Okra is one of my favorite vegetables to enjoy in an Indian meal. So I wanted to see if I could grow some as part of my container garden.
Okra can be grown in pots that are at least 12 inches in size because the okra has deep taproots. You can grow 1 or 2 plants per pot without problems. You can consider a dwarf variety that will grow 3 to 5 feet tall in the pot.
I’ve written all the details in the post below to help you grow some okra in pots. Make sure to read all the sections so you don’t make any mistakes while growing them.
1. Pick a suitable okra variety for the container
You can grow any okra plant you wish in a pot but it’s a lot easier to grow dwarf varieties especially if you have limited space.
I’ve listed down some dwarf varieties that you may find useful to grow.
|Baby Bubba||3-4 feet||53 days|
|Blondy||3-4 feet||50 days|
|Clemson||3-4 feet||56 days|
|Red Velvet||3-4 feet||55-60 days|
|Cajun Jewel||2-4 feet||53 days|
2. Choose the best time to grow okra
Okra is a warm-season plant that needs the temperature to be at least 75 degrees Fahrenheit. This will encourage the seeds to germinate and the plant to grow well.
If the weather is too cold, the seeds will struggle to germinate. Even if the plant does start to grow, it will be stunted and may even die.
I suggest you only think about planting okra in pots after the last frost date in your area has passed. It would be even better if you can wait a couple of weeks after the last frost date just to be safe.
Okra has deep taproots which means you want to plant the seeds directly in the pot. If you try to start seeds in a tray and then transplant, there is a high chance you’ll damage the roots. Or the plant will get transplant shock and fail to grow.
You can also consider buying seedlings from your local garden center or nursery. This saves you the time to start the seeds and worry about the germination. But you are restricted in the variety you’ll be able to grow. That’s because you only get a few to choose from when purchasing a seedling.
3. Understand how long okra takes to grow
Okra can take about 60-70 days to grow from seed to harvest but this depends on the variety that you are growing. So check the seed packet that will tell you the precise days it will take.
If you purchased the seedling from a nursery or garden center, check if there is any tag with information attached to it that shows when you will be able to harvest.
It’s simple to know when the pods are ready for harvest because they will be firm to the touch and dark in color. They will reach a size between 4-6 inches when ready to harvest.
4. Choose the right container to grow okra
Okra has deep taproots even if you pick a dwarf variety. So choose a pot that is at least 14 inches deep and 12 inches wide. You can grow them in a 5-gallon or 10-gallon container as long as you meet these requirements.
I prefer growing one plant per pot so they don’t overcrowd each other and compete for nutrients. Too many plants in a pot can also cause humid conditions that attract fungal diseases.
There are several options when it comes to the material of the pot such as terracotta, plastic, ceramic, metal, wood, and concrete. I like to use plastic because it’s lightweight, durable, and inexpensive.
The plastic pot also has better insulation compared to the other materials. So it won’t lose moisture as fast after you have watered the potting soil.
You should make sure the pot has drainage holes at the bottom. This helps it drain out the excess water and protect the roots from getting root rot. If there are no holes, you can drill some before using the pot.
5. Prepare the container for planting okra
If you want to save some money, you can choose to reuse an old pot you may have. Or you can buy a new one. In both cases, make sure to sterilize the pot.
This process will help remove unwanted pests, diseases, and impurities from the pot. So your okra plant will have less chance of getting infected or dying.
The simplest method is to soak the pot in a solution that contains 1 part bleach and 9 parts water. Keep the pot in this solution for 1 hour and then rinse it well with water. Then put it out to dry in the sun before you can start adding potting soil and seeds to this pot.
I want to again recommend having drainage holes in the pot. This will help protect the okra plant from overwatering that causes issues such as root rot. If there are no drainage holes, drill some in the pot.
I suggest using potting soil for all the plants including okra in your container garden. The potting soil is better than garden soil as it provides the good texture required by the plant.
You don’t want too much sand or clay coming into the pot from the garden soil and stunting the growth of the plant. The garden soil may also contain pests, diseases, and chemicals that can harm the plant or you when you consume the okra.
It’s easy to get the potting soil at a garden center, nursery, or online store. You can also use the raw materials and create your own potting mix for cheap.
Add 1 part vermiculite, 1 part perlite, and 1 part coco coir to get a good potting mix for growing okra. Add in some compost that will help give it an even better texture and introduce nutrients as well as beneficial organisms to the potting soil.
Fill the container with the potting soil till there’s a space of 2 inches left from the rim. This will prevent the soil from spilling out when watering.
6. Plant the okra seeds in the container
I like to grow plants including okra from seeds because it gives much more control. It’s also inexpensive and you can choose from a lot of varieties you don’t get when buying seedlings.
It’s also better to start the seeds in the pot because okra has long taproots. If you try to start seeds in a tray and transplant them outdoors they will get damaged. Or the transplant will shock the plant and it will have stunted growth or die.
If you have a short growing season, one option is to start seed indoors in peat pots. These are biodegradable so you can plant the peat pots in the bigger pot itself once the seedlings have sprouted.
Since you won’t be trying to remove the roots from the tray, there is no danger of damaging the okra plants during the transplant.
To plant the okra seeds in the pot, make a small hole and put the seeds 1/4 inch into the potting soil. Make sure the temperature is at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit so the seedlings can germinate. You should water the potting soil every day but make sure it’s not soggy. Spray enough moisture on the potting soil every day and the seeds will germinate in 8-12 days.
7. Plant the okra seedlings in the container
If you have a short growing period or you just don’t want to spend the time starting seeds, you can buy seedlings from a local garden center or nursery.
You will be limited in the variety of okra you can choose from. And you need to be careful to pick seedlings that are healthy and free from pests or diseases.
You’ll get the seedlings in a small container and you’ll need to transplant them to the pot when the weather is suitable. It’s important to harden the seedlings before transplanting them outdoors.
Hardening means you get the okra seedlings acclimatized to the outdoors before you move them to the large pot. You can do this by keeping the seedlings out every day for a few hours. After a week, the okra seedlings will be ready to move to the outdoor pot.
Gently squeeze the container they are growing in so the root ball comes out. Make a hole in the center of the potting soil you added to the pot. Place the root ball in this hole and cover it will potting soil so they are not exposed to air.
Press the soil near the base of the plant to give it stability. Now you should water the potting soil well so it can settle and the roots can get comfortable in the new container.
8. Give the okra the required sunlight
Okra is a warm-weather plant that needs at least 6-8 hours of full sunlight so it can gro well. Just be careful that the temperature is not too hot otherwise the leaves will curl and the plant may be stunted.
If the temperature gets too high in the summer afternoon, you can move the pot to a location that has some shade to protect the plant from the heat.
9. Water the okra plants well
Okra, like many other summer vegetables, needs a lot of water for its growth and fruit development. You need to provide consistent moisture to the potting soil.
I like to check up on my plants every morning. One part of this check is to see if the potting soil has sufficient moisture. I put my finger 1-2 inches in the potting soil and check the moisture.
If it’s too dry, I water the potting soil well with a watering can till the excess water drains out from the bottom. If the weather is too hot, I may need to do this twice a day to keep the potting soil moist enough.
If you are afraid to water the plant, you’ll give it less water and stunt its growth. If you give too much water and it remains in the pot it will lead to overwatering. This will cause root rot or fungal diseases and cause the plant to die.
Mulch is a good addition to the potting soil so it keeps the temperature regulated. It also helps the potting soil retain moisture for a longer time so you don’t need to water as often.
You can use organic material such as dried leaves, grass clippings, straw, hay, or wood chips as mulch on the potting soil.
Add 2 inches of such material on the potting soil after the seedlings have germinated and grown 2-4 inches in height. Otherwise, the mulch will block the sunlight and prevent germination.
10. Thin the okra seedlings
I like to plant 2-3 seeds whenever trying to grow plants in pots. This helps increase the chances that at least one seed will germinate.
But sometimes I find that all 2-3 seeds germinate and I can’t grow all of them in the same pot. They will compete with each other for resources and cause fungal diseases due to crowding.
This is when I thin the seedlings where I keep one but pull out the remaining. I can either move the pulled plants to other pots or dispose of them either in a compost pile or salad as microgreens.
The best time to thin the seedlings is when they have grown at least 3-4 leaves and the height is about 3-4 inches. You don’t need to do any thinning if you buy the seedlings from the garden center or nursery. You can just transplant one seedling in the pot. Just make sure you pick the best possible seedling when you buy.
11. Provide fertilizer to the okra plant
I think compost is the best fertilizer you can provide to any plant including okra. You just need to mix it in with the potting soil when preparing the container. And you need to keep adding a fresh batch every month to the potting soil when the plant is growing.
The compost provides a good texture, nutrients, and beneficial microorganisms to the potting soil you use to grow okra.
The problem is that many people cannot make their own compost or find good ones. You then need to rely on adding organic fertilizer to the potting soil.
If you don’t have compost, you can add a slow-release granular fertilizer to the potting soil when preparing it. This can be a balanced fertilizer having an N-P-K of 5-5-5.
Once the okra plant has grown and is ready to flower and develop pods, it’s good to use a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen. This helps the plant focus on growing pods rather than more leaves.
You can also use liquid fertilizer instead and spray it in the potting soil every couple of weeks. The liquid fertilizer can be fast-action especially if you spray it on the foliage.
Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using any fertilizer. It will give you information on how much fertilizer to use and how often.
12. Pollinate the okra plant in the container
Like other plants, okra needs to get pollinated so it can develop the pods. The good thing is it’s a self-pollinating plant which means the male and female flowers are available on the same plant.
Once the pollinators like bees can pick the pollen from the male plant and deliver it to the female plant, pollination can happen. So you need to attract beneficial pollinators to your garden by growing native plants.
But the pollinators might not be attracted to your container garden for some reason. Then you can use hand-pollination.
The male flower has the stamen that holds the pollen while the female flower has the stigma where you need to put the pollen. Make sure the flowers are fully open when you try to hand-pollinate or it will not work.
You can pluck a male flower and remove the petals so only the stamen with pollen remains. You can then brush the stamen into the stigma of the female flowers to pollinate them.
The other option is to use a paintbrush to collect the pollen from the male flower. You can then gently brush the pollen into the stigma of the female flowers for pollination.
13. Prune the okra plant in the container
Once your okra seedlings have germinated, the plant will keep growing till it reaches its final height. A standard okra plant can grow 8-9 feet tall while dwarf ones may grow 3-5 feet tall.
The plant spends a lot of its nutrients and resources to develop leaves and branches. But once the plant has grown sufficient foliage we want it to develop flowers and pods.
That’s why we want to limit the growth of the leaves and branches and allow the plant to focus on growing flowers and pods.
Pruning is a process where you cut the foliage, branches, and even fruit off the plant. These could be dead or diseased parts of the plant but could also be some healthy ones.
The purpose of pruning is so the okra plant can spend more energy on growing flowers and pods rather than on the foliage or dead parts.
Make sure not to prune more than 1/3rd of the plant at a time. If you prune a lot, it will stress the plant and it won’t be able to grow the required flowers and fruits.
I suggest using a bypass pruner when doing the pruning. They will help you get a clean cut and reduce the chances of infection. Make sure to clean them before and after use with rubbing alcohol.
14. Harvest the okra from the container
The okra pods will be ready to harvest in about 60 days after you have planted the seeds. You can know when it’s the right time to harvest because the pods will be about 4-6 inches in size. They will have a dark green color and be firm to the touch.
Check the seed packets or the seedling label to know exactly when the okra plant will mature and the pods will be ready for harvest.
You can use a bypass pruner to cut off the pods from the okra plant. The pruner will help keep the cut sharp so the plant can heal itself with fewer chances of fungal or bacterial infections.
I suggest cutting the pod with a little bit of the stem attached to it. This helps keep the pods fresh for a longer period of time. You should store the pods without washing so they will last longer. Only wash them when you want to consume the pods.
The okra pods can last you for a week if you keep them in a cool, dry place. When you are going to cut the okra pods for cooking, make sure to wash and dry them well with paper towels so they don’t get slimy.