Okra Planting Guide

Okra, came to North America in the 1600s along with some of the early slaves. It rapidly became popular in the Southern United States and has since spread across the continent and many parts of the world. Okra is not limited to warmer climates it can produce abundant crops in the same regions as eggplant or corn .

Some varieties are as tall as 6 ft. others in the 2 ft. range. Some varieties are very attractive in the ornamental sense as well, due to their beautiful flowers and have been used as Garden borders.


Okra requires full sun. It does best in fertile loamy soil, rich in nitrogen.

In warmer regions plant the first crop early in the spring and a second crop in early Summer. In cooler areas you should start the plants indoors about 6 weeks before transplanting them outdoors, which should be about 1 month after the last frost date. See See Frost Dates

I prefer to Sow two seeds per peat pot, a small percentage will not germinate, when both seeds sprout you can remove the weaker seedling.

If you plant Okra directly in the garden, wait until after the soil has warmed and the air temperature is at least 65°F.

Okra and Okra Plants

Covering the plants with a Cold Frame or grow tunnel until warmer weather arrives is also a good idea. 

Fresh seed is always preferable for an optimal germination rate. Soak the Okra overnight- I like to put a small amount of fish emulsion in the water I soak it in. Seeds should be sown about 1/2 inch deep – spacing about 3 inches apart in rows 2- 3 feet apart, this however can vary from cultivar to cultivar so always consult the seed packet first. If necessary thin the seedlings to 2 feet apart, naturally you would always leave the strongest of the young plants when thinning.

Basic Care

Eliminate weeds when the plants are still young. When okra has reached about 1/2 its full grown status, mulch to suppress weeds and conserve moisture. Mulch should be 4 to 8 inches high.

Water modestly, more so during dry spells, 1 inch of water per week under normal circumstances, slightly more under hot dry conditions. 

Every 3 to 4 weeks, side-dress with compost, fish emulsion or compost tea. In hot regions ,some gardeners have had success by cutting the plants back just ground level in midsummer and fertilizing again to produce a second crop, this is only advisable where there is a long growing season. A balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10 is best. See Understanding Fertilizer Labels


Okra is not incredibly susceptible to pests or diseases.

Stinkbugs aka Harlequin Bugs -cause misshapen pods.

Worms such as Corn earworms and Cabbage Looper [Worms] are an occasional issue.

Aphids and also Flea Beetles like to chow down on Okra. Flea Beetles are an early season pest.

Fusarium wilt, soilborne disease, is occasionally a problem in hot areas.


About 2 months after planting, edible okra pods will first appear, do not allow them to fully mature as they will become tough, woody and not as desirable. Harvest daily using a sharp knife when they are slightly less than finger sized and the stems are still tender. Frequent Harvesting coaxes the plants to continue producing . Remove and compost any mature non diseased pods you may have missed . After the first round of harvesting, remove the lower leaves, and only the lower leaves to accelerate production.

Store uncut and uncooked pods in freezer bags and keep them in the freezer. You can then use the okra any way you’d like throughout the winter.

You might enjoy Pickled Okra

Wear gloves and long sleeves when harvesting okra as most varieties are covered with tiny spines that irritate your skin.