Never Prune Okra

Several months ago, I decided to try an experiment. I pruned back several okra plants by cutting a few inches off the top. The idea was to see if, as happens with some plants, pruning makes it more productive. In addition, the plants were getting pretty tall. I am 6’6″ tall, and I now have to bend some of the plants down in order for me to pick the pods off the top (remember that this is in a raised bed, so they aren’t as tall as it may seem).

The results? The trimmed plants have produced absolutely nothing from that point on. Let your okra grow as it will and keep it picked – don’t cut anything but the pods.

About Stephen Clay McGehee

Born-Again Christian, Grandfather, husband, business owner, Southerner, aspiring Southern Gentleman. Publisher of The Southern Agrarian blog. President/Owner of Adjutant Workshop, Inc., Vice President - Gather The Fragments Bible Mission, Inc. (Sierra Leone, West Africa), Webmaster - Military Order of The Stars and Bars, Kentucky Colonel.
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4 Responses to Never Prune Okra

  1. I learned this one the hard way, too, although my garden is not a tenth as impressive as yours.

    Okra does not regenerate structures, but keeps expanding, so any damage or cuts will cause it to grow more in that area. This takes away from pod production, which is a shame if you truly love okra.

    The one thing I could get away with and recommend is that if a leaf appears to be dying, cut it off where it joins its stalk — not the main stalk, the stalk of the leaf itself — so that no energy is expended in keeping a mostly-dead leaf alive.

    Where we are, sunlight is abundant and so okra can even be grown in large pots. Add water and compost and it rockets up to six feet in just about no time. It also has really pretty flowers that tend to make neighbors stop in to see.

  2. Stephen Clay McGehee says:

    I understand what you’re saying – keep the plant focused on producing pods rather than repairing a non-productive leaf. I do that regularly with tomatoes, but never thought to try it with okra. Thanks for the tip!

  3. eve says:

    I live in Greece, we have plenty of sunshine here and warm weather, perfect for okra planting, however my plants are producing very few pods just on the top parts. Some other plants are producing nothing at all. I harvest my pods ever other day. What seems to be the problem?

  4. Stephen Clay McGehee says:

    Hello, Eve. It’s great to hear from you in Greece.

    It sounds like your okra plants are producing much like mine, although production has increased over the past few weeks. During the hottest part of the summer, they just didn’t produce a lot, but now that the weather is beginning to cool down a bit, they are producing quite a bit more. Okra forms pods only at the end of branches. The most dependable location is at the top of the main stalk, but other branches also produce okra pods, although not as regularly.

    In this photo, you can see the stubs where pods were previously cut, and the okra pod growing at the top. I harvested yesterday, and this will be ready to pick tomorrow morning. The okra plants are 7 feet tall at this point.

    Another shot of the okra. I had hoped the okra pods would be visible, but they aren’t. There are a fair number of them at the ends of the lower branches as well as on the very top.

    Where we are, the okra started to increase production again around the first of September. I haven’t paid enough attention to see how long it continues before it gets too cool to produce.

    By the way, I have some good friends currently in Thessaloniki working on this project – http://www.jameswknox.net/thess/ . Here is another site (this one in Greek and English) for the project – Το Σχέδιο για τη Θεσσαλονίκη

    My wife and son will be going to Thessaloniki for two weeks in April to work on this project.

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