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.
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.
Brett that is simply not true. No plant expends energy keeping leaves alive. On the contrary to whatever extent a leaf is still green it provides energy to the plant. If you have extremely dry soil then there is a slight loss of water but again only on the live area of the leaf which is still producing energy.
When an okra leaf becomes useless it will shrivel brown and break off at the main stem of the plant with no effort necessary by a human. However these old dead leaves can built up and foster powdery mildew if left around too long but you never need to cut them, they’ll either fall or crumble right off.
As far as growing in large pots, I find that greatly stunts them unless the pot is very large. For example in a 10 gallon pot I can grow a pepper to nearly the same size as in the ground but an okra will be less than half the size and less than 1/3rd the produce. It might get six foot tall but tends to be skinny, minimal side shoots, just a low producer, and a pain in the butt to have to water very often (2 or more times daily in some cases) later in summer.
I just wouldn’t bother growing it in pots. Almost anything else will do better in pots then use the available garden space for the okra.
I would ask then, why all the experts and many commercial growers trim back 1/3 of their plants, to produce new stem growth, and flower production. My plants are at 5 ft., But there is beautiful new growth at about the three foot level, and tarting to put out flowers, as the top 2 feet are starting to stop production, and look old. I think ill take the advice of the pros.
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!
It’s a false tip. Plants don’t repair leaves nor expend energy on them in any way. The worst a dead leaf can do is block sun from a live leaf under it, or fall onto a live area of the plant, get soaked with water and mildew. Obviously you don’t want mildew but otherwise a plant will abort a leaf all by itself when it has no benefit from it.
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?
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.
What is wrong with your plants? There are barely any leaves there, no wonder they produce so little. While it doesn’t account for so few leaves, it also looks like you have too many, too close together. Try rows running north-south with a few feet of space between them, few meaning closer to 8 than 2. Healthy plants will be at least 4′ wide so that leaves about enough room to walk between them with a ladder to harvest pods.
seems to me a sign of potassium deficiency (see that redish hue on the stem, i think if there are leaves, most will be showing the deficiency symptom), also plant that size shoul be already done growing up, and branch instead, mine produces at least5-7 branches, before showing reduction in productivity.
Thank you – definitely something to consider. Other possibilities are the variety and strain and local growing conditions. Looking back on it, I shouldn’t have been so dogmatic on this.
I use the 12-12- 36 liquid fertilizer than the recommended 10-10-10 on my okra plants and spraying it with Epsom salt plus hydrogen peroxide weekly during the monsoon session to control the mildew/fungus.
So, the deer ate all the leaves off my okra. After seeing this I am going to leave it and see if it will produce.
Sorry to hear that, but I hope you’ll look at it as an accidental experiment and let us know if it comes back and produces. This year’s okra crop has already come and gone for us. The garden has been gone over with a flail mower, the plants have been pulled up (no need to feed the nematodes), and brown top millet has been planted as a cover crop. It will be tilled under in the Fall.
I grew okra for the 1st time this year (zone 7 USA). Until August, my okra plants were extremely leafy and productive. Then we had a period of 6 weeks of dry (virtually no rain) and hot (36degC/95degF high) weather. My okra plants lost most of their leaves (and look almost exactly like the photos above; the tallest were 8 feet tall). I have been watering them ~1/week (1/2 gallon trickle from bucket on each plant). Leaves all up and down the main trunk (and side trunks) are sprouting out now, but pod production has dropped off dramatically (>75% reduction). The tips of the branches each have 4-8 buds each, and I am getting flowers again. One comment is that I had NOT previously mulched my okra plants. Before I watered, I noted that the dirt was pretty dry several inches down. Okra plants have a fairly deep tap root, but they also have many horizontal roots that can reach as much as 2.5 feet long. The majority of the horizontal roots are in the top 8 inches of soil, so if this layer is quite dry, the okra plants will be water stressed. I feel very certain that mulching would have made a significant difference. Next year I will put down 6 inches of leaf mulch after the plants reach 1 foot high. I will also water during extended hot/dry periods.
Okra is usually pretty drought-resistant, but if they’re thirsty, no plant is going to do as well. I’ve also noticed that during the hottest part of the summer heat, okra is not immune to the general slow-down of all crops. It’s definitely a hot-weather plant, but it has its limits. Of course, it could simply be that I’m noticing a natural cycle based on when I plant it, so I may well be wrong on that. Thanks for the input – please keep us posted on what you learn!
I was looking to find out if we prune Okra plants or not. Your website and this thread helped. Thanks a lot.
I live in India (Navi Mumbai) and have recently started gardening in my house. Okra plants have really grown quickly and some of them are reaching 4-5 feet. Now we are in Monsoon season and I’m wondering if I will get a good harvest.
Thanks again for all your help.
Thanks for writing, Anupam. I’m glad to hear you found it helpful. This year is the first in a long time that I didn’t plant okra, and I’m regretting that decision. I wanted to let a section of the garden “rest” and I also solarized for nematodes, so that effectively took half of my raised bed garden out of production. I could have done it differently, but I suppose one year without okra isn’t going to be a disaster. If you think of it later, please stop by again and leave a comment about how the okra handled the monsoon season – that’s something we don’t face over here, and it would be very interesting to know. I have friends in West Africa where they have a rainy season, and that’s something they would like to hear about also.
Sure Stephen, I will let you know how my Okra did in Monsoon season :-).
One more question: how long does Okra plant produce? What is its lifecycle like? When do we need to discard the ols plant and go for the new plant?
On a related note, are you aware of any website that has such lifecycle details about other vegetable plants variety?
I don’t know for sure, but I strongly suspect that the bigger question is what is the most productive way to grow it rather than how long it could last. For me, I would rather pull up the okra at the end of the summer and use that space to plant a Fall garden. Otherwise, I’ve got to protect the okra from the frost (okra is native to Africa, and definitely a hot weather plant), and then wait until the next summer since it only produces during the summer. Much better is to just save the seeds and then replant in the Spring so you’ve got nice productive plants for when the weather gets hot. That’s my thinking, anyway. I’d be interested in hearing other views from anyone on the topic.
I am not aware of any web site that would have that information. Your best bet is just to go to a source that has detailed information about the plant you’re interested in.
The lifecycle is directly related to temperature, water, and in some cases pests. Cool climates might only get 2-3 months of good production while a warmer one, say where it stays above 60F at night, will continue to grow as long as temperatures stay warm. Towards fall as mold/mildew spores pick up you have to watch for that, but they are often not worth treating against it as that is such a large surface area with much loss of treatment solution.
In other words when they stop producing at an acceptable rate, and if it is not merely due to a short unusual cold period with an anticipation that it will get warmer again, then they are done for the season.
Thanks Stephen and it makes sense. The weather where I stay in India (Navi Mumbai) doesn’t go through the frost cycle. So, I guess, I just need to get some experience on how it behaves here in the entire year’s cycle.
I have pondered whether to prune the side branches in order to produce at the top of the plant. The plant can only process as much nutrition as the roots are able to supply. I tried both and it seems that it is best to harvest from both top and side branches until the plant begins to show signs of diminished production, then, I prune the side OR top branches, allowing the remaining plant to produce pods. Okra is native to Egypt (of course, a part of the African continent) and is very well suited to hot climates where it’s hot weather survival traits have prepared it very well for southern U.S. weather, such as where I live, southern Louisiana. I have noticed that some varieties are more prone to producing tall plants while others produce pods very well on shorter plants with less spacing between joints. I believe that this is a kind of unexplored potential of okra since so much nutrient circulation is expelled in making the large, woody stalk on some varieties that could be used to produce less stalk and more fruit on shorter varieties.
Excellent information, sir! Thank you for adding it to the collection. This looks like a prime candidate for some more precise experimentation – varieties, pruning methonds at different stages, etc. It may well be beyond the capability of my garden space available for something like this, but perhaps someone will take up the challenge.
The reason to prune side shoots is if they are spaced too close together. They have evolved to survive (make more viable pods) growing the way they do, based on climate and their particular orientation to sun, meaning they will grow more side shoots as it benefits them to catch sun.
Except for crowding issues it is almost never better to cut away what the plant has already expended energy producing and that gives back energy to the plant too. It would be like saying let’s cut off a child’s arm so it has more energy for the other arm. Things don’t work that way.
I have a small front yard garden in Texas. I have been cutting off the okra and the limb/leaf under it and have always a good crop. My okra is planted close if I leave the leaf on it shades the ground too much and seems to cause more insect/pests in that rain forest type environment beneath the canopy. I collect the okra every other day. I water if needed about twice a week. People stop by to see my garden and are always interested in my okra and luffa. So taking off the okra leaf/ limb absolutely does work to help my okra.
Thanks for the report, ma’am. The pruning I was referring to was cutting off the tops to keep them from growing too tall. I’ve never tried planting them very close, so I really appreciate hearing how it works for you. I’ve made a similar mistake in the past by planting tomatoes too close together, and not allowing for sufficient air circulation. That’s a mistake I hope I won’t make again. Again, thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience.
By the way, Luffa is one of my favorites to grow along a fence. I never really use much of it, but the prolific flowers are absolutely beautiful, and I get a lot of questions and compliments on it when I grow it.
i live here in the phil.and started planting okra in my back yard but my problem is there so much ants in my okra and egg plants,the leaves are starting to die..please help me..i used organic pertilizer
Ants are a big problem with okra, and they can really mess things up. The best trick I’ve found to take care of ants in okra is to smear some petroleum jelly around the base of the plant. Apply a heavy band of it about an inch or so above the ground level so that dirt doesn’t spash up into it when it rains. The ants get stuck in the petroleum jelly and can’t get up to the flowers and the seed pods. You’ll need to check it once in a while and apply more as needed.
I am living in India ( Chennai ), southern part. It is summer here and very hot and whole day has sunshine. Okra plants are healthy , 2 feet long and leaves are large. Pods started appearing and flowers too. My problem is the pods do not grow longer than 1″ to 2″. If I leave them in the plant for more time ,then it becomes hard. Am I watering more ? OR do I have to compost or fertilizer ? Pls help
If the plants look healthy and green, then I’m wondering if perhaps it is the variety of okra you have planted. If you’re not sure, try getting some okra seeds of another variety or from another source. The variety that I have is called “Clemson Spineless.” The climate that you describe should be ideal for okra. Let us know what you find – perhaps others may have the same issue. Thank you for stopping by!
It does seem that you need to water more. Okra literally ooze water out of the pods as they grow, it is a very water intensive process. I find that a pod will grow to its best edible state within 3 days of being fertilized and after that point, might get a little larger but too fibrous to eat.
Good Day !
Thanks for your reply. I will look in to the photo on the wrapper of these Okra seeds. next time I will try other seeds.
Now I have another problem. Custer beans plants have grown very well. tall, Thick stem, flowers have appeared. waited for long time but no beans appeared. What is the problem ? Pls guide.
I’m afraid that I won’t be able to help with that one. I’ve never grown castor beans (I’m assuming that’s what you meant, since I couldn’t find anything about “Custer” beans). I’ve seen castor beans growing in the wild, but that was many years ago. Perhaps someone else here can help.
Sorry ! I made a spelling mistake. it is Cluster.
The plant is ” CLUSTER BEANS”
I had never heard of Cluster Beans until you brought it up. Interesting crop! I learned that 80% of the world’s production comes from India and Pakistan. In reading about them, it sounds like their growth pattern can vary a lot depending on how much water it gets. That’s the first place that I would look regarding a solution.
Good Day !
I am bit surprised ,this is not grown in USA.
This cluster beans ,is a very tasty one, slightly bitter.
The plant is growing tall every day . there are flowers but no beans. can I clip the tip at top ?
I really don’t know the answer to that one, but my “gut feel” is that you’re better off leaving it alone. Pruning should always be done for a specific reason, so unless you have a specific goal in mind – leave it alone.
A garden specialist here says that if the soil has too much Nitrogen, then it will make the plant, leaf,& stem to grow well. it will bloom also but , there will be no beans. A soil with sand and large amount of Cow manure will have very high nitrogen. I made my soil like this mixture.
Is that correct ? What is your opinion ?
I don’t know just how that relationship works, but remember that beans are a legume, which means that they fix Nitrogen in the soil. That is why they are sometimes use as a cover crop. I would think that adding more Nitrogen to a plant that already produces Nitrogen would not necessarily be a good thing. Perhaps someone else can add to this.
You wrote beans but this is a comment section for okra. The primary issue with nitrogen excess is that plants with fruit (or other produce) that requires a lot of other nutrients to form, will grow the structures too fast due to the high nitrogen level and the fruit will be incomplete and start to spoil prematurely. Two typical examples of this are tomatoes and bell peppers.
Okra is not affected much by this because the pods are relatively low in nutrients beyond a bit of B vitamins. They don’t even have many calories so the plants can tolerate a lot more nitrogen than some other plants can.
Also, cow manure is not very high nitrogen. That myth is due to people exaggerating small differences, like when a can of food claims “good source of protein” and yet you would have to eat 10 cans of the food to get enough protein.
I mean that you might start out with 20% nitrogen manure but then there are gaseous losses and the rest is not available to the plant immediately as a nitrogen salt.
Regardless a good soil will have many components in moderation, not just a lot of manure, but of course manure should be aged before use anyway, not raw in abundance. The most effective use is to till into soil at least a month before crops or even longer if the soil will not remain damp to compost it naturally.
Dave, you left a number of great replies, so rather than addressing each one, I’ll just say “Thank you” here. Good information there.
I grow a variety of beans and I found out that Nitrogen is used only when you plant the seeds. Since Beans produce Nitrogen in tiny pods on the roots that is used for food when the soil is really dry, added Nitrogen is not required. Blood Meal can be used after a long drought to enrich the soil again. I also learned that using Humic Acid is better for your plants that compost. It’s easier to use and not near as messy. Cow manure actually has too much Nitrogen in it for beans but is perfect for Okra. I use Humic acid (liquid compost) every three weeks on my Okra. Mix one ounce (two tablespoons) to one gallon of water and water the plants well. Hope this works for you.
I am interested in communicating with gardeners that grow okra in a tropical climate. Email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. This comment is for Stephen. Since you seem to like Clemson spineless okra you should look into growing Heavy hitter okra. This variety is a clemson spineless strain that has been especially selected over many years for its bushiness and branchiness. Pods are the same as Clemson spineless since it is actually a Clemson spineless cousin. No interbreeding has been done. Just carefull selection over many years to create this special landrace. Plants are bushy and have many times the production. You can google heavy hitter okra online and it will take you to Green country seed savers forum where you can read about this incredible variety of Clemson spineless okra and even meet the grower. You gotta give this a try. I even went to the trouble of having some seed sent to me here in Panama. Its worth it. I got it planted in the back yard right now and the plants are super bushy and branchy and full of blossoms and pods. I will never grow normal clemson spineless again.
Fascinating, Glen – thank you! I will definitely be checking into that one. Okra is one of the very few crops that will continue to grow through even the hottest parts of the summer. I slows down some then, but it still keeps producing. I hope you get some good responses. As I have noted in a couple of posts here, I work very closely with missionaries in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Okra is a native of Africa, and I have sent some Clemson Spineless seeds over there for their garden. I’m confident that they will be very interested in learning about this. We have a package scheduled to ship over there soon, so maybe I can get some seeds to include there – if not, then in a later package.
This group have been very informative. Thank you. I’m in Cayman islands, grow microgreens for restaurants mostly, a few of my chefs asked for okra, what would be the best recommendations, we use raised bed for outside crops, the chefs like color as well as flavor.
Kathy, since Glen’s post, I have grown the Heavy Hitter strain, and they did very well. Note that they are still relatively early in the process of refining the strain, so not every plant had the Heavy Hitter growth characteristics. Some just grew like regular Clemson Spineless – that’s not a bad thing at all, but just expect that if you try them. Don’t give up on Heavy Hitter.
There are some hybrid varieties that may be better suited for what chefs would be looking for. I don’t plant hybrids myself, simply because seed saving is a very important factor for me. In your case, probably not.
This YouTube video is a great one on growing Okra. It’s by Hoss Tools, and they are in Georgia, so it’s roughly the same climate. By the way, I have bought a number of garden tools from Hoss Tools, and I highly recommend them. Great design and well made.
(Edited to add the video link)
I live in the state of Georgia. I planted 12 Clemson spineless okra plants (1st time Gardner).
Everyting I’ve read states when pods are cut another pod will grow in that spot but not one of mine has. They continue to grower higher up stalk each time. My plants are over 6′ now & still producing well. I’m concerned though that I may not be harvesting correct since they don’t regrow. I will need ladder for future harvest this year, hoping thru the fall as it’s typically warm thru October here.
I’m interested in some seeding pods for growing next year. Do you have any advice for me on that topic? I’m really unsure about that process.
This site is the best information I’ve found covering okra.
April, if you’re a first time gardener, you certainly picked a great plant to start out with. Okra is an easy plant to grow and it has very few natural pests. Add to that the delicious fried okra or gumbo that you get and it’s a can’t-lose crop.
I think you have have misread the information about where the okra pods grow. They never grow out of the same spot; rather, they grow out of the new stalk growing up above where the old pods were – exactly as you describe. Yes, they can get quite tall. On some of my okra plants, I have to bend the top down to harvest them – and I’m 6’6″ tall.
It sounds like you’re doing everything right, but you might have to resort to getting a ladder to pick your later crops. Right now, mine has almost stopped producing due to the heat here in Florida, but they will start up again soon. I still get a few even during the hottest weather, but it has slowed way down.
Harvesting pods for seeds is very easy – probably easier than anything else I grow. Find your most productive plant and then just let a couple of pods keep growing. Sometimes I mark them with “flagging tape” so I won’t forget and pick them. Let them go until they turn brown and then gray. At that point, they are dried out and you can hear some of the seeds rattling around inside then you shake them. Take them inside so they can dry out, then peel the pods open. I’ve found that grabbing each end and then twisting the pods as though you are wringing out a washcloth works well to get it started. I kept count one time, and I think I was averaging about 80 seeds per pod. Let them get good and dry before labeling and storing them. Sometimes I put them in the freezer or refrigerator, but usually they just go in a box in the closet.
I’m glad you found the site helpful – let us know how your first year turns out. Thanks for stopping by!
Thank you for such wonderful information about okra. I live in Alabama and this is my first time to grow it . It has been easy and productive and my plants are over 10 feet tall! Can’t wait to harvest some pods and try more varieties next spring.
Excellent, Kacey – what variety are you growing?
I just found your site for the first time and find it extremely interesting. We too live in Florida and have started aquaponics. Our Clemson spineless plants are well over 9 feet tall with 2 1/2″ diameter stalks and have been producing beautifully. I was looking for advice on cutting them back, but will take your advice and not try that. We like okra any way, including raw in salads. Yummy, Elaine
Hi, Elaine. Thanks for the info. I’ve had some tall okra, but I’m pretty sure that yours beat my record – probably by a full two feet!
I hope you’ll keep us posted on your aquaponics project. That’s something that I have looked into, and I have a friend who is looking into getting started with it. Are you going with Tilapia or some other fish? The thing that held me back was the dependence on keeping the pumps working; electricity dies, then fish die. I attended the annual Farm Tour in our county in 2017, and it featured a commercial caviar operation. I thought I had done a post on that, but looks like I didn’t. I’ll be starting up the blog again with regular posts beginning in mid-November, and I’ll make sure that’s one of the first ones. Lots of photos of how they do it – definitely not a hobby operation!
I’m so happy to find other okra growers. It is one of my favorite crops. Here in southern Missouri we have hot, humid summers, although this year was cooler and wetter than usual but the okra still grew fine. We grow at least four varieties each year. Some of those include Clemson spineless, emerald, Alabama red, Burmese, Fifecreek Creek cow horn, Silver Queen, and Texas Hill Country Red. Silver Queen produced well, but IMO the flavor was not as good as others, and it became hard too quickly. The Texas Hill country was the same, but not as productive for us. My favorite for flavor and beauty is Alabame Red, but it grows very tall by summer’s end. Emerald, a variety developed for canning, is another favorite. Fife creek is good, productive, and stays edible even with huge pods, but it is a very big plant with many branches and requires lots of space. Burmese is a sweet little plant that doesn’t get too tall and has tender pods.
I wondered what varieties others might recommend? We always try one new variety each year, usually growing four or five plants of each.
My favorite cooking method for okra is to toss sliced okra with coconut flour, put in a single layer on an oiled sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, and roast at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes, flip, and roast until browned and as crisp as you like. Salt as desired after cooking. I prepare bags for the freezer this way, too, but unsalted. Reheat the frozen okra in the oven.
BTW, did you know that small okra leaves are good in summer salads? I plant sweet potatoes in the raised beds with my okra and their young end leaves are tasty in salads, too.
Anders – thanks so much for the good info. Fried okra is my favorite also. In second place is in a gumbo with enough tomato acid to cut the “slime”. I haven’t heard of coconut flour, but I just looked it up. We’ll be giving that a try here also. Again, thank you for the great feedback – hope to see you here often!
Crazy, how the okra eating frenzy always seems to die away in September… In June, there is never enough, a week after Labor Day, and nearly everyone has had their fill. That has been one of life’s mysteries to me over the past couple decades that I’ve been selling okra.
This time of year (after Christmas) I always enjoy breaking out a little frozen garden okra to make a pot of fresh, hot, gumbo. When I make gumbo, I fry bacon up crispy, in an iron skillet. Then, I use some of the hot bacon grease to saute fresh sliced onions. I add sliced okra to the hot grease and saute it only slightly, to de-slime it. When that is done, I add tomatoes.
I grow a couple thousand ponds of okra each year, so I’ve always got plenty in the freezer.
Thank you, Ron.
For those who don’t know Ron Cook, he is the developer of the Heavy Hitter strain of Okra (I hope I have the terminology correct). I just received some seeds from him and will be planting them this Spring. Look for a couple of posts about the progress of this year’s Okra crop.
I am from Cochin, Kerala, India and a new comer in this field of okra.. Started growing Okra approximately 2 months back- no idea which type I am growing- from this site I think they are clemson spine less. Planted four seedlings together at one place. About 35 days after planting the seedlings I got the first pods. During a period of 17 days 31 okras were obtained. Average wt is 12 gm and average length is 10 cm. I have not yet cut the lower leaves; but noticed the wilting of the leaves where pods are cut. After reading this i think that it is better to cut those leaves. The plants have gown only up to 2 to 2 and half feet height. Now it looks as if the growth is stagnated. Thank you everybody for all the information. This is a very useful site.
Good to hear from you, Rajeev. I haven’t planted mine yet, but plan to do so next month. In the past, I’ve tried planting them in the early Spring, but they grow so slowly that I’m thinking that there is no advantage to planting them early. Since insects really don’t bother okra, that’s not an issue. Please stop by again later and let us know how your okra does later in the year.
I am also a grower of okra in my small kitchen garden . I am really impressed by information givven by Stephen .I thought okra is mainly grown in Asia and Africa. I live in northern Pakistan where winter is very cold and summer is very hot. As my ground is in between houses it does not get much sunshine till late April .i plant my seeds in pots in March and keep these in sunny spot of my house when plant grows to 3 or 4 leaves I transplant these in the ground in end of April . This year I was planning to cut the plants to 8 to 10 inches above ground at the end of summer and to leave these in the winter and whether these plants grow again next summer .But reading Stephen comments I am not going to try it.
Be sure to let us know how this year’s crop turns out. Pruning okra seemed like a logical step to take, but that’s the challenge of growing food – you never really know until you try it. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience.
I live at Jodhpur a city in Rajasthan India It is very hot these days .Temp is 30 to 45 ℃ . I have planted about 50 okra plants in my kitchen garden and pots . Unlike your advice I have pruned the plants right from the beginning to save transpiration losses . Few pods have appeared but they dry out despite daily watering . Can any body suggest if it is due to excessive pruning or too frequent watering . Plants wilt if these are not watered daily due to hot weather .
I don’t recall ever having a problem with okra drying out like that, and I very seldom water them – certainly not every day. I can’t see where pruning could cause that. How long are the pods when they dry out? That could be the problem here, since okra pods are supposed to dry out once they reach mature size. I try to always pick them before they get as long as my finger. I will usually allow a few pods from my best plants to reach maturity, then dry out so I can save the seeds.
I stay in Goa India. I have come to this site for the first time. I wanted info about growing okra. The site has been very helpful. Thanks.
I have been reading the post from Bhawani Singh. I believe his problem is heat. The summers in India are very brutal. The plants are always stressed for moisture and nutrients in spite of watering eveyday. The only option is planting in that area of garden which receives morning sun only and/or heavy mulching and shade cloths.
The onset of monsoon rains in June will provide respite and is the main planting season over here.
Thank you for the insight. I am always impressed by how localized gardening is. What works just fine in one location doesn’t work in another location that, at first glance, seems quite similar.
I was just inundated on my okra and eggplants this year with aphids. I purchased about 1500 lady bugs to solve the problem: but they absconded! Then I tried to dish soap insecticide recipe, and that worked for a bit, but you have to really keep after them, and it seems as if the plants had a film on them that is probably not good. I then purchased a bug blaster from Amazon a few days ago, and let me tell you, it’s pretty amazing. You do get quite wet when you use it, but the spray is strong enough to wash those aphids off there and kill what ones do cling. It jets water in 360 degrees from the outlet, and even gets under the leaves as long as you keep the spray vertical. It was awesome. Buds shiny clean! We shall see in a few days how well they worked!
That sounds interesting, but I’m especially curious to hear how it works in the long term. Please be sure to let us know. Thanks for posting!
I started 10 okra plants from seed . Nine are producing nicely, but one is just as tall, but with a great deal more foliage, but no blooms or pods at all. Wonder why.
I’d have to look it up again, but I’m thinking that it’s an excess of one of the elements (Nitrogen, maybe?) that can cause that. Hopefully others can hop in with a better answer.
Given same soil, water, and sun exposure, it’s probably just a random genetic defect. It happens, not all plants do as well as others. I would reject pod seeds from that plant if it ever produces any, use seeds from the best performing plants to reseed next season.
something i seen here online was the main base of the growing was woodchips, and everthing they grew in the wood chips was bigger and more productive, they had kale twice the size of the kale in soil. i didnt get my raised beds made this year so i only planted 4 okra and there only 4 feet but i got 3 okra pods, it was cause my placement was wrong. i thought i had total morning sun and sum evening sun but i was mistaken. i totally am going to try to grow okra next year in woodchips. they got the chips from a tree service i believe not any thats from a store, it was very impressive. thanks for the pruning advice, happy growing.
Mike – thanks for stopping by and commenting. When you get your wood chip garden up and growing, please stop back by and let us know how it turned out. I’ve read about using wood chips but never tried it myself. One suggestion – test your soil as you’re doing it. Especially check the pH level. From what I recall, that’s the tricky part – especially since you don’t know what kind of trees the chips are from and how long they have been aged. Best wishes on your next crop!
Retired and new to the south (central Texas) in 2012 and second year growing okra. Found this site while looking for info on pruning okra. First year in normal garden and poor soil not so good. This year in Raised bed covered with black plastic(100% eliminate weeds and reduction of insects) with plants in trenches and holes in plastic for plants….. spectacular. I cheated and used calf pen cleanings on raised bed last winter. Plants 8 feet tall and producing heavily. Trenches collect and guide water to plants. Also looking for info on maybe canning/pickling and cooking methods other than broiling.
Congratulations, sir! Sounds like you have the technique down.
Have you tried frying your okra? That is, by far, my favorite way to prepare okra. Slice it into 1/2″ thick pieces, fry it in vegetable oil, then remove it from the pan and lightly salt it. No breading or anything like that – just fry it and salt it. I can eat it like popcorn.
I also like it in a gumbo – the acid in the tomatoes cuts the “slime” (can’t stand eating boiled okra with the slime). That’s definitely in second place though – fried okra is great!
Steam just picked okra pods for 5 minutes either whole (less than 3″) or cut in half if 4″. A little butter and salt and they melt in your mouth. Of course I am in the minority as I crave the slime, although steaming keeps them out of the water so not very slimy. My friend grows 40 plants every year, they do the fried method. It’s ok, but they let me have half steamed and half fried. The frying method to me reduces the flavor.
The slime is something that I just can’t stand in okra. My wife likes it that way, but I won’t touch it. Fried? That’s another story. I absolutely love it when it’s fried!
I always cut the tops off my okra when it gets too tall.. and it’s always produced more limbs from the bottom and starts to bush out making more pods and will make till frost if maintained.
Tina – thanks for the info. It’s becoming apparent to me that there are almost no hard and fast rules when it comes to gardening. There are so many variables – many of which we aren’t even aware of – that affect things. I’m almost tempted to re-title this post “Never Prune Okra – Maybe”. Again, thanks for writing!
Hi, Stephen. How about re-title it to “Prune Whatever Is Necessary”? lol However, we should not have prune a Hybrid plant main stem anyway.
I live in Moore,Oklahoma.I decided to try to plant okra in the back of my flower garden.To my delight 6 VERY healthy plants grew.One plant has been producing a BEAUTIFUL okra every 3/4 days .ALL of them show great promise.Louisianna Long is what I planted.Available at Loew’s.All of your comments are appreciated.THANK YOU….JOANNE LeCompte LOUISIANA CAJUN….
Hi, Joanne. Thanks for writing. I’m not familiar with the Louisiana Long variety (I usually plant Clemson Spineless). What can you tell us about Louisiana Long?
Hi Stephen. Did you plant the Heavy Hitter Okra like you thought you would a year or two ago? How did it turn out?
I’m looking for an okra variety that has reliable heavy branching. I have limited space in my yard, and I would like to have several very productive plants.
A couple years ago, a neighbor planted an extra okra seedling that I gave to her in a flowerbed. The plant was 6-7 feet tall, and bushed out by 3-4 feet with about two dozen branches. It had tons of okra pods grow on it! So far, I haven’t been able to get any varieties to do this for me.
Good to hear from you Debbie. Yes, I planted the Heavy Hitter okra last year. As you would expect from a relatively new variety, not all of the plants have the early branching characteristic, but that will come as it is refined through the careful seed selection that Ron Cook has been doing. He sent me some fresh seeds a few weeks ago, along with another variety that I will be testing. It is called African-X, and is based on wild okra that appears to be nematode resistant. In addition, it is a late season okra, so I’ll be able to plant the Heavy Hitter and the African-X and still avoid any cross-pollination. The African-X variety is the project of Glen Hamner, who is currently living in Panama. It is a blend of Panamanian giant Coffee okra and Echo’s African okra. This is definitely a project that I’ll be writing multiple blog posts about as we go through next year’s growing season. I’m really looking forward to it.
I’ve been working on a number of other projects, and have been sorely neglecting posting here, but I have every intention of getting it cranked back up in the Spring. I am just putting the finished touches on a new chicken coop that I’ll be posting on, along with photos.
Hello. I enjoyed the posts and learnt a bunch. I’m growing OKRA about an acre and plan to expand;considering it finds it favarable in sub-sahara,Zambia to be precise. Chiyanzu
Thanks for posting! Please let us know how your okra crop turns out. I’m particularly interested in hearing about how the strain you are growing handles nematodes and other pests.
I planted Okra and they started producing, but then someone told me to prune the top bunch of growth to help it grow more, so I did, and now the plant isnt growing tall. Am I doomed? Thanks
No, they should come back. They’ve just been set back but should recover.
I’m glad you asked. It reminds me that I might want to do a post on a test variety of okra that I was given by a friend. It’s just called “African-X” but that’s not any sort of official name. It was discovered growing wild along a road somewhere in Africa. The idea is that if it could thrive in the wild like that, perhaps it has developed a resistance to nematodes. It doesn’t produce very much, and it is a very low-growing plant with big leaves, but it may have potential for crossing with something like Clemson Spineless.
Greetings from Middle TN. Okra is a mainstay of our diet. I have been gardening all of my life, first with my mother, and then as an adult. This year, for the first time, I have seen something I have never seen before. My okra (Clemson Spineless) looks like it is beginning to “bolt”. There is a flurry of leaves at the top of each plant, along with blooms. The plants are shoulder high (just under five feet). They have been fed and tended regularly. We pick religiously every day, and have not had to water but a few times. Exceedingly hot weather with very high humidity has had heat indices in the triple digits. Searching for information on okra “bolting” provides no results. Figures. My husband read some articles on the internet this year regarding keeping the plants healthy and producing well. He decided that we should cut the leaf that the pod is growing from when harvesting the pod. I am nearly 60 years old, and I have never heard of this. He said commercial producers do this. I had my doubts. Why discard a perfectly good leaf that the plants needs to sustain itself? This is the result: plants rushing to grow more leaves to sustain itself with low pod production. This practice has been halted at my house. This is a lesson for your readers. Everything you read on the internet is not true. Trust yourself and your common sense, but above all, listen to your plants. They will tell you exactly what they need. If you are stumped, I suggest seeking out the counsel of our elders, the wise ones who lived the life. They have been doing this since the time of “if you didn’t grow it, you didn’t eat”.
A lot of wisdom there, Kam.
Ron Cook, who you’ll find farther down in the comments here, is as close to an okra wizard as you’ll find anywhere. He is the developer of the “Heavy Hitter” strain of okra. Rather than a single stalk, the Heavy Hitter has multiple main stalks, producing more fruit per plant.
“Everything you read on the internet is not true.” I’ve seen a similar quote (on the internet) attributed to George Washington. Chew on that one a bit! 🙂
My okra used to grow 12″ tall; I had to get on a ladder to pick the pods from the top. (I never prune it.) Now it only gets about 5-6 feet tall. I add fertilizer (horse manure and cow manure) yearly.
I know crops need to be rotated but I have limited space and I love okra. What will help my garden?
Especially if you have sandy soil, my guess is that you’ve got nematodes. The same thing happened to me – after a few years, the plants never grew anywhere near as tall and as vigorous as they had in previous years. Pull up one of the worst looking ones and look at the roots. If you see little nodules along the roots rather than nice clean uniform roots, that’s where the problem is. They get into the roots and prevent them from taking up the nutrients, so no matter how much fertilizer you have on there, it doesn’t matter – the roots just can’t take it up to the plant. There is no easy answer to it. There is no cure – only measures you can take to help. Solarizing the soil helps, but if you do any deep tilling, it’s just going to bring more nematodes to the root zone (solarizing doesn’t go very deep). Rotating your crops and giving the land a rest for a year are probably the best options, and what has worked the best for me. This past year, I have just planted cover crops that suppress nematodes as well as add organic matter to the soil – I didn’t try to plant anything to harvest. In addition, after I mowed the cover crop, I covered the garden area with silage tarps to kill off all of the weeds and all the weed seeds lurking in the ground. This is letting me do a fresh start this Spring with a very clean garden.
Interesting thing about nematodes – the only way they can move is from one grain of sand to the next. If you get enough organic matter to fill in between the grains of sand, the nematodes can’t move, so they can’t move to the roots of your plants. Adding more organic matter is probably the single best thing that you can do for your garden.