Okra or ladies’ finger is an extremely generous plant producing three fruits daily over a span of 50-60 days. A family of four can easily meet their day’s meal demands by banking on six to eight okra plants.
If you are unsure about how to grow okra in container, then you have come to the right place. Today we are going to discuss in detail about this native African plant which is a close relative of hibiscus. Maybe, that is why the okra flowers look similar to hibiscus with its star-shaped design.
Okra flower is often used for ornamental reasons and serves as a popular indoor plant which can be grown in pretty little pots. So, without further ado, lets get on with our discussion of okra plants and how you can grow it organically in your home garden.
Choosing Okra Variety
The most common type of okra plant which we get to see is the one bearing green to dark green coloured fruit. But you will be stunned by the diverse varieties of this plant:
- The Baby Bubba Hybrid are ideal for small garden plots and small container cultivation. These plants bear dark green fruits and are well suited for cooler climates.
- Next comes Blondy variants which generate spineless pale green pods. They have short growing seasons and are well-suited for cool locales.
- Third contender of our list is the heirloom Burgundy seeds which can attain a height of five feet. They bear green leaves which stand out in stark contrast to the burgundy stems making this a highly popular ornamental option.
- The Silver Queen variant isn’t very tolerant of the cold weather and thrives in hot climates. They produce creamy ivory-green pods which can attain a maximum length of seven inches.
- The organic Red Velvet varieties can serve you well if you are planning on growing the okra plants in a container or small garden space. It bears scarlet red fruits which grow up to six inches long and are slightly ribbed.
- The Perkins Long Pod can grow five feet in height and bear four-inch-long straight green pods.
- Louisiana Green Velvet seeds give rise to eight feet tall plants bearing dark green spineless pods. This plant requires exceptionally large gardening space and has a maturity period of 65 days.
- The Hill Country Red variants can impart a structural interest to the garden with its height of six feet. It bears thick green fruits having subtle red tinges.
- The Go Big variant can help you strike the perfect balance between a striking ornamental and highly edible variant. These plants grow exceptionally tall and bear dark green pods which can attain a length of 7 inches.
- The Emerald seeds can attain a height of eight feet and bear smooth green fruits having a maturity period of 60 days.
- Cow Horn variants can serve as an ornamental conversation starter as it grows 14 feet in height and can bear curved pods having a length of 14 inches.
- Clemson Spineless are the industry standard variety which spread up to 48 inches in diameter and have a height of four feet. They bear slightly curved dark green pods which are virtually spineless in nature.
Taste wise there is no difference in between the red and green variants of okra plant. Rather the red one turns green on being cooked. But the red ones score higher on the decorative scale making them a more expensive option compared to the green ones.
Benefits of Container Gardening
Container gardening can be carried out in the patio, balcony, courtyard, windowsills and even indoors provided the space gets adequate light. This offers larger variety to gardeners who might not be able to grow certain varieties of plant in their garden soil.
Container gardening is a highly accessible option especially for the elderly and other people having limited mobility. The small surface area can also keep you worry free from the attack of weeds into the pots of your favourite plants.
Lastly, since it can be carried out with heavy gardening equipment, you can save a lot of money for being redirected to more important avenues.
Growing Okra in Container/Pots at Home
Okra plants germinate pretty fast. Under normal conditions, they can attain a height of 2 feet within just a month. On being grown in an appropriate container, the okra plant can easily reach a height of 10 ft.
You can also go for the dwarf variants of the plants if you are suffering from vertical space constraints. Okra is basically a warm season crop and tends to get dehydrated when grown in containers. This makes mulching an absolute necessary for growing this variety of plants.
Growing okra in pots doesn’t require much space and can be carried out even by amateur gardeners provide they complete all the planting requirements. While okra is generally lightly cooked, it can even be consumed raw if you grow it organically in your garden. They are rich in Vitamin A, C, P, calcium and various other minerals while being low in terms of calories
Selecting a Pot/Container for Okra
The tap root of Okra plant likes going deep within the soil making it necessary to opt for a bucket style container.
- While a 15-litre container can serve the dwarf variety, the normal ones require 20 liter containers. You can take your pick amongst a recycled paint bucket, an earthen pot or an old recycled plastic bucket for growing okra plants.
- If you fail to get your hands on a dwarf variant of okra, then you can simply use a smaller 10 liter container as this will hinder the full growth of the plant and refrain it from reaching the right height.
- However, doing this is infamous for bringing down the yield. Okra plants thrive exceptionally well in heat and thus its best to opt for a black colored one.
- A container with a top diameter of 12 inches and 10 inches bottom can be used to grow okra in a container of 5-gallon bucket.
How to Plant Okra Seeds?
Ideally you should plant the Okra seeds when the temperature ranges between 13-16 degree Celsius. Since Okra plant thrives better in summer climates, you can grow it throughout the year if you reside in tropical zones.
The taproot of Okra doesn’t let it transplant very well and thus you need to plant the seeds directly in a biodegradable pot or the container. The Okra seeds should be sowed at a depth of ½ to 1 inch in each pot.
Once you have sown the seeds, you need to position the container in a warm and sunny part of your house. Germination process takes 5 to 10 days post sowing and the substrate needs to remain soaked in water until germination. Warmer climate adds inertia to the whole process.
Germination of Okra Seeds
Okra seeds prefer direct sowing compared to transplanting. You can however transplant the same on germinating the seeds in a bigger sized container and transplanting the seedling along with the complete soil ball. It always pays to soak the seeds in Amrut Jal for 24 hours as that adds inertia to the germination process.
- Next, the seeds shall have to be sown in a pre-warmed container during evening. You can get your container ready during daytime and even leave it under the sun for sometime to warm up the potting mix.
- Next you will have to make 1-inch deep hole in the potting mix for sowing the seeds. On placing the seed inside the hole, you will have to cover it using loose soil. The pot should be adequately watered and covered from the top for preserving the heat and moisture. 3-4 seeds can be sown per container close to the centre.
- Once the plants attain a height of 6-8 inches, you can thin the seedlings to just one. It becomes imperative to check the moisture level of the potting mix daily once the seeds are sown. The first batch of seedlings is going to peep out of the soil within just 3-6 days and at this point you can remove the top cover.
Things to Take Care Of While Growing Okra in Pots
- While picking a suitable position for the Okra plant, choose a spot receiving 5-6 hours of sunlight. Just like peppers and tomatoes, Okra also requires a lot of sunlight to generate good produce.
- Okra thrives best in crumbly and loamy soil having good drainage capabilities. You can proceed with a soilless potting mix which is rich in organic matter. A lot of aged manure or compost can also be added to the soil for offering a steady supply of nutrients to your plant.
- Cultivating Okra plants become pretty easy once you get the right amount of heat. The plant grows once the temperature crosses 10 degree Celsius. But for it to bear fruit, the temperature should ideally be around 23-35 degree Celsius. Although higher temperatures can be tolerated by this plant, it fails to grow once the mercury dips to lower levels.
How to Take Care of Okra Plant?
- You can either side dress the plant with manure or mix it directly into the soil for providing necessary nutrients to the plant. A balanced fertilizer can also be added at the time of planting.
- You need to again apply this dose of balanced fertilizer once the plant attains the height of 6 inches. Extremely nitrogen rich soil can promote vegetative growth while hampering normal fruiting. You can balance out the same by using low in nitrogen fertilizers like 6-12-12 or NPK 5-10-15 later on.
- Okra plants pollinate by themselves. As a result, you don’t need to worry at all about its pollination.
- Dwarf varieties of Okra plants do not attain a height of more than 5 feet. You will not be required to pinch these variants.
- Okra plants require frequent harvesting. While the plant blooms within two months from plantation, the fruits appear 5-7 days post flowering. Ideally the pods or fruits should be harvested while they are still tender.
- Otherwise they might become excessively hard and this will hamper its ends taste. Flowers bloom on Okra plants everyday and these flowers self-fertilize themselves into a fruit. The Okra plant can be harvested once the plant attains a height of 4 to 6 inches.
- The fruits usually remain covered in soft and tiny thorns. You need to be very cautious while picking Okra as these might pierce your fingers. Okra plant should be held at its pointed end for being cut off using a pair of pruning shears.
- Ideally you should harvest Okra fruits everyday. But if you fail to do the same, then you need to carry out the harvesting on a gap of every 2 to 3 days. Giving longer gaps will simply end up hardening the fruit.
- Okra grown in pots has a fruiting period which lasts up to two months. You should sow fresh seeds every two months if you want a constant supply of this succulent and nutritious vegetable in your dinner plate.
- Okra plants require optimally hydrated soil. You should thus water the soil regularly especially when the day time temperatures run high. This should continue since the start of the flowering period and continue till the end of production.
Why are my okra plants not growing/ why are my okra plants turning yellow?
If your Okra plants suddenly start turning yellow, then this can serve as the sign of a major problem. Yellowed leaves have low chlorophyll count which is required by plants for generating food from sunlight. This causes the plants to starve and also diminishes its natural ability of resisting various diseases and insects.
Dense clay soils having poor drainage can trigger fungal diseases in the Okra plant. The first symptoms appear in lower leaves and more to higher ones coupled with spread of the disease. Okra is also attacked by sucking insects like spider mites, whitefly nymphs, etc which causes a yellow pattern on the leaves. You can destroy the soft-bodied pests by spraying the plant with an insecticidal soap solution.