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Summer Crops: How to Grow Okra

KJ Staff
KJ Staff

Okra is traditionally a plant that thrives in warm weather. Here’s how to grow okra plants in your own garden!

Okra is easy to grow and use and looks great throughout the growing season due to its beautiful flowers. It’s also rich in vitamin A and low in calories, which makes it a great addition to your diet.


  1. You can start okra seeds indoors in peat pots under full light 3 to 4 weeks before the last spring frost date.

  2. You can also start okra directly in your garden 3 to 4 weeks before the last spring frost date as long as you cover the plants with a cold farmer or grow tunnel until the weather warms up. Make sure that the covering is 2 to 3 feet tall so that the plants have room to grow.

  3. If you do not start your okra plants early, wait until there is stable warm weather. You can plant okra in the garden when the soil has warmed to 65° to 70°F.

  4. Plant okra in fertile, well-drained soil in full light about ½ to 1 inch deep and 12 to 18 inches apart. You can soak the seeds overnight in tepid water to help speed up germination.

  5. If you are planting okra transplants, be sure to space them 1 to 2 feet apart to give them ample room to grow.

  6. Okra plants are tall, so be sure to space out the rows 3 to 4 feet apart

Okra loves the heat. It grows best when daytime temperatures reach at least 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius) and nighttime temperatures don’t drop below 60 (15.5). It can handle humidity as well, making it a favorite in the South. It adds height to a usually low-lying vegetable patch, reaching 6 feet tall, and is 3 feet wide. It has delicate yellow or white flowers, some with a pinkish tinge, and long pods of green, yellow or red. 

Note: Even the “spineless” okra pods have spines that can prick or scratch if you get near them, and they can also cause itching. 

When to plant: Once the soil is warm and all the danger of frost has passed; start indoors if you have a short growing season

Days to maturity: 50 to 65

Light requirement: Full sun 

Water requirement: Regular, though it can handle some drought 

Favorites: Annie Oakley, Burgundy, Cajun Delight, Clemson Spineless, Dwarf Green Long Pod, Emerald, Heirloom Red, Hill Country Red, Millionaire, North-South, Red Burgandy, Silver Queen, White Velvet

Planting and care: Choose a sunny and warm site with neutral, well-drained soil; add fertilizer to the soil before planting if needed.

You can either start seeds early or wait to plant once you have warm weather. Start seeds indoors a month to six weeks before the outdoor planting or transplanting date (see below) in biodegradable or peat pots. Many experts recommend soaking the seeds for 24 hours prior to planting for best germination. Look for unusual seeds in specialty catalogs.

Sow seeds outdoors once all the danger of frost has passed, nighttime temperatures have reached 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius) and the soil temperature has reached 70 (21). Sow seeds 1 inch deep and about 6 inches apart in rows 3 feet apart; thin to 18 inches apart when seedlings appear. Dwarf varieties of okra will do well in a large container.

Transplant seedlings at this time as well. Okra roots are delicate, so transplant carefully. Remove the bottoms and open the sides of the pots, and place the seedlings 18 inches apart and just below the soil surface. Keep the soil most while the seeds are germinating, then allow the soil to dry out slightly. Wait to mulch until the soil is consistently warm. 

Okra is not usually bothered by many pests. Depending on your location, you might have problems with aphids, cabbage worms, flea beetles (row covers can help with these), mites or whiteflies. Don’t worry about ants; they aid in pollination. 

Verticillium wilt and fusarium wilt can keep fruit from forming; rotate crops if these diseases or nematodes are a problem in your area. Blossom blight may be a problem in areas with high humidity.

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