Eggplants are a beautiful and tall plant with colorful crops. While we enjoy growing eggplants, I happen to be allergic to the skin of eggplants so often give these as gifts or let other members of my family cook them!
Eggplants are cold sensitive and like plenty of sun and well drained soil. Below you can find a complete guide for how to grow eggplant.
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Growing Eggplant Quick Facts
Best Time to Plant: After the last frost date in your area when the soil has warmed up to around 70°F (21°C) or more. Soil pH: Eggplants prefer a slightly acidic to neutral soil pH range of 5.5 to 7.0. Soil Type: Well-draining, loamy soil with good fertility and organic matter content is ideal for eggplants. Watering: Keep the soil consistently moist, providing about 1-2 inches of water per week. Avoid overwatering to prevent root diseases. Fertilizing: Apply a balanced fertilizer at planting and then side-dress with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer every 4-6 weeks during the growing season. Plant Spacing: Plant eggplants 18-24 inches apart in rows that are spaced about 2-3 feet apart. Common Pests: Watch out for aphids, flea beetles, spider mites, and hornworms. Use row covers, insecticidal soap, and neem oil to manage pests. Companion Plants: Eggplants grow well with basil, marigolds, and peppers. Avoid planting with potatoes and fennel. Harvest Time: Depending on the variety, you can start harvesting eggplants when they reach a size of 6-8 inches and have a glossy, smooth skin. Storage: Eggplants are best used soon after harvest, but if you need to store them, keep them in a cool, dry place or the refrigerator's crisper drawer for up to a week. Avoid washing until ready to use.
Selecting the Best Eggplant Variety
You can find many different eggplant varieties from seed. Decide if you want large, small, long lasting or a brilliant color and than choose one of the varieties below.
Black Beauty (Solanum melongena ‘Black Beauty’): Black Beauty is a classic and popular eggplant variety known for its glossy, deep purple-black skin and creamy, tender flesh. It’s versatile and ideal for various culinary uses, from grilling and roasting to making eggplant parmesan. With a compact growth habit, it’s well-suited for smaller gardens or container cultivation.
Japanese Eggplant (Solanum melongena ‘Ichiban’): Ichiban eggplant is a slender, elongated variety with rich, purple skin and a sweet, mild flavor. Its thin skin cooks quickly and is tender enough to be eaten without peeling. This variety is perfect for stir-fries, grilling, and tempura dishes. Its compact size makes it a great choice for urban or container gardens.
Long Purple (Solanum melongena ‘Long Purple’): As the name suggests, Long Purple eggplant features elongated, dark purple fruits with a slightly milder taste compared to some other varieties. Its skin is thin and tender, making it excellent for roasting, grilling, or slicing into stews. The fruits can grow up to 8-10 inches long, and this variety is particularly well-suited for Southern and hot climates.
Italian Eggplant (Solanum melongena ‘Listada de Gandia’): Listada de Gandia is a beautiful Italian heirloom variety with lavender and white streaked skin. Its attractive appearance adds a touch of elegance to your garden and dishes. The flesh is sweet and mild, perfect for cooking or stuffing. This eggplant is well-suited for Mediterranean-style dishes and is sure to be a conversation starter.
Rosa Bianca (Solanum melongena ‘Rosa Bianca’): Rosa Bianca eggplant is another Italian heirloom with stunning and unique coloring. Its round to teardrop-shaped fruits have a creamy-white base with beautiful lavender streaks and a slightly nutty, delicate flavor. The tender skin does not need peeling, making it great for grilling or baking.
Pingtung Long (Solanum melongena ‘Pingtung Long’): Pingtung Long is a high-yielding Taiwanese eggplant variety known for its long, slender fruits and mild taste. The glossy skin ranges from purple to pink, and the flesh is creamy and tender. It’s an excellent choice for stir-fries, curries, and roasting. This variety is heat-tolerant and adaptable, making it suitable for various growing conditions.
Fairy Tale (Solanum melongena ‘Fairy Tale’): Fairy Tale eggplant is a miniature variety that produces small, striped fruits resembling tiny eggplants. These adorable, bite-sized eggplants have a slightly sweet flavor and tender skin, making them ideal for grilling or sautéing whole. Their compact size and ornamental appearance also make them a fun choice for container gardens and decorative landscapes.
By choosing from these top eggplant varieties, you can explore a diverse range of colors, shapes, and flavors to elevate your gardening and culinary experiences. Happy homesteading and eggplant growing!
How to Grow Eggplant
Below you can see exactly how to grow eggplants.
When to Plant Eggplant
The optimal time to plant eggplant is after the last frost date and when the soil has warmed up to around 70°F (21°C) or higher. In most regions, this typically falls within the late spring to early summer timeframe.
Starting eggplant seeds indoors about 8-10 weeks before the expected transplant date can give your plants a head start. However, be cautious not to transplant them outdoors too early, as eggplants are sensitive to cold temperatures. Wait until the weather has stabilized, and both daytime and nighttime temperatures are consistently warm before moving your eggplant seedlings to the garden.
This careful timing will ensure a successful eggplant growing season and a rewarding harvest.
How to Plant Eggplant
To plant eggplant, begin by selecting a sunny location in your garden with well-draining soil. Prepare the soil by incorporating organic compost to enhance fertility and drainage. Once seedlings have developed their first true leaves, transplant them into the garden, spacing them 18-24 inches apart in rows that are 30-36 inches apart. If you are growing in a raised bad you can get away with slightly closer spacing.
Ensure the young plants are adequately watered and protected from any lingering cold snaps. Utilize mulch to retain soil moisture and suppress weeds. If you’re in a region with a short growing season, consider using black plastic mulch to help raise soil temperatures.
Eggplant Care and Maintenance
Proper eggplant care and maintenance are crucial for ensuring robust growth and a bountiful harvest. Regular watering is essential, aiming for consistent moisture throughout the growing season. Be mindful not to overwater, as eggplants are susceptible to root rot.
Apply a layer of organic mulch around the plants to help retain moisture, regulate soil temperature, and control weeds. Stake or support the eggplant stems as they grow to prevent them from bending or breaking under the weight of developing fruits. Monitor for common pests like aphids, flea beetles, and spider mites, and implement natural remedies such as neem oil or introducing beneficial insects to keep infestations in check.
Consider applying a balanced fertilizer or adding compost to the soil every few weeks to provide the necessary nutrients for healthy growth. Pruning the lower leaves and suckers can improve air circulation and light penetration, leading to better fruit development.
Harvesting and Storing Eggplant
Harvesting and storing eggplant at the peak of their flavor and quality is the culmination of your gardening efforts.
To harvest, wait until the eggplants have reached their mature size and color, typically around 2-3 months after transplanting. Gently cut the fruit from the plant using pruning shears or a sharp knife, leaving a short stem attached. The skin should be glossy and firm to the touch.
Avoid letting the eggplants become overly mature, as they can develop a bitter taste and tougher texture. Once harvested, use the eggplants promptly for the best taste and texture. If immediate use is not possible, store them in a cool, dry place or in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator for up to a week. Keep in mind that eggplants are sensitive to cold temperatures and you should avoid storing them near items like tomatoes, which emit ethylene gas and can lead to premature spoilage.
Best Tips for Growing Eggplant
- Choose the Right Variety: Select eggplant varieties that suit your climate and growing conditions, considering factors like heat tolerance and fruit size.
- Optimal Timing: Plant eggplants after the last frost date when the soil temperature has reached around 70°F (21°C) or higher for successful germination and growth.
- Sunny Spot: Find a sunny location in your garden that receives at least 6-8 hours of sunlight daily for optimal fruit production.
- Well-Prepared Soil: Prepare well-draining soil by amending with compost or aged manure to enhance fertility and drainage.
- Start Indoors: Begin eggplant seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before the last frost date to give them a head start and ensure a longer growing season.
- Proper Transplanting: When transplanting seedlings, space them 18-24 inches apart in rows with a spacing of 30-36 inches to allow for good airflow and growth.
- Mulching: Apply organic mulch around plants to retain soil moisture, regulate temperature, and suppress weeds.
- Consistent Watering: Keep the soil consistently moist, but avoid overwatering to prevent root rot. Use a drip irrigation system if possible.
- Fertilization: Provide a balanced fertilizer or compost every few weeks to supply essential nutrients for healthy growth and fruit development.
- Pest Management: Regularly inspect plants for common pests like aphids, flea beetles, and spider mites. Use natural remedies or introduce beneficial insects to control infestations.
- Supporting Stems: Stake or support eggplant stems to prevent them from bending or breaking under the weight of growing fruit.
- Pruning: Prune lower leaves and suckers to improve air circulation and light penetration, promoting better fruit development and reducing disease risk.
- Harvest Timing: Harvest eggplants when they have reached mature size and color, using pruning shears or a knife to cut the fruit from the plant.
- Proper Storage: Use harvested eggplants promptly to enjoy their best taste and texture. Store them in a cool, dry place or the refrigerator’s crisper drawer for up to a week.
- Avoid Ethylene Gas: Keep eggplants away from ethylene-producing fruits like tomatoes to prevent premature spoilage.
Common Eggplant Problems and Solutions
Problem: Aphids: Aphids are small insects that can gather on the undersides of eggplant leaves, causing distortion, stunted growth, and transmitting diseases. Solution: Introduce natural predators like ladybugs or use a strong spray of water to dislodge aphids. Applying insecticidal soap or neem oil can help control infestations.
Flea beetles chew tiny holes in eggplant leaves, giving them a lace-like appearance and weakening the plant. Solution: Cover young plants with floating row covers to prevent beetle access. Introduce beneficial insects like parasitic wasps or use diatomaceous earth as a natural barrier.
Verticillium wilt is a soilborne fungus that causes wilting, yellowing, and eventual death of eggplant plants. Solution: Choose resistant varieties when possible. Practice crop rotation, avoiding planting eggplants in the same spot for several years. Maintain proper watering and drainage to reduce stress on the plant.
Blossom End Rot
Blossom end rot appears as sunken, brown patches on the base of eggplant fruits, caused by calcium deficiency or inconsistent watering. Solution: Ensure consistent soil moisture by using mulch and watering evenly. Maintain soil pH between 6.0 and 6.8. Applying calcium-containing fertilizers or foliar sprays can help prevent this issue.
Problem: Fungal Diseases
Fungal diseases like early blight and late blight can affect eggplant leaves, causing dark spots, yellowing, and defoliation. Solution: Space plants adequately for proper airflow. Apply fungicides containing copper or neem oil preventively and ensure proper sanitation by removing infected leaves.
Tomato hornworms are large, green caterpillars that can devour eggplant leaves and fruits. Solution: Handpick and remove hornworms from the plants. Introduce natural predators like parasitic wasps. Plant companion herbs like basil or marigolds, which can help deter these pests.
Sunscald occurs when eggplant fruits are exposed to intense sunlight, causing white, leathery patches on the skin. Solution: Provide shade for the developing fruits using garden fabric or by planting taller crops nearby to create natural shading.
By being vigilant and proactive in identifying and addressing these common eggplant problems, you can maintain the health and productivity of your eggplant plants and enjoy a successful harvest.
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