Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) is a popular vegetable that possibly originates from West Africa. Although, there are records of its cultivation dating back to ancient Egypt. And in the 17th century, it was brought to America. That is where it became a popular ingredient for gumbo, a New Orleans dish.
If you want to learn more about how to grow the okra plant along with general facts, keep reading!
|Scientific name||Abelmoschus esculentus|
|Common names||Okra, ladies’ fingers, and ochro.|
|Family||Mallows – a flowering plant family with 4,225 species.|
|Genus||Abelmoschus – a genus of 15 species.|
|Species||The common spieces is esculentus.|
|Origin||Possibly West Africa and was cultivated in Ancient Egypt.|
|Growth habit||An annual that produces and bears pods of seeds that turn black and die with frost.|
|Leaves||Edible bright green leaves that come in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on the variety.|
|Flower||Hibiscus-like flowers with crimson centers and yellow petals.|
|Height||Grows 6′ to 10′|
|Soil type/pH||Sandy soils with a neutral to alkaline pH of 6.5 to 7.5.|
|Germination time||2 to 12 days|
Okra Plant Care
How you care for your okra plants can greatly impact your yields. Proper fertilizing methods, watering routine, and conditions can ensure your success growing okra.
If you want to grow okra, you will find all the care instructions you need below.
To grow okra seeds you need sandy soil that is well draining. But if you’re dealing with lighter soil, try adding organic matter such as compost.
In ideal conditions, water the vegetable once a week with one inch of water. Although, if you live in a hot or dry location, you may need to increase watering frequency.
Growing okra seeds requires full sun exposure. That is in part because the plant thrives in high temperatures. And choosing a full sun location will also help ensure that the temperature doesn’t dip below 65°F or 18.3°C.
Humidity & Temperature
As previously stated, okra plants thrive in high temperatures. That’s why ambient temperatures should remain 75°F to 90°F or 23.89°C to 32.2°C. Also, temperatures shouldn’t dip below 65°F or 18.3°C.
Okra also requires high humidity. A proper watering schedule can help ensure they receive the moisture they need.
Before you try to fertilize the soil for your okra seeds, it is best to take a pH test. The pH test will give you insight into what you may need to add so that your soil is suitable for growing the plant. Soil with a pH above 7.5 can benefit from the addition of peat moss to adjust the level.
But if you can’t take a soil or pH test, don’t worry. You can simply add a 10-10-10 fertilizer to your soil. That fertilizer will ensure you have a sound basis for growing the seeds.
You can propagate okra either through seeds or cuttings. Seed propagation is the most popular method, but cuttings can work just as well.
If you want to propagate through seeds, it is best to soak your seeds for 12 hours before sowing them. After sowing, you can follow traditional care methods.
If you want to propagate an existing plant through cuttings, you need to first remove an 8″ cutting. Follow that by removing some of the leaves and leaving just a few on the end. After that, dip the cut end in rooting hormone, and then place the cutting in a pot of moistened soil. Ensure to keep humidity high and consistent during this time.
Diseases & Pests
Like any plant, okra can suffer from diseases and pest infestations. Common diseases include leaf spot, blossom and fruit blight, fusarium wilt, root-knot nematode, seedling disease, cotton root rot, southern blight, and charcoal rot. All of those diseases have special protocols for mitigation. Some natural and cultural practices can help if you don’t want to use chemicals. To avoid these plant diseases, follow proper care practices. Additionally, it’s important to plant in ideal conditions when avoiding plant diseases.
The vegetable is susceptible to arthropod pests. Those include aphids, thrips, mites, whiteflies, and caterpillars. They are also susceptible to some leaf-feeding caterpillar pests. Corn earworm, fall armyworm, cabbage looper, beet, and southern are the most well-known. But you can use pesticides, such as insecticidal soaps to mitigate these pests. And always stop caterpillar infestations early, some pesticides are less effective once they mature .
Days to Maturity
Growing conditions and variety can all affect how long it takes for an okra plant to mature. But you can typically expect your plant to mature within 50 to 60 days.
Okra is ready for harvest once it reaches maturity in 50 to 60 days and its pods are 2″ to 3″ long. To harvest, simply pull or cut the pods off of the stems. And once harvested, you can store the vegetable in a container in the fridge for about a week. If you need to extend the life of the vegetable, place it in the freezer.
What does spineless okra mean?
Spineless okra means that it produces less signature fuzzy spines along the vegetable. Despite its name, spinless okra will still have a few of these spines growing along its pods.
How to Plant & Grow Okra
When to Plant
The best time to plant okra seeds is in the spring, two to three weeks following your area’s last frost date. If you want to have a bountiful fall harvest, plant three months before the first fall frost date for your area.
Where to Plant
It is best to plant your okra seeds in a location that receives full sunlight. Okra is a heat and humidity-loving plant and grows best in hardiness zones two through eleven.
How to Plant
To directly sow okra seeds, space them 4″ to 6″ apart and 1″ deep into sandy soil. After planting the seeds, water them. The plant will be ready for harvest once reaching 2″ to 3″ long in 50 to 60 days. You must plant Okra seeds again if you want to produce more next season, as Okra only lives for a year as an annual plant.
There are two main varieties of Okra plants, which are spine and spineless. All of the cultivators fall into one of those two categories. As stated previously, okra with spines has more fuzzy ridges that grow along the plant. And despite its name, spinless okra still has spines, but simply has less of them. The spineless variety is the more popular for consumption.
A dwarf variety that is spineless, reaches 4′ tall, and is pale green in color. It can be grown in containers and reaches maturity in 50.
Arguably the most popular spineless variety is Clemson spineless. It grows 4′ tall, has dark green coloring, and matures in 60 days.
Annie Oakley II
Annie Oakley II is a spineless hybrid variety that grows 4.5′ tall and has ribbed green pods. It matures in 50 days.
Star of David
Best for southern gardeners, Star of David has extra large pods and grows to 7′ tall or more. Although, it’s important to note that due to its larger nature, this variety takes 75 days to mature.
The jade okra variety has spines and matures in 50 days. It also grows 4′ to 5′ tall and has dark green pods.
Unlike other varieties, Alabama red plants have distinctive burgundy coloring mixed with green. It also grows 5′ to 7′ tall and matures in 50 days.
 Qureshi, J. A., Seal, D., & Webb, S. E. (n.d.). INSECT MANAGEMENT FOR OKRA. UF | IFAS Extension. Retrieved January 15, 2023, from https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/IG152