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Plant text by Naomi Lacey, feature photo Wikipedia

Common name: Okra (Ladies Fingers)
Scientific name: Abelmoschus esculentus or Hibiscus esculentus
Family, and related species: Malvaceae

Description including form (tree, climber, etc), other similar species

An annual in cooler regions and perennial in the tropics Okra will grow to 2m in height with few leaves that are 10-20cm long with 5-7 lobes on each leaf. The flowers look just like a hibiscus flower with white-yellow petals with a purple tinge at the base and are between 4 and 8cm. The fruit is a star-shaped, long capsule containing many seeds and starts producing when the plant is about 60 days old.

Role/ characteristics/ use in permaculture

Companion plant to melons, cucumbers, capsicum, and eggplant.

Prolific producer so excess fruit and plants can be fed to happy chickens or pigs. Fruit also pickles very well.

Seeds can be sprouted for eating.

Ecology and habitat requirements

Ecology and habitat requirements

Likes full sun, well-drained, and mulched loamy soil with plenty of organic matter. Although it will tolerate drier conditions and poor soils okra does best with regular watering.

Okra will not tolerate frost or cold below 12 degrees Celsius.

Okra can be susceptible to powdery mildew and grasshoppers enjoy the leaves but if you plant enough there always seems to be enough for both you and the grasshoppers!

Access to plants

Okra grows very easily from seed either direct planted into garden beds or potted out. Larger plants however do not transplant well.

Seeds are readily available from both Eden Seeds and Green Harvest Seeds.


Fruits are best picked when no longer than 10cm when they are most tender. As they grow bigger they become quite woody and the seeds harden.


Norrington, Leonie, 2001, Tropical Food Gardens: A guide to growing fruit, herbs and vegetables, Bloomings Books, Melbourne, Australia

Wikipedia, 2014, Okra

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