Okra is a popular summer vegetable for good reason. Its versatility livens up any garden. Not only does okra produce delicious pods, but it also shows off dainty ornamental flowers.
Are you thinking of adding okra to your garden lineup?
Keep reading to discover how to plant okra seeds both indoors and outdoors. Let’s dive in!
Why Plant Okra
Okra makes a great addition to your warm-season vegetable garden. Okra plants take up a minimal amount of space while producing large yields of vegetables.
It’s easy to grow, and it’ll tolerate poor garden soils.
Okra is also packed full of nutritional benefits. It contains vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, and fiber.
Okra is known to benefit eyesight, blood pressure, digestion, and skin health.
Best Okra Varieties to Plant
Just like any other vegetable, there are several varieties of okra.
Before I go over how to plant okra, let’s go over the top varieties.
- ‘Clemson Spineless‘ – This is arguably the most popular variety of okra. It produces large pods that can reach up to nine inches. It’s extremely versatile in the kitchen, whether you prefer frying, stewing, canning, or pickling.
- ‘Star of David‘ – If you prefer fried okra, look no further than ‘Star of David.’ The pods are short and thick with deep ribbing, which resembles a star. The strong okra flavor is also hard to beat.
- ‘Emerald Green Velvet‘ – This heirloom variety produces long, dark green pods. It was introduced in the 1950s by Campbell Soup Company. And it’s known to liven up a Cajun dish (like this Shrimp Gumbo).
- ‘Jambalaya‘ – Don’t let this compact variety fool you. It produces one of the heaviest yields of okra. The smaller green pods are great for stewing and pickling.
When to Plant Okra
Okra loves warm weather, so you should wait on starting okra seeds until that time.
Most gardeners recommend that you wait to start seeds until two to three weeks after the last frost. This allows the soil to warm up to an ideal 60 to 70 degrees.
If you want a head start, start okra seeds indoors four to six weeks before the last frost.
I recommend starting okra seeds ahead for those with short growing seasons. This will allow the okra ample time to mature before the first frost.
For late summer harvests, start okra seeds approximately three months before your first anticipated frost.
How to Start Okra Seeds Indoors
Luckily, okra can be started indoors or outdoors.
First, let’s go over how to start okra indoors. With only a few extra steps, you’ll be on your way to an early-established garden.
What You’ll Need
Starting okra seeds ahead requires the proper seed starting equipment.
Here are a few of my favorite products:
Stock up on all your favorite okra seeds at Hoss Tools, one of our favorite seed retailers. I’ve personally used their seeds and have experienced high germination rates.
If you don’t see a certain variety with Hoss, you can also check out True Leaf Market’s okra seed selection.
Starting Okra Seeds
Okra seeds can be started in plastic seed trays or biodegradable pots. If you’ve had trouble with transplant shock, stick to biodegradable pots. These can be directly planted in the garden without disturbing seedling roots.
Fill the pots or trays with your favorite seed starting mix. Moistening the seed starting mix will help remove any air pockets. This mix should be flush with the top of the tray.
Okra seeds need to be planted at a depth of 1/2″, so make an indention in the mix accordingly.
Place an okra seed in the indention and lightly cover it with soil. As you plant different okra varieties, make sure to label each seed starting tray.
Because okra prefers warm weather, you should place your pots or trays on a heat germination mat. This will warm up the soil and encourage germination.
Under a full-spectrum grow light, okra seeds should germinate within a week.
Once your okra seedlings have developed a set of true leaves, they are ready to transplant. True leaves should be the second set that appears after germination.
It’s important that you don’t transplant okra if the weather is still too cool. All danger of frost should be passed, and soil should be around 65 degrees.
If the weather conditions are met, you can begin to harden off your okra seedlings for transplant. This will lessen the chance of transplant shock.
How to Plant Okra Outdoors
If you have a long growing season, I recommend starting okra seeds outdoors. There’s no fear of transplant shock, and you’ll still have time to grow mature okra pods.
Choose the Best Location
Okra should be planted in a full-sun location. These warm-season vegetables need to receive a minimum of six to eight hours of light per day.
The garden soil should be well-draining with a neutral pH of 6.5 to 7.0. To effectively amend your garden soil, mix compost into the top few inches. Compost will help with both pH levels and drainage.
Sow the Seeds
Once the soil has warmed to 65 degrees, you can begin sowing okra seeds outdoors. Every four to six inches, place an okra seed at a depth of 1/2 to one inch.
Once the seedlings are a few inches tall, you can thin the okra seedlings to every 12 to 24 inches.
If you wish to plant multiple rows of okra, allow two to three feet between each row.
Caring for Okra
Luckily, okra is relatively easy to take care of. Since it loves hot weather, okra can withstand a dry spell. But you should aim to give your okra plants one inch of water per week.
If there is no rain in the forecast, make sure to water the okra deeply at least once per week.
Okra can benefit from added nutrients. For best results, use an all-purpose fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 10-10-10.
Wait to apply the fertilizer until the seedlings have been established. This is usually three to four weeks after the seeds have sprouted.
Granular fertilizers that you can apply around the plant’s soil work best.
How to Harvest Okra
After mastering how to plant okra, you’ll be ready to harvest your first pods in no time!
Okra typically takes 50 to 60 days to mature.
Okra pods that are ready to pick should be tender and appropriately sized for that variety. Large, tough okra has usually been left on the stem too long.
To remove mature okra pods from the stem, use a knife or sharp pruning shears. Cut the stem just above the okra.
Okra will produce pods at a very fast rate, so make sure to check your plant every day for mature pods.
To store okra, place the dry pods in a Ziplock bag. Don’t wash the vegetables until you are preparing to eat them. The fresh okra should keep in your refrigerator for two to three days.
Wrapping Up How to Plant Okra
Learning how to start okra is a great idea for those who love a warm-season garden. These prolific plants will have your kitchen overflowing with fresh vegetables. There are so many ways to eat them, too!
Are you planning this season’s garden lineup? Visit the Seed Starting page on our website for more tips and inspiration on starting flowers and vegetables. We even have guides on the best products to use while you’re at it!