If you are growing okra for the first time, or if you got small plants last year, you might be wondering how big okra plants can get. I wanted to know the same thing, so I did some research to find out just how large this plant can get.
So, how big does okra grow? Okra plants can grow 3 to 7 feet (0.9 to 2.1 meters) tall and 1 to 5 feet (0.3 to 1.5 meters) wide. The pods on an okra plant can grow as long as 7 inches (18 centimeters), but most are 3 to 5 inches (8 to 13 centimeters) long, with a diameter of 1 inch (2.5 centimeters).
Of course, the quality of your okra (if you get any at all!) depends on the care that you give your plants. Let’s take a closer look at okra, including size, growing conditions, and time to maturity.
How Big Does Okra Get?
Some okra plants can grow as tall as 7 feet (2.1 meters), but most will reach a height of 2 to 6 feet (0.6 to 1.8 meters). Okra plants can be as wide as 5 feet (1.5 meters), but most will have a width of 2 to 3 feet (0.6 to 0.9 meters).
The pods on an okra plant will grow to 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) in diameter, with a length of 2 to 6 inches (5 to 15 centimeters). However, some okra pods can grow up to 7 inches (18 centimeters) in length, such as the Go Big Okra from Burpee.
How Long Does It Take for Okra to Grow?
Okra will take 49 to 65 days (7 to 9 weeks) after transplanting to grow to maturity. Okra seeds should be started 5 weeks before transplanting.
This means that you can expect to wait 85 to 100 days from planting an okra seed to harvesting mature okra pods.
Note that okra seeds will germinate in 1 to 2 weeks, assuming ideal temperature and soil conditions (more on this later).
How Much Okra Do You Get From One Plant?
One okra plant can produce a pound or more of pods in a single growing season. This will depend on many factors, such as the care you give the plant and how frequently you harvest.
If you stay on top of the harvest every couple of days, then the plant will keep producing for some time.
For more information, check out this article on okra from the University of Arkansas.
How Do You Know When To Harvest Okra?
For most varieties, you should harvest okra when the pods are 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10 centimeters) long. If you wait too long, the pods will get tough and stringy.
One good way to tell is when cutting the stem to harvest the pods. If the stem is difficult to cut, then the pod is too hard to use for eating.
What Does Okra Look Like?
The okra pods that are grown for eating look somewhat similar to long peppers (such as jalapenos), but perhaps a bit longer and thinner.
Okra pods usually grow straight and do not have much of a curve unless there is a pest or other problem present.
They are often green, but also come in red or purple colors. The pods also have fuzz on the surface
Why Are My Okra So Small?
Okra plants prefer full sunlight, so too much shade will cause the pods to grow small.
Another possible cause of small okra is a lack of water, which is more likely in the warm climates where okra thrives.
If the light and water levels are correct, make sure you are not providing too much nitrogen to your okra plants, since this can cause excessive growth of leaves at the expense of the pods.
Are Okra Plants Hard To Grow?
Okra likes full sun, so be sure to plant them in an area where they get 8 or more hours of sunlight per day. Avoid planting okra in a place where it will be completely shaded by a tree or tall neighboring plants (such as tomatoes).
Okra grows best in well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0 (slightly acidic). However, there are many other factors that affect okra growth, including temperature, watering, fertilizing, and spacing. Let’s start with temperature.
Temperature for Okra
Okra is a warm weather crop. The minimum temperature for okra seed germination is 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius). If the soil is any colder than this, you will see low germination rates – that is, if you can get any seeds at all to germinate!
This is nature’s way of protecting okra seeds from sprouting at a time when they will be unable to survive. This is why it is suggested that you start okra seeds indoors to avoid cold soil temperatures in early spring.
The maximum temperature for okra seed germination is 105 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius). If the soil is any warmer than this, germination rates will decrease.
Combined with high humidity, high temperatures can encourage the growth of mold, which is another threat to your plants. So, don’t wait too long to plant your okra seeds and transplant your established plants outside!
You should start okra seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before transplanting into the garden.
The ideal (optimal) temperature for okra seed germination is between 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius) and 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius).
Keep in mind that these temperatures refer to soil temperature, not air temperature. If you want to find out the soil temperature, use a probe-type thermometer to check.
If the thermometer reads a temperature that is too low, then you have some options. One option is to wait until the sun warms up the soil.
To speed up this process, clear away any debris, such as leaves or grass clippings, from the soil surface. Also make sure to choose a location for planting that gets plenty of sun, so that it can warm up the soil faster.
If you are worried about a short growing season, you can also use a cloche (a plastic or glass cover) to trap some heat and warm up the air and soil near your okra seeds.
A cloche can be made from a plastic water bottle to retain warmth and humidity in the soil for seeds or seedlings as they grow.
For more information, check out the table below, and check out this article from the University of California on ideal seed germination temperatures.
|Ideal||85 to 95||29 to 35|
Watering for Okra
Okra can withstand drought to some extent. However, in case of a long dry spell, you should keep the soil moist to avoid water stress.
You may need to water more often if you have sandy soil, which drains quickly even when soaked thoroughly.
Putting mulch on top of your soil will help to retain moisture. If you find that you have a problem with dry soil, check out my article on how to treat dry soil.
On the other hand, over watering your okra plants (or any plants for that matter) can lead to root rot and eventual death. The best way to decide when to water is to feel the soil with your fingers.
If the soil feels dry 2 or 3 inches below the surface, then go ahead and water. For more information, check out my article on over watering your plants.
Try to water early in the morning, rather than at night, to allow water to soak into the soil before evaporating.
For more information, check out this article on okra from Bonnie Plants.
Fertilizing for Okra
Adding compost to your soil before planting okra is a good way to improve drainage for clay soil, improve water retention for sandy soil, and add nutrients to your garden.
For more information, check out my article on making compost.
According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, you can also side-dress okra with a balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) or use decomposed manure. Avoid fertilizer with high nitrogen content or fresh manure, since both of these can burn your plants!
For more information, check out my article on over fertilizing your plants.
Spacing for Okra
When starting okra seeds indoors, sow the seeds 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) deep and 2 inches (5 centimeters) apart. This should be done 3 to 4 weeks before the last frost date. You can find frost dates in your area on the Farmer’s Almanac website.
You may need to thin seeds started indoors to prevent competition. For more information, check out my article on thinning seedlings.
Transplant the young okra plants outside after the last frost date. Space the plants 12 inches (30 centimeters) apart in a row.
Leave 3 feet (0.9 meters) between rows of okra. This will allow space for watering, weeding, fertilizing, and harvesting your plants.
For more information, check out this article on okra from the Texas A&M University Extension.
By now, you should have a better idea of how big okra can grow. You also have some tips on how to help okra plants to grow to their full potential.
I hope that this article was helpful – if so, please share it with someone who can use the information. If you have any questions or advice of your own about growing okra, please leave a comment below.