Growing Okra

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April 17, 2006
Okra Plant

Botanical Name:

Abelmoschus esculentus


Traditionally a southern favorite, Okra is a member of the hibiscus family that produces, small, slender, edible green pods, with a mild flavor and ridged texture. When cooked, the pods release a viscous substance that is sometimes used as a thickening agent. Prefers warm climates

Planting Time:

Start indoors three to four weeks after the last frost date or sow seeds directly outdoors when soil warms to 68ºF. Warm climates can start a second crop in early summer.


full sun


deep, fertile, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.5 to 6.8


Plant seeds _ to _ inch deep spaced 2 to 3 inches apart in rows 12 to 24 inches apart. If you prefer, stratify (nick) and soak seeds prior to planting to speed germination. When seedlings reach a height of four inches, thin by cutting extras with a scissors. Transplants should be spaced 12 inches apart.


Keep soil evenly moist (not wet) to encourage continuous production of pods. Plants are susceptible to stem rot, so avoid getting water directly on plants.


Mulch around plants to control weeds and retain soil moisture. Apply an organic fertilizer, like compost tea, every few weeks to boost production.

Harvesting & Storage:

Pods should be harvested when they are young and tender and have reached a length of 1 to 6 inches. Harvest frequently to keep plants producing. Okra is highly perishable and should be frozen, pickled, canned or eaten within 24-48 hours of harvesting. Dry over-ripe pods for arrangements.

Diseases and Pests:

Common okra problems include cabbage worms and aphids. Remove worms by hand and spray aphids with an organic insecticide or spray them with a hose.
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June 17, 2010

If anyone is having problems getting okra seeds to grow, try soaking them in pure bleach overnight. The next day don't wash off the bleach and plant them as usual.


My dad planted some four days ago he'd soaked in bleach and they're already up and 3 inches tall.

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August 30, 2007

Every year I have my vegetable garden and I always plant Okra, which I love. When I get around the plant and start picking, I start itching like I have gotten into poison ivy. I use long rubber gloves for my hands and part of my arms, but my neck, face and the rest of my body itches so bad that I can't wait to take a shower and lotion down. Can anyone help me with this problem?

Kay from Clyde,TX


By (Guest Post)
August 30, 20070 found this helpful

Sorry, I have this problem too. I wear long sleeves and rubber gloves (a real treat when it is 95 degrees). The more you can cover up the better. Then jump in the shower when you are done picking, if possible.


I hope someone else can offer a better solution than mine for you!

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August 30, 20070 found this helpful

It seems like the itching would be caused by the little hairs all over the plants... Could you try hosing them down to wash off the loose hairs? The water might also keep the remaining hairs from coming off so easily and keep them from flying up in the air and landing on you while you pick. That, and using rubber work gloves might help. Good luck!

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By grammiecracker (Guest Post)
August 31, 20070 found this helpful

I would try to find someone to pick for me. Perhaps if you offered them some veggies in return? Then hose them down before bringing them in. Worth a try. Good luck.

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By Marlene (Guest Post)
August 31, 20070 found this helpful

I think I'd buy it at the farmers market!

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By Shelly (Guest Post)
August 31, 20070 found this helpful

This is very common with okra harvesting! The okra stings and makes my hands itch when preparing it for cooking. I love it, so I don't let it bother me too much.

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September 1, 20070 found this helpful

I don't know about okra, but I discovered this summer that Virginia creeper does it to me. I Googled "poison ivy" and learned that Virginia creeper does affect some people this way. It's a vining plant that has 5 leaves instead of poison ivy's 3. Just sending this in as an informational warning to others!



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By (Guest Post)
September 1, 20070 found this helpful

I have the same problem. I cover up as much as possible (as stated),then harvested with a very sharp knife in one hand while trying not to come in contact with the plant at all...letting the okra drop to the ground and gathering them up after I'd cut all I wanted. I didn't itch unless I touched the wash up as soon as you get in the house and avoid touching your face before you wash.

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By Cathy (Guest Post)
September 28, 20070 found this helpful

Go to your local hardware shop and see if you can buy an extension pruner. It is on a long telescopic handle, with a gripper next to the blade so that what you cut does not fall down.


Might take a bit of practice to get used to.

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By jakeb101291 (Guest Post)
August 29, 20080 found this helpful

The best thing to do is to pick it when it is cool outside, like early in the morning.

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July 24, 20170 found this helpful

I know this is old but with the water suggestion it makes it worse and it can easily burn the plant. The earlier the better and cover up.

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July 18, 20220 found this helpful

I found some information about this as my husband started burning and hurting after picking okra. His even went one step further and started causing lesions on his nose and beside his mustache area on his face. It is actually from secretions from the okra pods, it causes irritation, itching, burning and skin lesions! You can find mor info here

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June 12, 2012

What is a good spacing between okra plants?

By Hugh


June 13, 20120 found this helpful

I believe it is about a foot on any side (to the one in front and back of the plant, and across to plant on each side, if any).

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August 11, 2011

For three or four years we have had trouble getting okra to grow and produce. We don't know if it is our soil or the seed. This year we even bought new seed. Can anyone give us some pointers?

By Linda J

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Bronze Post Medal for All Time! 148 Posts
October 18, 2011

I think we have the tallest Okra in the South. My husband is picking it, because I am only 5 feet tall. I would need a ladder. And the stalks are like small trees!

Man Picking Okra

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October 7, 2012

This is a beautiful picture of a flower from my okra plant. To me the flowers are a blend of an orchid and magnolia blossom. I love the way I captured the morning dew. Who knew such a beautiful flower would come from a vegetable plant!

Closeup of okra flower.

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April 16, 2019

Flower Bed Okra is a strain of okra developed by a man in Texas, that grows like a shrub with many branches and gets over 5 feet tall. This seed variety doesn't appear to be mass produced.

Flower Bed Okra Plants

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