How To Grow Okra In Containers: Complete Growing Guide

Even if you don’t have a large garden space, you can still learn how to grow okra in containers. Okra grows well in pots because the plants don’t take up a lot of space, and you can enjoy homegrown okra!

Many people assume that they cannot grow okra because they don’t live in a tropical region. While okra is a warm season, tropical vegetable, growing okra in containers allows you to bring the plants inside if the temperatures dip too low.

How To Plant And Grow Okra in Containers

  • Pick a dwarf or smaller-sized okra plant variety for for container growing.
  • Select 3-5 gallon-sized pots with drainage holes for container grown okra plant.
  • The potting mix should be well-draining with a pH range of 6.5-7.0 that contains plenty of compost or composted manure.
  • Sow 2-3 okra seeds ½ to 1 inch deep and 12-18 inches apart in each container.
  • Put the okra container somewhere that gets six to seven hours of sunlight daily.
  • Okra grown in containers need to well-watered with one inch of water per week.

Aside from producing yummy veggies, okra also has beautiful foliage with showy blooms, so it works as an ornamental plant as well. If you’re ready to learn how to grow okra in containers, here is what you need to know.

How to Grow Okra in Containers

Once you selected the type of okra you want to grow, it’s time to learn how to grow okra in containers. It’s much easier than you might imagine!

1: Picking The Right Okra Variety For Containers

Before you plant your okra, you want to pick the right type of okra. Not all okra grows to the same height, and some produce different colored pods.

You want to look for dwarf okra plants that don’t grow above 5 feet tall. Of course, you can grow any variety, but the dwarf ones produce the best when limited in root growth by the container’s size.

If you live somewhere that isn’t a tropical, warm region, you’ll want a variety that matures faster. Here are some of the ideal okra varieties for containers.

  • Baby Bubba Hybrid
  • Dwarf Blondy
  • Cajun Delight
  • Perkins Long Pod

2. Choose A Large Container With Drainage 

Choose A Large Container With Drainage

Picking the right sized pot can determine whether or not you’ll be successful at growing okra in containers. Okra has large taproots, so you need a pot that can contain them.

  • Make sure the pot is at least 3 gallons in size, but the ideal size is 5 gallons, measuring at least 10-12 inches deep and similar in diameter.
  • Black is the perfect color for pots because okra loves heat. It’ll soak up more of the sunlight if the pot is black or dark-colored.
  • Ensure there are drainage holes in the bottom of the container and line it with gravel to let the excess water drain out of the soil. It’s best to have a plate or tray underneath the pot.

A few suggested materials include:

  • Clay Pots
  • Ceramic Pots
  • Cement Planter
  • Brick Planters
  • Plastic or Galvanized Buckets
  •  Stone Planters

2. Place Okra Containers In The Right Location 

Since you have such a large pot, it’s best to put the container in its specific spot before filling it. Okra requires full sunlight, typically 6-8 hours, to properly grow. Some varieties do better with up to 10 hours of sunlight.

3. Fill The Container With Correct Potting Soil

Okra wants well-draining soil; soggy feet can lead to rotting and death of your plants. To fill your containers, a soilless potting mix full of organic matter is a fantastic choice.

If you use a soilless mix, it should also contain equal parts of sand, peat moss, and vermiculite.

  • Aim for a loamy, crumbly soil.
  • Make sure you add plenty of compost or aged manure before you put the plant into the compost. The plant needs a constant supply of nutrients.
  • It’s best if the soil has a neutral pH range of 6.5 to 7.0, although they can survive in soil with a pH as high as 7.6.
  • Make sure you use potting soil, not topsoil or garden soil. Potting soil is light and loose, and topsoil will become packed down, interfering with drainage and root growth.

4. Know When To Plant Okra In Pots

Okra isn’t a fan of cold weather or frost; if you live in a region with a first and last frost date, you need to make sure you wait until the danger of frost passes before putting the seeds into the ground.

  • The temperature needs to stay about 55-60℉ consistently before you plant.
  • If you live in USDA zones 9-11, it is possible to grow okra year-round. You can do so in any tropical or subtropical region around the world!
  • In the north, you might have to wait until the middle of June to plant. Pods appear within two months.

5. Plant The Okra Seeds In Containers

Plant The Okra Seeds In Containers

One of the most important things to remember is that okra won’t transplant well due to their extensive root system. If you try to transplant them, chances are you’ll run into a root-bound plant that ends up in shock and dying from the move.

  • Sow 2-3 okra seeds ½ to 1 inch deep in each container.
  • Water your seeds deeply with a hose, and make sure the seeds are kept in a warm, bright place to help germinate. Make sure the soil stays moist until germination takes place.
  • Germination typically takes between 5-10 days, but the warmer the soil and weather, the fastest they’ll germinate.
  • Space okra plants 12-18 inches apart.

If you find seedlings at your local garden nursery, you might decide to plant those instead of seeds. Okra seedlings have delicate taproots, so you need to be careful when you transplant them into the garden beds.

  • Dig a hole in your garden bed that is slightly deeper than the container they grew. They should be ½ inch deeper when you plant.
  • Gently remove the seedlings from the pot and put them into the hole. Each plant should be 12-18 inches apart. Fill in the hole, firmly pushing the soil into place.
  •  Make sure you water the seedlings deeply to help the roots establish.

6. Consider Companion Plants

You might notice that your planter looks bare because okra needs to be placed so far apart. Adding companion plants can help the growth of your okra.

  • Lettuce- It handles the shade well while giving you fresh salad greens.
  • Radishes- Since they’re a root crop, radishes help keep the soil loose and provide you with another salad edible.
  • Mint- Not only does mint repel flea beetles, but it also smells great!
  • Peppers- Unless you have a large planter, you won’t be able to add pepper plants, but they can deter stink bugs and repel cabbage loopers.
  • Nasturtiums- These deter flea beetles from visiting your okra plants while also attracting pollinators.
  • Beans- Not only do beans help get rid of the stink bugs that might be attracted to your okra.

How to Care for Okra in Pots

One reason that people love to grow okra is that they’re relatively easy plants to maintain. They don’t require much care, so here is what you need to remember.

1. How Much Water Okra Needs 

Okra plants need uniformly moist and slightly moist soil. You should water your plants regularly. While okra plants can withstand dry spells, they grow the best if they receive 1 inch of water each week.

  • More water is needed at the beginning of the flowering period and until the end of the production.
  • Make sure you check the soil before you water. If it’s wet two inches down, it doesn’t need to be watered, but if it’s dry, it’s time to water your plants.
  •  Once your plants are established, you only need to water weekly, but do so deeply.

2. Fertilizing Needs For Okra Plants

In the beginning, you should mix composted manure or compost into the soil to provide nutrients to your plants. You also can side-dress your plants with compost throughout the growing season for additional nutrients.

Fertilizing Needs For Okra Plants
  • Another option is to add a balanced, granular fertilizer at the time of planting. Mix it into the soil well.
  • When the plant is 6 inches tall, you can apply another dose of balanced fertilizer.
  • Make sure your soil doesn’t contain too much nitrogen because it can encourage excess vegetative growth rather than focusing on fruiting. You want a balanced soil.
  •  Later in the growing season, try feeding your plant a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen. Look for an NPK ratio of 5-10-15 or 6-12-12.

3. Mulch Around Your Plants

Mulching is always a smart idea because it helps the soil retain moisture. If you live somewhere that has hot summers, mulching reduces how often you need to water. Even though these plants can withstand drought, keeping the soil slightly moist for the ideal growth and production.

Harvesting Okra Grown In Containers 

Harvesting Okra Grown In Containers

The most important thing to know is that okra plants require frequent and regular harvesting. It takes around 2-3 months after planting for blooms to appear. Once the flowers appear, expect another week before fruits appear.

Okra is a cut and come again plant. They flower nearly every day, and each flower will self-fertilize itself, so you don’t need to worry about pollination. Once flowering, it takes 7-10 days to fruit.

You want to pick the pods when they’re tender. If you wait too long, they become fibrous, making it too hard to be eaten. Aim for each pod to measure between 3-5 inches long.

  • The first pods that you can harvest appear at the base of the plant and gradually move upwards. At the end of the growing season, you’ll harvest from the top of the plant.
  • Use pruning shears to cut the pods away from the plant.
  • You need to make sure you check the plant each day. All it takes is a day or two extra on the plant, and the pods become hard and woody, nearly inedible.
  • Be aware that they have stiff hairs that will cook off later unless you grow spineless okra. It’s a smart idea to wear gloves and a long-sleeved shirt since it’s not comfortable to be stuck with the hair.

Common Pests & Diseases That Bother Okra

Okra doesn’t deal with too many pests and diseases; the biggest problem this veggie typically faces is cold weather, but you should be prepared to deal with whatever comes your way.

Fusarium Wilt

Here is another fungal infection that can quickly destroy your crop. Over time, the leaves become necrotic, with the older plants showing signs of wilting first. Severe infections can cause your plants to become stunted and eventually die.

Fusarium wilt tends to develop more in warm temperatures, and there is no way to get rid of the fungus.

Charcoal Rot

With this fungal infection, you’ll notice discoloration of the stem at the soil line, and over time, cankers might spread upwards. It causes the leaves to wilt and eventually drop off of the plant.

Unfortunately, once infected, you cannot get rid of this fungus. It’s best to practice crop rotation to avoid it developing in the soil.

White Mold

This other fungus causes a cottony fungal growth on your plant, along with small, dark green lesions on the pods, branches, and leaves. Over time, the lesions get longer. White mold can live up to 5 years in the soil.

Make sure you rotate your crops and avoid excess nitrogen fertilizer. It’s also best to space the rows wide.

Cucumber Beetles

If your plants are infected with cucumber beetles, you’ll find stunted seedling and damaged leaves. The symptoms often look like bacterial wilt, and there will be scars on the fruit. Cucumber beetles are typically brightly colored with either a green-yellow background and black spots.

You can use floating row cover to protect your plants, and kaolin clay applications are effective in getting rid of small infestations. Applications of insecticides can be helpful.

Loopers

These pests cause large or small holes in the leaves; the damage is often extensive. Cabbage loopers are pale green with white lines on either side of the body. You can typically hold the loopers in check by using natural enemies. Another option is applying Bacillus thuringiensis to kill young larvae.

Root-Knot Nematode

These will lead to galls on the roots, which leads to a reduction in plant growth. They also can cause the plants to yellow in hot weather. Nematodes prefer sandy soils, and make sure you plant resistant varieties if you think they might be present in the soil.

Check the roots in the middle of the growing season if you suspect nematodes. Solarizing the soil can reduce nematode populations.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to grow okra in containers is a simple task for new gardeners. They grow well in most regions, and if you live in a climate that gets cold, growing okra in pots is a smart idea because you can bring it inside if the temperatures get too chilly.

Updated on by Amber Noyes

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