| Okra is one of those vegetables people either love or hate. They have a nice vegetal taste but the slimy texture is too much for some folks. Still, okra is a versatile vegetable and one that is surprisingly easy to grow, provided you can give it lots of warmth and sun.
The challenge for gardeners who want to grow okra in containers is that it rapidly grows into a large plant, sometimes reaching over 6 feet tall. It’s recommended to plant okra in a 5-gallon (19-L) or larger container for one plant. You can direct sow or you can start your seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before your last frost date and transplant after soil has warmed to 65°F (18°C). As a warm-weather crop, move your containers in the sunniest part of your garden so your okra can get full sun.
Container Size for Okra
Okra are fast-growing and can grow into tall bush- or tree-like plants, so to successfully grow okra in containers, you will need something large enough to support such growth.
For most varieties of okra, the minimum container size is 3 gallons (11 L), but 5 gallons (19 L) or more is recommended for one plant.
Ensure your container has adequate drainage holes on the bottom and is filled with well-draining potting mix or soil with organic matter.
How to Grow Okra in Containers
Direct Sowing vs. Transplanting
You can direct sow okra outside or you can start them indoors and transplant outside later. Okra thrives in hot weather, so if you live somewhere with a shorter growing season, you should start your seeds indoors. For those in warm climates like in the Southern United States, you can direct sow outside.
When and How to Plant Okra
If starting indoors, sow okra seeds 1/2 to 1 inch (1.25 to 2.5 cm) deep around 4 to 6 weeks before your average last frost date. Plant 2 to 3 seeds per hole and then thin out to 1 seedling after they emerge. While indoors, keep them warm and under grow lights.
Transplant your okra seedlings when soil has warmed to around 65°F (18°C) and water in after transplanting.
For direct sowing, again sow 2 to 3 seeds about 1/2 to 1 inch deep and thin out later. You can sow after soil has warmed, or a few weeks before your last frost date if you keep them covered in clear plastic, a cold frame, or row cover to protect them from the cold.
In both methods, you can soak your okra seeds overnight to speed up germination.
Taking Care of Okra in Containers
Okra is a tough plant that can grow under many conditions, but thrives in warm weather – the warmer the better – and prefers well-draining, rich soil. Place your container in full sun for best results.
Generally, when growing in containers, mature plants will readily soak up much of the water, requiring more frequent watering. This is even more so the case with okra. Water regularly, at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water per week as your okra gets larger, and even more during the height of summer. Never let your okra plants completely dry out.
Fertilizing Okra in Containers
Okra is a heavy feeder but benefits from any well-balanced fertilizer. You can apply a slow-release fertilizer like Dr. Earth’s fertilizer or Jobe’s fertilizer spikes before planting. You can also feed every 7 to 14 days with liquid plant food like fish emulsion or Miracle-Gro.
As far as NPK, a balanced fertilizer will suffice. However, later in the season as you start to get your first flowers and pods, you can switch to a bloom formula (higher P and K in the N-P-K numbers).
When and How to Harvest Okra
Okra doesn’t have one specific time to harvest, so you will have to continually harvest throughout the season. Just like green beans, the more okra you pick, the more the plant will produce, and you will end up with very heavy yields by the end of the season. Okra will continue to produce until the frost.
Typically, you will want to pick okra when the pods are around 1 to 4 inches long, depending on the variety, when the pods are still relatively soft. Okra pods grow insanely fast, so when you see small pods developing, check every single day because they will quickly mature.
Once your okra plants really take off, you may need to check them every 1 to 2 days. If you have only a couple okra plants, you can freeze the pods until you have harvested enough for cooking your favorite okra dish.
Good Okra Varieties for Growing in Containers
Okra is massive, easily getting over 6 feet tall, but there are some varieties that max out at 5, 4, or even 3 feet in height. Search for “dwarf” okra varieties to find ones that are best for growing in pots. Some popular ones are listed below.
- Dwarf Lee Okra (dwarf variety that only reaches 3 feet tall)
- Dwarf Long Green Pod Okra (another 3-ft dwarf variety)
- Baby Bubba Hybrid Okra (grows 3-4 feet tall)
- Perkins Dwarf Long Green Okra (grows 4-5 feet tall)
- Clemson Spineless (standard, tall variety but recommended for all growers)