Gardeners in warm regions rejoice! Although fussy to grow in cooler areas, eggplant thrives in warm weather. Learn how to grow eggplant, and add this beautiful fruit (yes, eggplant is a fruit) to your garden and table.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure policy for more information.
8 Tips for How to Grow Eggplant
1. Choose the best location for growing eggplant
Eggplant prefers a sunny location with well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter.
If pest or disease has been an issue in the past, try growing eggplant in containers instead. Eggplant does well when grown in large containers. Choose a container that holds at least 5 gallons of soil (19 liters) and is at least 10 inches (25 cm) deep.
2. Choose an eggplant type suited to your needs
Eggplant varieties differ in size, shape, color, and maturation time.
3. Start eggplant indoors or purchase transplants
Eggplant does best when planted outdoors from transplants rather than seeds. Purchase transplants or start seeds for eggplant indoors 6 – 8 weeks before the last spring frost or your planting date. Seeds sprout in 7 -14 days. Eggplant seeds last up to 4 years. Eggplant seeds are available on Seedsnow.com.
4. How to grow eggplant? Plant eggplant at the correct time
Eggplant prefers warm weather, so don’t plant it before temperatures have warmed in the spring. Transplant eggplant seedlings into the garden when the soil is at least 70℉/21°C (the best way to check your soil temperature is with a soil thermometer), with daytime temperatures at or above 70℉/21°C and nighttime temperatures above 50℉/10°C.
In the low desert of Arizona:
- Start seeds indoors: January – February and May – July
- Plant transplants outside: March – April and July 15 – September
Space plants 18-24 inches (45-61 cm) apart. If using square-foot gardening, allow 2-4 square feet for each plant, depending on the variety.
- PLANTING GUIDE: Each month lists vegetables, fruit & herbs to plant outside & seeds to start indoors.
- HARVEST GUIDE: Photos show what may be ready to harvest that month.
- Planting dates are for the low desert of Arizona (zone 9b).
5. Care for the plants throughout the season
- Give eggplant a steady moisture supply, but do not let the soil get soggy. The fruit will be small and bitter if the eggplant isn’t watered enough.
- Eggplant also needs food to produce well. Feed the plant occasionally with fish emulsion or compost tea.
- Eggplant is self-fertile but benefits from pollination from bees.
- Remove yellow or withered leaves and stake or trellis plants as needed.
6. How to grow eggplant? Be on the lookout for pests
Growing eggplants can be a rewarding experience, but like any plant, they can be susceptible to pests and diseases. Here are some common issues you might encounter and organic, minimally-invasive methods for treatment:
- Aphids and Whiteflies: These tiny insects suck sap from the plant, causing leaves to wilt or yellow. Encourage beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings, which are natural predators.
- Flea Beetles: These small beetles chew small holes in the leaves. Using row covers early in the season can help protect young plants and diatomaceous earth can be sprinkled around the base of the plants to deter these pests.
- Striped Cucumber Beetle: These beetles can defoliate plants quickly. Handpicking is an effective method. Be vigilant and look for all stages of the pest.
- Hornworms: These large caterpillars can do significant damage to foliage and fruit. Handpicking and dropping them in soapy water is one of the most effective control methods. (My chickens love them!)
- Verticillium Wilt: This soil-borne fungus causes wilting and yellowing of leaves. To manage it, ensure good drainage, rotate crops, and remove and destroy affected plants.
- Blossom-End Rot: This disorder is caused by calcium deficiency and irregular watering, resulting in dark, sunken spots on the blossom end of the fruit. Water regularly and test your soil to see if calcium levels are low.
Remember, the best pest and disease prevention is a healthy plant. Regular watering, mulching, and feeding with compost or an organic fertilizer will go a long way in preventing these problems.
7. Harvest eggplant at the right time
Small fruits have the best taste, and frequent harvesting encourages more production. Eggplant stems are brittle. To harvest, clip fruit with some stem attached. Here’s how to tell the best time to harvest eggplant:
|Not Ready to Harvest||Ready to Harvest||Overripe|
|No thumb imprint visible when pressed||Thumb imprint disappears||Thumb imprint remains|
|Bright, shiny skin; firm and heavy for size||Dull skin|
|Can be harvested when at least half the size of mature fruit||Soft, wrinkled, brown spots|
|Tender; best taste; small seeds||Large seeds; bitter; tough skin|
8. Don’t let eggplant harvests go to waste
It’s best to use eggplant within a day or two of harvest. Eggplant can be kept for a few days in a paper bag in a cool place. When storing eggplant, remove any bruised or damaged parts as these will spoil quickly. Eggplants should be firm and not overly ripe when you are ready to cook them – an over-ripe eggplant will turn mushy quickly once cooked.
If you need to store eggplant for longer periods of time, then it can be blanched and frozen. To prepare eggplant for freezing, cut into 1/2 inch (1.2 cm) slices or cubes and blanch in boiling water for about 3 minutes. Cool the eggplant quickly under cold water, drain off excess moisture, and pack into freezer bags. Label with the date of blanching before freezing and use within a few months of preparing.
To use your frozen eggplant, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight and use it as you would fresh eggplant. Frozen eggplant keeps its flavor very well, so it can be used in a variety of recipes without losing any of its sweetness or texture.
Naturally low in calories but high in fiber, eggplant can be grilled, fried, breaded, roasted, stewed, or sauteed. Eggplant is also an excellent meat substitute and an essential element in Italian cooking. There are several dishes where eggplant is the star – think eggplant parmesan or baba ghanoush. Try adding this versatile fruit to favorite recipes or adding it to omelets or as a pizza topping.