of weeks ago and are already up and have real leaves – they seem to be growing nicely.
-Danielle, Bonnie Plants

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Danielle Carroll

Hi Nuno,
Okra is a very popular vegetable in Southern India – pretty close to the Republic of the Maldives!
-Danielle, Bonnie Plants

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Dom

hello, I am about to attempt growing Okra here in Cambodia, in pots since monsoon season is on the way. Its plenty hot here as you can imagine, and the plants will be protected on my upstairs balcony from excessive rainfall. I was wondering if you had advice for starting from scratch, as i have never grown it before. I will start with basic seeds, since finding seedlings in this country for something like Okra is impossible. Any tips would be very helpful! Thank you

Reply
Danielle Carroll

Hello Dom,
Okra is spaced about a foot apart so be sure and get a container that is large enough. It is tall too – some varieties upward of 6′. Some soak the okra seed in water or freeze it first to help break the seed coat to improve germination. How much sun will the container get on the balcony? Okra is a warm weather veggie and needs full sun. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Reply
bnell

Hi I planted okra last year, for the first time, last year from seed packets. I brought a standard variety (Clemson I believe). The okra grew fairly well. I thought that the yield was fair, but nothing spectacular. The okra grew in pretty quickly over the summer but the plants did not have that many blooms on them. Also after comparing them to other plants I saw in my neighborhood I noticed that mine were at best half the height. My corn was also shorter that other corn stalks neighbors grew in their yard. I believe that my soil is pretty fertile and I also added organic blood meal fertilizer before planting. What am I doing wrong. Plants like tomatoes and cucumbers grew well. No luck with peppers or greens. Please help. Thanks

Reply
Danielle Carroll

Hello,
There are many factors we could could look at. Corn is a grass, so the addition of nitrogen fertilizers pretty regularly is necessary. The soil may be fertile, but have you ever had a soil test run to have the pH tested? – a great article on Why pH Matters. What type of watering schedule did you use? Veggies need about an inch of water per week. If it doesn’t come from the sky, it needs to come from us. Another great article on watering the veggie garden. These other gardening basics may help you out. Let me now if you have any questions.
-Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Reply
Charles

I’ll be planting for the first time and would like to know more about yield so I will know how many plants I will need.

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Danielle Carroll

Hi Charles,
For varieties like Clemson Spineless, it is recommended to plant per person: 3 to 4 for fresh okra; 6 to 8 for fresh and preserving. Okra needs to be harvested every other day…it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
-Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Reply
DesertPrepping

I just did an article on growing okra in the desert, I find that some varieties just don’t do well in 100+ degree temperatures, but others have no problem with it.

Reply
Danielle Carroll

Hello,
Okra may have pollination issues when the the temperature reaches triple digits. You may even find some of the pods misshapen. As the temperatures slide back down, production increases. Okra is a very warm natured plant and usually does well in the warmer parts of summer.
-Danielle

Reply
aniecia bieber

i want to know what are the step in going okra on a school farm i am a student of a hight school eho is trying to finish a project is there anyway u can help me out i would apprechiate it thanks

Reply
Danielle Carroll

Hi Aiecia,
School gardens are a great idea! Choose a very sunny location for your okra, at least 8 hours of full sun per day. Wait until the weather has warmed up and the threat of all cold weather has passed before planting okra. Prepare your soil so it is loose and well draining; okra prefers a pH of 6.5 – 7.0. Once it starts to grow, you can use the tips here to grow healthy okra. Just make sure you have a few people to help you pick….once okra gets going, it needs to be harvested every 2 – 3 days.
-Danielle, Bonnie Plants

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barbara

hi , pls i want to know if improve varietie aretolerent to okra flea beetel than the local variety of okra

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Mary Beth

Hi Barbara,
Thanks for writing. I asked our experts in Extension and they could not locate a seed source or variety that claims this improvement. Flea beetles are annoying, but I find that planning and timing is everything when it comes to avoiding them on young seedlings (waiting patiently until after they are known to swarm through my area.). Or, you can use row covers on young plants. Hope that helps. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Reply
Vcee

How long does it take okra to germinate from date it is planted until the plume appears above ground in warm climate?

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Mary Beth

Hi Vcee,
We sell vegetable starts, or transplants. If you are growing from seed, consult the seed packet to tell you 1) how long it takes the seed to germinate and 2) how long until it fruits. If planting our plants, you can expect to harvest okra pods within 50 to 64 days. Happy growing. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

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Gene

I live in southwest Arkansas, my problem is when the okra plant gets about three feet tall, and producing pods they just die off. Something wrong with the soil?

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Mary Beth

Hi Gene,
Yes, that could be a soil-borne disease. The only way to know for sure what is happening to your plants is to have them tested. Verticillium or fusarium wilt causes yellowing, wilting, and death of plants in midsummer. Okra varieties are not resistant to verticillium and fusarium wilt. The way to prevent this problem is to plant okra crops onto new land or on land rotated away from such susceptible crops as the solanaceous vegetables or strawberries. Good rotation crops are grasses, cucurbits, and legumes. Can you take a sample to your local Extension office? ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

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Mary Beth

Dear Godwin T,

We recommend that you sart fertilizing about 2 weeks after planting. The plants don’t require much fertilizer until this period. ~ Freeman at Bonnie Plants

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Aung Ye Ko

I want to know okra’s type of flower & structure, flowering and fertilization time and life of pollen .Is it C3 or C4 plant?

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Mary Beth

Hello Aung Ye Ko,
Great questions. Okra is a C3 plant, which you can read more about in this fascinating research and very simple explanation from the University of Georgia. Diagrams of the flower structure are also helpful. Thanks for writing us, and happy gardening. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

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ohlu

i live in ecuador and there is no okro here,i actually got some okro seed from home but where i live there is no space can anyone give me info on how to plant in a bowl?

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Mary Beth

Hi Ohlu,
You can grow okra in a container, and you may be best suited to grow a dwarf variety suited for containers. Be sure to check the seed packet, as some okra plants can get 6′ tall and require lots of space. Here’s a photo of a small okra plant in a pot, for encouragement! http://bonnieplants.com/library/easy-container-combos-vegetables-and-flowers/okra-pamela-crawford/. For advice on growing seeds, consult your local Ag office or this Extension website for info. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

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ohlu

thank you for your reply do i put the loose soil in the pot or i need to mix wit water first before planting?

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Mary Beth

Hi Ohlu,
You put the loose potting soil in the pot and lightly tamp it down. After planting your transplants or seeds, you water well to soak the soil and settle it. This removes air pockets and ensures the water reaches all of the roots well, too. Happy growing, Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

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Mary Beth

Hi Yusuf,
If you click the tabs above in the article here, we have all of the information you need on growing okra. It loves to grow in hot temperatures and is a performer when most crops are wilting in the summer sun. It is also pretty drought-resistant. Read these instructions above for more detail on growing okra where you live. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

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Diana Briegel

I live in Richmond VA and planted okra seeds in a couple of containers (no good spot or soil prepared yet for a veggie garden). Plants grew, I’ve gotten some pods – yummy! See 2 new pods on one plant this past week (Sep 2012) – yay! Wondering – when plants finish producing, do I leave them in the containers? Cut them back? Rip them out and start over next year? Don’t know what to do once they stop producing for the season! (I’m very new at growing veggies!)

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Bob pfister

Late in the season (Sept/Ga) the pods get numerous little bumps on them. The pods thus don’t seem to grow to normal size — 4″. They still seem to be edible.
Any thing to be concerned about, or ignore ?

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Kelly Smith Trimble

Bob, I don’t think this is a problem. Keep harvesting as long as you can, and enjoy! Kelly, Bonnie Plants

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Emilee

Alexandra in Nashville, I’m in Carthage, which is about 50 miles east of Nashville, my okra, which I started from seed in the garden, just now started producing. Just watch your plants, because once they start producing pods, you can almost harvest everyday, or every other day, depending on how many plants you have. Just be patient and the pods will come. I also fed the plants with fish emulsion when they were young.

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L.A.Ward

Just for everyone’s benefit. Three years ago I had beautiful plants but sparse blooms. I sprinkled one tablespoon of Epsom salts (like I do for tomatoes) the plants began blooming and since then I’ve had great harvests each year.

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Alexandra

Hi there! I live in Nashville where it has been terribly hot all summer long, and was excited to have my okra thrive in this climate. However, we bought the seedling from Home Depot, and our plant is probably 4 feet tall with giant leaves, but no blooms or pods!! It’s been planted now for much longer than the 50-60 day maturity guideline, and I’m worried it will never produce fruit. Do you think now that it’s cooling down in the South a bit that we’ll never get okra pods?

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Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Alexandra, I’m glad you’re trying to grow okra but sorry you don’t see flowers or pods yet. Are your okra plants in full sun? Okra really loves sun and needs it to produce. If the plants aren’t getting 6+ hours of sun, that could be the problem. I think you could keep the plants around and wait for pods to start appearing, though. Maybe give your plants a boost by feeding with a fertilizer labeled for vegetables. I hope this helps! Kelly, Bonnie Plants

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Jennifer

I have never had a problem growing okra. We moved this year and planted the garden in June. My okra looks beautiful, however I have noticed a white substance at the base of the pod. The pods have not gotten even an inch long and they are drying up. We had a cucumber beetle that took my cucumbers and have since used a pesticide twice. Any suggestions?

Thanks in advance!

Reply
Mary Beth

Hi Jennifer,
I shared your experience with the Extension agent in our Ask An Expert service. Here’s his response: The most common disease of okra is blossom blight caused by the fungus Choanepbora cucurbitarum. Blossoms — and sometimes very small pods — are covered with a cottony growth tipped with black fungal fruiting bodies. These pods fail to develop. The disease is more severe during periods of very high humidity, which is often the entire growing season in Alabama. It is also found on okra growing in partial shade. There are no effective fungicides approved for use on okra. The best control would be to avoid over fertilization and planting in low areas or shady sections of the garden. It’s best to water in the morning, keeping the foliage dry,to prevent some disease problems. If you have to use overhead irrigation, avoid the use of overhead irrigation late in the day. Use overhead early in the day, providing sufficient time for plants to dry off before night. Does this help? ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

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Jennifer

Thanks! Yes this does help! We have been watering right before night so that could very well be the problem.

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Lorelei

My okra plants have a very small , white moth (?) or some kind of fly…when plant is disturded, they fly everywhere. Can you tell me what this might be. We have sprayed with Veggie Plus(?-I think that is the name), which it permithian veg. spray and it doesn’t kill them. thank you!
Lorelei

Reply
Mary Beth

Hi Lorelei,
This sounds like whitefly. Read this document from the USDA to see if this in indeed what you have. More importantly, they are hard to control with insecticide and overuse can create a resistance to your insecticides. If your okra is heavily infested, you may have to remove the plants to prevent it from spreading to others. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

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Ashley

I have tried planting okra twice this year, and as soon as it comes up and has a few leaves set on, something is eating the entire leaf off (well, all of the leaves that have set on, leaving just the stump). I haven’t been able to see any bugs actually on the plants when I’ve been out in the garden, except for some black ants. Could the ants be the culprit? If so, what do you suggest doing to get rid of the insects that are eating the okra? I would prefer to keep my garden organic, so if you have any natural remedies, that would be appreciated. Also, I really haven’t had any problems with bugs eating any of my other plants (cucumbers, zucchini, squash, green beans, tomatoes, peppers).

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Mary Beth

Hi Ashley,
That sounds frustrating! I’m glad to hear that your other plants are growing happily with no pests. Let’s look for more clues on your okra. How tall is the seedling or how large? (ie Is a 3″ tall seedling being eaten to the soil level or just a few leaves on a more established plant?) Ants are a sign of other pests’ presence, as they don’t actually do any damage but they feed on the droppings and honeydew of other pests. Look around in the soil and on the underside of all leaves to see if you can find a caterpillar or worm at work. If you are trying to plant okra from seed and the tiny seedlings are being destroyed while your other, larger plants are safe, it makes me wonder if you have a cutworm eating the plants. Read up on them here, via University of Maryland College of Agriculture. Let us know how it grows! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

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Jan

The okra flower is pollinated and opened by the ants. Ants also eat the sticky off of peonies. Do not use insecticide to remove the ants. They are important. If you have aphids or other pests, plant flowers around your garden area for the beneficial insects to have nectar. They will eat the aphids and other harmful insects, but will be drawn to the nectar which they need to complete their diet. An organic garden has to be all or nothing.

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Julie

Hi, I am so happy that I found this website.

So, I was visiting South Calolina about a month ago and was memorized by the okra growing in my friend’s garden. I came home and decided to plant my own, knowing full well that it is pretty late in the season, but still wanting to make it happen.

Home is Chicago, a colder climate, but this summer is so hot. I wonder is it possible for me to be succesful growing okra here and this late in the season? I am about 3 weeks in and they look so healthy. And yes I can identify healthy, but I am unsure what the plant should look like 3 weeks in. Can you describe?

And how often should I water? I’m afraid to do too much and afraid to do too little.

Hope you can offer help for a novice gardner, because frankly, I’m experiencing anxiety over this and I don’t want my okra to sense the tense vibes. Help!

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Mary Beth

Hi Julie,
Congratulations on your new adventures! Sorry for the delay in response; it’s been a busy weekend harvesting in the garden.;) Okra will reward you with pod after pod. Make sure you pick every day or every other day and pick them young before they lose tenderness. Total time to maturity should be within 50-60 days. You’ll see these gorgeous blooms to let you know you’re on the right track, before too long. And it loves the heat. Regarding watering, are yours in a pot or in the ground? The good thing about okra is that it flourishes in heat and drought when others are wilting. Lean towards watering less if you are doubtful. Every few days should be fine. Keep us posted! Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

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Andy

Hi,
I live in a cool-summer climate and have problems with small okra pods turning yellow, then brown and falling off. I noticed that a couple other people have this issue as well. Mine are in a plastic tunnel and our summer days are so cool that I never ventilate the tunnel. It usually peaks at 100 degrees in the tunnel every day. Do you think it’s the excessive humidity, the high temperatures, the lack of air movement, or all three of them contributing to the problem?

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Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Andy,

Sorry about your okra! Rotting of small pods after the flowers drop is a fairly common problem with okra, though the exact cause of this problem is unknown. Poor air circulation may be the issue in your case. Okra really prefers full sun and good air movement through the planting, which it’s probably not getting in the tunnels. Proper plant spacing also helps to minimize this problem. If you could provide better air circulation and sunlight somehow, that should help!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

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Jan

The tunnels are preventing the ants from helping the okra, as well as air circulation. It is November in North Carolina. I have been growing okra in containers. I just cut them back to their first emerging leaf structure and have moved them into a heated greenhouse with my bell peppers. I have fans circulating air. I use grow lights, too, since the sun is changing. When, not if, the aphid population discovers this dining paradise, I will add some hippodamia ladybugs (black faces with white M) which are native to North Carolina and not invasive. Harmonia (white faces with black M) ladybugs are invasive to your homes. I already have a population of spiders and ants in the greenhouse. I am a Master Gardener for the county extension agency and everything I grow is organic.

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mary

My new favorite vegetable! I got interested when one farmer at our market began selling “baby” okra which I steamed and froze for stews and gumbos. So I decided to try growing it in my small raised garden plot after I saw your plants at Lowe’s. It is a beauty and NO problems at all. I get only 6-8 pods per day from my 6 plants, although it looks now like that may increase with the hot weather, so next year I will add more plants. By the way, we eat them raw with dip every day, like you would a carrot stick. This year, a second farmer at the market is selling it, so okra may be a new trend!

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LaTrice

My okra plant is growing well, and I have about 4 or 5 okra pods growing, one is about an inch tall, but no flowering. I have been waiting on these beautiful flowers, but I do not have any. Why?

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Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi LaTrice,

Well, it’s good that your plants are producing pods. Sorry you haven’t seen those pretty blooms yet, though. Sun promotes blooming. Are your plants in full sun? You might just have to be patient for them. Also, look daily, as the blooms only last on the plant for about a day. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

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Mary Beth

Hi Cellersteen,
Can you see any signs of pest damage on your okra leaves? Yellowing leaves can be a sign of lack of water or drought stress, but also a sign of over-watering. It is more likely caused by verticillium wilt, which matches your description. Unfortunately, there is no cure for that on your okra plants and they should be disposed of. Don’t plant okra in the same soil or plot next year, as it’s a soilborne disease. It is smart to rotate your crops. Sorry to deliver bad news, if it’s true. Here’s a description to see if it matches what you are experiencing. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

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Lori Evans

My husband is about to bush-hog our okra because it has no blooms. I keep telling him they will bloom, the plants are beautiful, but he is not believing they are gonna bloom. What do you think?

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Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Lori,

Oh, no! Let’s try to find a reason to keep your okra around. Okra grows best in full sun. Are you plants getting enough sun? That could be the cause of limited blooming. Okra doesn’t grow fast unless it’s really hot. It loves hot weather! Is it hot yet where you live? If it’s not hot or hasn’t been sunny, then your okra may just need a little more time to grow, blooms, and produce. I hope this helps!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

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Debbie Wilson

I am wanting to grow another crop of okra in the fall. I live in SW Missouri. If I plant this week, third week in July, will I have any luck before the climate becomes too cool to produce pods?

Reply
Mary Beth

Hi Debbie,
We think it’s worth a shot! Okra typically produces within 50-60 days and your frost dates seem to be mid-October. Okra thrives in the heat, too, and that is one thing you seem to have a lot of in the South right now. Let us know how it grows. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

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Sharon Chapman

I bought your okra plants from Home Depot. I live in Dublin, GA, most days the temperature are in the high 80 or 90 degrees. The okra produce lots of pods but they turn yellow and fall off before they mature.

What is wrong with plants that are very healthy,blooming & producing ?

Reply
Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Sharon,

Rotting of small pods after the flowers drop is a fairly common problem with okra, though the cause isn’t completely understood. Planting the crop in full sun and providing good air movement throughout the planting will help to reduce the problem. Proper spacing is very important. Are your plants getting full sun and are they spaced as recommended (10 inches apart in rows 3 feet apart)?

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

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Travis Henry

My okra pods never fill up with seeds. Most of the rows of seed only have about 1/3 of the seams full. Have you seen this problem before?

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Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Travis,

We’re not exctly sure about this but it could be caused by insects feeding on the pods. Certain sucking insects, such as stinkbugs and leaf-footed bugs, inject chemicals into the pod, causing the pods to stop or slow down growth in particular areas. Sometimes this causes pods to be curved or bent. The pods can still be eaten and no control is necessary unless the bugs are still feeding on the plants. Do you also have bent or curved pods? Either way, you should be fine and can still harvest and eat your okra. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Reply
john troutman

What is wrong with plants that are very healthy and blooming but as soon as the bloom falls off the the little okra pods die and fall off?

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Mary Beth

Hi John,
The plant is naturally ridding itself of producing that fruit for a reason. Okra loves warm weather and produces very quickly. Perhaps that bloom was not pollinated and the tiny okra is shed from the plant. There should be another bloom (or many) following quickly. The plant will drop blooms and pods if the temperature is high above 95 degrees or fluctuates lower to a cool temp. Not knowing what area of the country you are in or the weather, it’s hard to say. Does that sound like what you are experiencing? Let us know if it changes soon! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

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Cindy

I have noticed a clear sticky substance on some of our okra plants near the blooms and small okra pods. Lots of small ants seem to be gathering on the plants in these spots.
What’s going on and what do I need to do about it?

Reply
Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Cindy,

You’re describing natural secretions from the okra plant through glands on the leaves and stems. This is a natural process and causes no damage on its own, but the process does attract acts. Ants on okra are very common and for the most part, ants don’t hurt the plants. However, the dreaded imported fireant is the exception. Fireants feed on the base of developing blooms before the bloom buds open causing them to abort. This will cause okra to stop producing. If your ants are fireants, locate fireant mounds and kill the mounds or use baits around the outside of the garden area to kill the inconspicuous mounds. I hope this helps!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

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Fran Turner

I was wondering if you miss a few days of harvesting, and all the sudden have 10 pods that are 6 inches to 8 inches long, isn’t there anything you can do with them. I know we grill the smaller pods when we are having steak, and love them just using olive oil and salt/pepper. But have tried the larger ones and they are really woody. Could I not slice them thin and freeze and use them in a soup? OR, could I use the insides and discard the tough pods? Have about 14 pods right now that got too large. Any help you can offer I’d appreciate. Hate to just throw them away! Thanks.

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Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Fran,

I’m like you, I don’t want any of my veggies to go to waste! I like your idea of chopping and freezing them for soups. The long cooking time for a soup would help to soften the woody pods. Sounds like time to start looking for a good gumbo recipe! Enjoy.

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

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Laura

I started okra seeds in a small pot and now need to possibly try transplanting them without killing them. They are about 10 inches tall now and I have about 20 to 25 little plants that I would like to get them moved soon. I am worried I am going to kill them, any suggestions? I am doing a patio garden on my back deck, so no room on the ground. Thank you in advance for any suggestions and ideas…

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Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Laura,

Did you start all the seeds in one pot? You might sacrifice a few when transplanting but it’s worth a try, and it sounds like you’ll have plenty of okra plants even if you lose a few. Just gingerly dig up the transplants with a small trowel and replant them in new containers filled with good potting mix. Okra grows well in pots. Choose containers that are about 18 inches wide and at least 12 inches deep for each plant. For inspiration, click here for a pretty picture of okra growing in a pot! Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

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Ann

I’m in Los Angeles and cannot get okra seedling to germinate and grow. I’m having a 12-20% germination rate from two different types of okra. I’ve grown them before a few years ago. The ones that germinate are little and look poor and sickly. The biggest is 4 inches tall the others 2-3 inches. We have had hot weather and I do water them!

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Mike H

We planted some okra in our green house and have been able to keep it fairly warm since they were planted. It has taken awhile for them to start growing, and are about 12-15 inches in hgt. They have started to blossom, only to have the bloom dry up before it flowered. what is happening?

Thanks

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Mike H

I have pulled some of the okra out of the ground and see that the roots have not grown the size of the seedling container when we first started. We are moving several plants outside in one of the other gardens to see if this will help. What do you think?

Thanks,

Reply
Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Mike, Give it a try and let us know how it grows! I think the sunlight and outdoor air and heat might help. You also might try using our okra starter plants in your garden sometime, too. Using Bonnie Plants transplants helps take some of the guesswork out of planting from seed. Happy growing! Kelly

Reply
Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Mike,

This problem could have something to do with the amount of light your plants are getting, but it depends on what variety you’re growing. Flowering is day-length sensitive. Less than 11 hours promotes flowering in most okra cultivars, but under longer days, flow­ering buds in some okra varieties tend to abort. The variety we sell, ‘Clemson Spineless’ okra, is one of many cultivars that is not photo period sensitive, so it’s widely accepted for growing in temperate regions where day length is long during the summer. If you’re not growing Clemson Spineless, then day length could be the cause of your flowers drying up. I hope this makes sense and helps. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

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Bob Berglund, Grandma's Farm

Kelly, I see you responded to Bill that most people do not eat Okra raw. Have you ever tried it? I wont let my wife (Grandma) help me pick okra because she eats more than she brings in. In our far5mers market we introduce customers to raw okra all the time. Tastes great!
We grow Okra for our own farmers market and this year we have about 150 plants. Often the flowers are covered with ants. They don’t appear to hurt anything but I get bit quite often. We are an organic grower, do you know of a safe way to get rid of the ants?
Thanks
Bob Berglund
Grandma’s Farm
Laveen, Az

Reply
Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Bob,

I love okra but have never tried it raw. I’m going to try at your suggestion! It sounds like you have quite a farm going. Try reading this article from the University of Georgia Extension Service that should help you with the ants. Look through the recommendations in the Homes gardens section for organic options. I hope this helps!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

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Debbie

I have been told to cut the plants back and they will produce more pods of okra. Is that true? Do I prune the leaves or the main stalk?

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Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Debbie,

Yes, read above in the Harvest & Storage tab for info about cutting your plant back mid-summer to get another crop out of your plant. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

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Lisa Nugent

If potting okra in containers, can you pot 2 in 1 or would it be better just to plant 1 in 1??

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Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Suresh,

No, you don’t need to cut the leaf, only the pod. Read above in the Harvest & Storage tab for more info on how to harvest your okra. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Reply
Virginia

I think my okra have root knot nematode they die before the summer. What can I do to stop this disease.

Reply
Mary Beth

Hi Virginia,
To be sure of what ails your okra, you may want to send a message and photo to our Ask An Expert service. . They can help you correctly diagnose your plants and recommend treatment. If you suspect root knot nematodes, it would be helpful to pull an affected plant from the soil and capture a photo of its roots. Let us know how it goes.
Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Reply
Bill Morgan

Pods are very hard (inedible) even when 2″ or less in length. Plants watered daily and are about 2′ tall and producing well.

Reply
Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Bill,

Pods should be harvested when 2 to 4 inches long. Have you harvested pods in this size range, cooked them (most people don’t eat okra raw), and still found them too tough to be edible?

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Reply
michael

I can not get my okra to grow in my garden. Everything else yes , okra nada

Reply
Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Michael,

Sorry you’re having trouble with okra! Okra’s biggest challenge is cool weather. It really needs to be warm to grow okra. If you live in a cooler climate or tried growing okra before summer weather, this could be the problem.

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Reply

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