Okra, Abelmoschus esculentus, is a flowering annual that bears edible pods and grows in all USDA Hardiness Zones.
In this article, we offer thirteen delicious and attractive types of okra from which to choose, to introduce this plant to your outdoor landscape. And once you’ve made your selections, you can read more about growing okra in our detailed guide.
Here’s what’s in store:
13 Okra Varieties to Love
13 Okra Varieties to Love
Those of you in southern climates may enjoy all varieties because of your long growing season. You may cut tall plants mid-season for a fall bumper crop, and sow a second set of seeds at mid-season.
For those in the North, like me, choose those with the shortest dates to maturity, and start seeds indoors to maximize growing time before temps turn chilly.
There are many different types of okra from which to choose. The flavor is generally mild, but there is variation in pod length. However, all cultivars should be picked when immature, at about three to four inches in length, for peak flavor and tenderness.
Unless you want to feature the pods on plants grown as ornamental specimens without picking them, length need not be a factor in product selection.
Descriptions of the tallest plants are sometimes non-specific with reference to mature diameters (i.e. the full habit), so a good rule of thumb is to allow for a width as wide as the maximum height. And note that you may prune plants mid-season to a manageable height for easier harvesting, and to stimulate further pod production.
As you shop, you’ll find dwarf varieties that grow to three or four feet tall with three-inch pods, and tree-sized plants with fruits up to 14 inches long. Okra starts are typically more difficult to find than seeds, though some nurseries do carry them.
Pods may be long or short, ridged or rounded, fuzzy or smooth, curved or straight. Colors include shades of green and red, as well as variegated.
Everyone has a favorite or two, and swears theirs are the best! Here are thirteen top varieties with info on where to buy seeds, so you can get started on this year’s gardening.
1. Baby Bubba Hybrid
‘Baby Bubba’ Hybrid seeds are available from Burpee in packages of 60. This plant is appreciated for its small size and suitability for cultivation in containers and small garden plots.
Plants are 3-4 feet tall with a diameter of up to 24 inches. Dark green fruits grow up to three inches in length and mature in about 53 days, making this cultivar an excellent choice for cooler climates with shorter growing seasons.
‘Blondy’ seeds are available from True Leaf Market in one-ounce, four-ounce, and one-pound packages. Seeds are open-pollinated.
Dwarf plants reach up to four feet and bear three-inch, pale green, spineless pods in about 50 days. This is another excellent option for cool locales with short growing seasons, as well as patio pots and small spaces.
Heirloom ‘Burgundy’ seeds are available from Burpee in packages of 50. Plants may reach five feet in height and up to 48 inches in diameter.
Attractive green leaves contrast with burgundy stems and six- to eight-inch fruit, making this a particularly attractive ornamental option.
Plants mature in 49-60 days. Pods may pale in color during cooking.
4. Cajun Delight
An excellent choice for a short growing season in cooler climates, this hybrid matures in 50-55 days. It will reach a maximum height of four feet.
Dark green pods are 3-5 inches long, and slightly curved.
Packets containing 1 gram of ‘Cajun Delight’ seeds, or approximately 18 seeds to get your okra patch started, are available from Seedsurvivor via Amazon.
5. Clemson Spineless
‘Clemson Spineless’ seeds are available from Burpee in packages of 250. Known for being the industry standard and the most popular type on the market, ‘Clemson Spineless’ was an All-America Selections winner in 1939, and has remained a favorite ever since.
Plants reach a height of about four feet, and spread up to 48 inches in diameter.
Early to mature, this heirloom is ready for harvest in 55-60 days. Virtually spineless, slightly curved dark green pods may reach nine inches in length.
6. Cow Horn
If you’re in the South where the growing season is long, and looking for an ornamental conversation starter, this one’s for you.
This giant heirloom takes 90 days to mature. It may grow as tall as 14 feet, and produces enormous, curved pods of up to 14 inches in length!
Open-pollinated seeds are available from Eden Brothers in 1-ounce, 1/4-pound, and 1-pound packages.
‘Emerald’ seeds are available from True Leaf Market in one- and four-ounce, and one- and five-pound packages. Seeds are heirloom and open-pollinated.
This classic variety was developed by Campbell’s Soup Company in the 1950s, and plants grow up to eight feet tall.
Smooth, dark green, exceptionally straight fruits grow to seven inches. Expect maturity in about 60 days.
8. Go Big
This is a good pick if you’re looking for a wealth of edible fruit, a striking ornamental specimen, or both.
‘Go Big’ seeds are available from Burpee in packages of 50. Plants are tall, topping out at up to seven feet with a diameter of up to five feet.
Dark green pods are 7 inches long. Harvest in 60-65 days.
9. Hill Country Red
Open-pollinated ‘Hill Country Red’ seeds are available from True Leaf Market in one-ounce, four-ounce, and one-pound packages.
An heirloom from the Texas Hill Country of South Texas, plants top out at six-feet tall, adding structural interest to the garden.
Thick green fruits tinged with red grow up to six inches long. Plants mature in about 64 days.
10. Louisiana Green Velvet
Heirloom open-pollinated ‘Louisiana Green Velvet’ seeds are available from True Leaf Market in one-ounce, four-ounce, and one-pound packages. Plants may reach eight feet tall and bear eight-inch, dark green, spineless pods.
This exceptionally large plant bears fruit abundantly, and makes a bold statement in the landscape. Expect maturity in about 65 days.
11. Perkins Long Pod
This heirloom is an early variety suitable for growing in northern and southern climates. It reaches maturity of about 55 days.
Plants may grow to five feet in height, and bear straight green pods that are about four inches long.
‘Perkins Long Pod’ seeds are available from Eden Brothers in quantities ranging from a 1-ounce packet to a 5-pound sack.
12. Red Velvet
Organic ‘Red Velvet’ seeds are available from Burpee in packages of 50. Plants grow to five feet with a diameter of up to 48 inches, a good size for container or small-space gardening.
Scarlet red fruit is slightly ribbed and can grow up to six inches long. Expect maturity in 55-60 days.
13. Silver Queen
‘Silver Queen’ is a southern belle who loves the heat of summer, and isn’t tolerant of cold weather.
Plants mature in about 80 days, another indicator that this cultivar is suitable for warm regions with a long season for edible gardening.
An heirloom variety with a large habit that will reach up to six feet tall, it produces creamy-colored ivory-green pods that can grow to seven inches long.
Open-pollinated seeds are available from Eden Brothers in 1-ounce and quarter-pound packages, as well as 1-pound sacks.
Delicious and Decorative
When selecting cultivars that you would like to plant, keep in mind that dwarf varieties are well-suited to container gardening on a patio. Tall ones make excellent anchors for border gardens, where they provide structural interest. And if you’d like to save seeds from year to year, select open-pollinated varieties that reproduce true replicas of parent plants.
I like plants that are both decorative and functional, and from a floral design perspective, nothing is as exciting as a crop of dry pods to spray gold and feature in a holiday arrangement.
Give okra a try this year. You really can’t lose – its flowers are sure to attract beneficial pollinators, whether you eat the pods or not!
Before you pick, be sure to check out our article on harvesting this veggie, with additional tasty tips for your enjoyment.
© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via Burpee, Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, and Seedsurvivor. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.
About Nan Schiller
Nan Schiller is a writer with deep roots in the soil of southeastern Pennsylvania. Her background includes landscape and floral design, a BS in business from Villanova University, and a Certificate of Merit in floral design from Longwood Gardens. An advocate of organic gardening with native plants, she’s always got dirt under her nails and freckles on her nose. With wit and hopefully some wisdom, she shares what she’s learned and is always ready to dig into a new project!