Eggplant is a rewarding and straightforward fruit to grow for any gardener. Striking foliage and vibrant fruit in an array of striated, purple, green, and white make this heat-craving fruit a premium choice for vegetable gardens and even mixed in flower beds. Have you always wanted to learn about growing eggplant? Check out our tips and tricks for growing a fruitful yield of eggplant this season and beyond.
Eggplant thrives best in well-draining, loamy soil that is rich in organic matter. The pH of your garden soil is also crucial for the successful growth of your fruitful plants. Most varieties of eggplant do their best growing in soil with a pH level of between 5.5 and 6.5. You can obtain an easy soil test from your local garden center to test and amend your soil as necessary before planting.
Plant eggplant plants two to three feet apart in rows that are three feet apart for best results. Proper spacing of plants encourages sufficient airflow, which can ward of disease and give the plant room to grow and spread to its fullest potential.
Where to Grow Eggplant
Eggplants grow well in almost any garden format where the weather is warm on a regular basis, the soil conditions are ideal, there is adequate moisture and full sun. This makes growing eggplant an ideal choice for your backyard garden or on your patio.
Eggplant loves the heat and having warm roots, so it is well suited for growing in spacious containers in quality potting soil as long as they are watered regularly.
Eggplant can also find an ideal growing environment in raised beds where the soil is warmer, and the soil quality can be well regulated with nutrient-rich, well-draining soil. Eggplants can also be planted in raised beds earlier in the season than in-ground planting which extends the growing season and productivity for your crop.
Traditional in-ground backyard gardens are also an excellent choice for these elegant fruits to grow. It is vital, however, that the soil is amended with organic material and that the soil drains well. Eggplants do not like soggy conditions. Additionally, in-ground planting may be best suited for climates with a long, warm growing season to get the most out of your eggplant.
Planting from Seed vs. Buying Plants
Eggplant can be successfully grown from seed at home, or they can be readily purchased from your local garden center. You can start eggplant seeds indoors in seed-starting flats, eight weeks before the final frost. Eggplant seeds germinate well at temperatures of 70 to 80°F on average, so place them in a warm and sunny location or utilize a heating mat for best results. Planting your own seeds can provide you more variety in your selection of plants to grow, as you are not limited to the few varieties offered at a garden center. If you do buy your eggplants plants from a nursery, they should only be transplanted outside only after any threat of frost has passed.
There are a plethora of varieties to choose from when it comes to planting eggplant. They vary from ornamental to edible and come in a variety of intriguing shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors. From more classic types to unique, eye-catching varieties, here are some of our favorites.
- Black Beauty
- Patio Baby
- Black Magic
- Early Bird
- Black Bell
- Listada de Gandia
Two great things to plant along with your eggplants are beans and peppers. The beans help the eggplant with it’s large nitrogen need by pulling more nitrogen out of the air and putting it into the soil. The peppers, either sweet or hot, have similar needs as the eggplant and is also susceptible to the same pests or diseases. This makes it significantly easier to manage what kind of care your plants need.
Eggplants thrive best when amended with phosphorous when fruits start to set. Add bloodmeal to the surrounding soil in the Spring and bone meal in early summer to bolster your crop.
Light Requirements and Temperature
Plant eggplant in a sunny spot in your garden that receives a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight. Eggplants thrive best in full sun and moderate heat. They need a lot of energy to produce sufficient fruit. Temperatures that range from 80 degrees Fahrenheit to 90 degrees Fahrenheit daily are ideal for eggplant growth. If temperatures dip down lower than 65 degrees consistently, eggplants may be stunted.
Watering and Feeding
Water plants thoroughly and soak the soil so that it is moderately moist. It is essential that eggplant plants are consistently watered throughout the time that fruit is developing.
Eggplant can be somewhat drought tolerant, and the fruit is protected from splitting or wilting if left unwatered occasionally. If eggplant is not watered regularly, the plant will be stressed, and its fruits can become very bitter and unpleasant to the taste.
Eggplants are heavy feeders and benefit from soil amendments and fertilizer, but avoid fertilizer that is too nitrogen-rich. They may encourage foliage growth over fruit production.
It is best to feed eggplant plants with a fertilizer that is rich in phosphorous like bone meal and blood meal.
While it is not essential to prune eggplant plants as they grow, you can achieve more robust results if you do a little bit of selective pruning. Regulate the amount of fruit that you are growing on each plant to no more than six fruits per plant. This practice will produce larger eggplants when harvest time arrives. You can also pinch off new shoots at the base of the stem to encourage a fuller, more robust overall plant.
Late in the season, it is beneficial to pinch off new blossoms that form on the plant. Eggplant needs about 20 to 30 days to ripen fully, so these fresh fruit-bearing blossoms will not have time to develop. Pinching off new blooms will force the plant’s energy back into the plant and encourage the growth of already formed fruits before frost ends this annual’s season of growth.
Pests and Disease
There are several diseases and pests that you may have to contend with when you are growing eggplant. The best organic defense against them is prevention. There are a number of methods that you can easily implement to combat these menaces from plaguing your crop.
Flea beetles are a common pest of the eggplant plant. Luckily, if you have a healthy eggplant plant, it should hold up against the damage that they make to the leaves. Seedlings are most vulnerable to this pest. Protect very young plants with row covers until they get stronger and sturdier to withstand the tiny leaf-hole makers. You’ll also find it beneficial to remove spent leaves and discard past season’s remains at the close of the growing season to prevent re-infestation.
Powdery mildew is another common affliction for eggplant and can lead to the demise of your crop. It is easily recognized by white powder-looking spots that appear and spread all over the plant’s leaves.
Eventually, they cause discoloration and death of the leaves and, in turn, the plant. Powdery mildew can be prevented with proper spacing, early detection and elimination of infected leaves, planting in full sun, and watering plants early in the day so that the leaves have time to dry.
Moths and Whiteflies
Apply straw around your eggplant seedlings and plants to prevent moths and whiteflies from settling on the eggplant foliage.
Hornworms seek out plants in the nightshade family, which includes eggplant. They chew up foliage and can devastate a crop by chewing through fruit and defoliating plants. Check eggplant plants for tomato hornworms twice per week during the growing season.
Pluck off tomato hornworms and drop them in soapy water to destroy them. Remove weeds regularly to reduce the number of sites where worms can lay eggs. Weed your garden bed regularly to reduce worm egg-laying surfaces in your garden.
Overall, eggplant is a self-sufficient plant to grow under the right growing conditions. There are some additional tips that will help ensure a quality crop. First, your robust eggplant plant will reach a mature height that may need some support as it produces heavy fruits. Staking your tomato plants or utilizing cages can help ensure a hardier plant so that stems do not bend and break under the weight of its fruit.
Add fertilizer twice during the growing season to feed the fruit-bearing plant and water regularly. When it comes to harvesting your eggplant, keep in mind that fruits should ripen in 20-30 days. Try not to wait too much longer than that in hopes of larger fruit or else the fruit may get pithy and bitter.