Abelmoschus esculentus (L.) Moench
Okra, Okro, Ladies' Fingers, Ochro
Hibiscus esculentus (basionym), Abelmoschus bammia, Abelmoschus longifolius, Abelmoschus officinalis, Abelmoschus praecox, Abelmoschus tuberculatus, Hibiscus ficifolius, Hibiscus hispidissimus, Hibiscus longifolius, Hibiscus praecox
Color: White to yellow
Bloom Time: Blooms freely throughout the growing season to frost
Abelmoschus esculentus is a perennial, often cultivated as an annual in temperate climates, that grows up to 6.7 feet (2 m) tall. The leaves are up to 8 inches (20 cm) long and wide, palmately lobed with 5 to 7 lobes. The flowers are up to 3.2 inches (8 cm) in diameter, with five white to yellow petals, often with a red or purple spot at the base of each petal. They last only for one day, but plants bloom freely throughout the growing season to frost. The fruit is a capsule up to 17.2 inches (18 cm) long with pentagonal cross-section, containing numerous seeds.
USDA hardiness zone 5a to 11b: from −20 °F (−28.9 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).
How to Grow and Care
Okra needs full sun. It will grow in ordinary garden soil but does best in fertile loam, particularly where a nitrogen-fixing crop, such as early peas, grew previously.
In the South, plant the first crop in the early spring and the second crop in June. In short-season areas, start plants indoors six weeks before setting them out (3 to 4 weeks after the last frost date). Sow two seeds per peat pot and clip off the weaker seedling.
When seeding Okra directly in the ground, wait until after the soil has warmed and the air temperature is at least 60°F (16°C). Use fresh seed, and soak it overnight or nick each seed coat with a file to encourage germination. Sow seed 0.5 inches (1.2 cm) deep in light soil and 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep in heavy soil; spacing is 3 inches (7.5 cm) apart in rows 3 feet (90 cm) apart. Thin seedlings to 18 to 24 inches (45 to 60 cm) apart, always leaving the strongest of the young plants. See more at Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Okra Plants.
The geographical origin of Okra is disputed, with supporters of West African, Ethiopian, and South Asian origins. The plant is cultivated in tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate regions around the world.
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