5 Tips for Growing Excellent Eggplant

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Closeup of an eggplant fruit

Whether you call it eggplant, aubergine, or brinjal, Solanum melongena is interesting to grow and great fun to eat. Ben Vanheems has covered growing eggplant in cooler climates, but even if you have plenty of heat, eggplant can be a tricky crop. After growing eggplant in several different places, I have learned five valuable tips worth sharing.

1. Try growing small-fruited eggplant varieties

Just as petite cherry tomatoes are easier to grow compared to varieties with huge fruits, eggplant varieties that produce modest-size fruits are the most trustworthy types for gardens. Long, slender Asian varieties like ‘Ping Tung Long’ never disappoint, or you might like the shorter fruits of ‘Millionaire’, ‘Bonica’, or another oval-shaped eggplant.

Compact eggplant ‘Patio Baby’. Image courtesy of All-America Selections

Compact varieties that do well in containers or square foot gardens are great fun to grow, whether you try heirloom ‘Morden Midget’ the European favorite called ‘Pot Black’, or ‘Patio Baby’, which won an All America Selections Award in 2014. These bushy eggplant varieties produce numerous secondary branches as the growing season progresses, which gives them staying power in the garden.

2. Start seeds late

There is never a hurry to start eggplant seeds, because the plants grow best under warm conditions. Thanks to their broad leaves, eggplant seedlings grow quickly, gaining size faster than tomatoes or peppers. If you have a long, warm growing season and use a split season planting plan, you can start seeds in midsummer for a fall crop. Set out the seedlings out during a spell of cloudy weather.

Flea beetles are a pain, but there are ways to prevent them

3. Anticipate eggplant flea beetles

Growing eggplant would be ridiculously easy if not for eggplant flea beetles. These tiny hoppers make minuscule holes in leaves of nightshade family plants – potatoes, tomatoes, and wild hosts like horse nettle and jimsonweed – but eggplant is their favorite food.

The first tip I ever learned for sidestepping flea beetle problems was to grow the plants on a raised table, in dark colored nursery pots, for as long as possible. Container grown plants often escape damage, because eggplant flea beetles don’t venture onto decks and patios in search of host plants, and the dark containers help warm the roots on sunny days. I pot up the seedlings as they grow, and set them out when their roots fill a 4-inch (10cm) pot and the plants are quite stocky.

Eggplant is among the few vegetables that don’t mind warm roots, so they grow well in roomy containers provided the plants are given plenty of water.

Covering eggplants with netting can help avoid problems with flea beetles

Large, vigorous plants can outgrow modest flea beetle damage, and young plants are easy to protect with row covers made from tulle (wedding net), which keeps out most flea beetles but does not retain heat. When the plants begin to bloom, remove the covers so bees can reach the flowers. This is a good time to install stakes to keep the plants from falling over as they load up with fruits.

4. Invite native pollinators

Self-fertile eggplant flowers can be fertilized by wind alone, but buzz-pollination by bees improves fruit set and fruit size. Many of the best pollinators are solitary bees – carpenter bees, bumblebees, and little sweat bees – who vibrate the blossoms to shake out pollen. If pollinators are absent or you have only a few plants, you can hand pollinate them by dabbing a dry artist's paintbrush in the open blossoms. Or, touch the back of the blossoms with a vibrating toothbrush to simulate a visit from a buzzing bee.

Eggplants are self-fertile, but will fruit better if visited by bees or are hand-pollinated

5. Provide timely feedings

About six weeks after planting, when the plants bloom and set their first fruits, they benefit from extra nutrients. You can side-dress the plants with organic fertilizer or composted manure, or give them a deep drench with a water-soluble plant food. Fertilize again in late summer, when the plants are holding a heavy set of fruits.

Container-grown eggplant needs almost constant feeding, though you must look out for excessive salt buildup, which can cause the plants to stop growing. Every two weeks or so, drench the containers with clean water to leach out accumulated salts. Fish or kelp based organic fertilizers leave behind fewer salts than most synthetic products.

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Show Comments


"Please can corn be sowed with eggplant as companion plant?"
SAMPSON RTK HATSU on Sunday 22 September 2019
"This will be my first attempt at growing Aubergines from a gifted plant. Can i get reasonable results by growing them outside, and what type of feed will help them to mature Many thanks Major. Derby."
Major Mike Curtis on Tuesday 12 May 2020
"Any comments on growing Aubergines for the first time from a gifted plant "
Mike Curtis (major) on Tuesday 12 May 2020
"This is my first time growing eggplants. What is the best fertilizer to use? . My other question is can I use liquid chicken litter throughout the growing season every 10 days or so. Many thanks for your help."
Elizabeth Mason on Wednesday 10 June 2020
"Hi. I have just two plants in containers. They are blooming like crazy, but not not setting fruit. Suggestions? Thanks"
Jim on Thursday 25 June 2020
"I have 1aubegine plant but the flowers keep dying can you please help "
MMcavoy on Friday 10 July 2020
"My egg plant grown big and healthy but has not flower at all, Why and what do i need to do?"
mohsen shirzadi on Tuesday 14 July 2020
"I’m getting flowers but no fruit, plenty of bees around from my own hives. Have liquid fertilised, good, composted soil and plenty of water, they’re in a good sunny spot. I live in coastal Perth WA. "
Bev on Tuesday 29 December 2020
"I have four plants but only one produced 1 only egg plant. Also if i cut the plants back will they produce again."
Aly on Sunday 6 June 2021
"I have some eggplant for 12 weeks just copple of flowers but no fruit"
deo on Sunday 27 June 2021
"My plants are big now, lots of flowers, some died off, but no eggplants as of today. Am I doing something wrong"
Mary on Tuesday 13 July 2021
"I used a soft paint brush to pollinate the flowers until they started to set fruit. "
Elizabeth Taylor on Thursday 9 June 2022
"This article was really helpful except it didn't say which nutrients eggplant needs the most!! "
Sarah on Monday 21 August 2023
"My eggplant is not pr0ducing but eher are many flowers and leaves. HELP"
Kim on Tuesday 19 September 2023
"plant NOT producing "
Kim on Tuesday 19 September 2023
"Thanks for your reports of poor fruit set in your eggplants, and your questions about fertilizers. We are working on an update to fill in these gaps. "
Barbara Pleasant on Tuesday 14 May 2024

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