How To Grow Okra

Updated: Mar. 22, 2024

Did you know okra produces delicious seed pods and is one of the prettiest and most striking plants in the vegetable garden? This year, grow okra!

At the local greenhouse where I buy many of my spring bedding plants and vegetable starts, one of the most popular requests seems to be for okra. Do people like it for its tasty seed pods, or because it’s one of the prettiest flowers in the vegetable garden? I suggest they grow it for both like I do.

What is Okra?

Okra is a large plant that produces edible seed pods, often used in soups and stews or served as a side dish.

The origins of the okra we grow today can be primarily traced back to Africa. Okra is related to many other plants in the mallow family, including cotton, tropical hibiscus, Rose of Sharon shrubs and hollyhocks.

Okra Varieties

How To Grow Okra From Seed

Okra is generally grown by sowing seeds directly in the garden. For best results:

  • Be sure soil temperature is at least 65 degrees. In more Northern gardens, that could be as late as June.
  • Pre-soak the seeds for a few hours before sowing to soften the hard coat and speed up germination.
  • Sow seeds about one inch deep in groups of three or four, spaced 10 to 12 inches apart. Allow three feet between rows.
  • Thin to one seedling per group once seeds germinate and show their first set of true leaves. It may take two to three weeks or longer to reach this stage.

To get a head start on the season, you can grow okra indoors. Sow seeds in individual containers and keep them under grow lights like other seedlings. Use a compostable pot that can be planted in the garden without disturbing the roots.

Where to Plant Okra

Okra grows best in the sunniest, hottest part of the garden in well-draining soil. This is crucial because okra hates the cold.

If growing okra in a container, keep in mind its mature size. Even a smaller variety can be three feet tall. Use a good, well-draining potting mix.

How To Care for Okra


Like most plants in a vegetable garden, okra does best with about one inch of rain a week. Once established, it can tolerate some hot, dry spells.


Okra doesn’t generally need additional fertilizer in a garden with overall good soil. If you decide to add fertilizer, avoid those high in nitrogen, which may result in more foliage and slow flower and seed pod production.

Pest control

Okra isn’t generally bothered by pests. If you do see insect damage, use a guide from a cooperative extension service to identify the pest before treating it. As with all vegetables, rotate where you plant your okra, putting it in a different spot each year.


Once okra plants begin producing seed pods, cut or snap them off when they’re two to three inches long, being careful not to damage the plants. Plants will continue to flower and produce pods as long as you keep harvesting them while they’re immature.

Growing Okra as an Ornamental Plant

Okra is a striking plant due to its height and big, cream-colored flowers. Some varieties, especially those that produce red seed pods like Candle Fire and Burgundy, a 1988 All-America Selection, also have red stems.

Even if you don’t like the taste of okra, you can still grow it for looks. Plus, the dried seed pods work well for fall decoration.