Known as the meat of vegetables, eggplant is a unique garden plant with a flavor all its own. Homegrown eggplant has a bright, fresh flavor that’s better than anything you can find at the store.
If you’re interested in learning how to plant eggplant, this guide is for you. I’ll show you how to start eggplant from seed, how to plant seedlings, how to care for the plants as they grow, and more. With these tips, you’ll be enjoying the taste of fresh, homegrown eggplant in no time.
What Eggplant Needs to Grow
Providing the right growing conditions is the first step in learning how to plant eggplant. Luckily for us, eggplant isn’t too fussy when it comes to growing conditions!
Eggplant does best in well-draining soil. If you have heavy clay soil, mix in organic matter like compost or a soil conditioner to break up the soil and improve drainage.
Eggplant isn’t picky about soil pH. As long as the pH of your soil is between 5.5 and 7.5, eggplants will do fine. If you’re not sure about the pH of your soil, it’s easy to check with a soil test kit.
Eggplants are heavy feeders meaning they need a lot of nutrients in order to grow well. Add plenty of compost when planting to increase the organic matter in your soil and give eggplants an added nutrient boost.
Full sun is best for growing eggplant. Choose a location that gets at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day.
Eggplant needs warm temperatures to grow, so wait to plant until after the last spring frost.
In very hot weather (temperatures above 95 degrees), eggplant may slow down and stop producing for a while. If this happens, keep the soil moist and your plants will start producing again when the temperatures cool off a bit.
How to Start Eggplant from Seed
Starting eggplant from seed is a great way to save some money on your garden. Seeds are inexpensive and easy to find online. When starting seeds you also get to choose unique varieties of eggplant that are harder to find in stores (like striped, white, or green eggplant).
Starting Eggplant Seeds Indoors
Starting eggplant indoors has a lot of advantages. Not only is it inexpensive, but eggplants need a long time to grow. For many varieties, it takes a full 5-6 months from seed to harvest.
Starting eggplant seeds indoors is one of the best ways to ensure your plants have time to grow and produce before cold temperatures arrive again. This is especially true if you live in an area with a short growing season.
Start eggplant indoors 4-6 weeks before the last expected frost.
Seed Starting Equipment
Starting eggplant from seed requires some basic equipment.
You can get as fancy or as simple as you like with your seed starting equipment. There are good options available in a variety of sizes and price points.
At the minimum, you’ll need something to plant in, like seed starting trays or small containers, seed starting mix, seeds, and a light source.
If you keep your house cool you’ll also need a heat source like a heating pad to keep the seeds warm enough to germinate.
How to Plant Eggplant Seeds Indoors
Choose a planting container and fill it with seed starting mix. Plant 1-2 seeds per container and lightly cover them 1/4 inch deep. Water thoroughly with a spray bottle to avoid disturbing the seeds.
Place the container on a heating pad to keep the seeds warm. Covering the tray with a humidity dome is a good way to keep in heat and moisture to help seeds germinate faster.
As soon as seeds start to emerge, place them under a grow light or in front of a sunny window where they’ll receive plenty of light.
If using a grow light, keep it on for 12-16 hours a day and give the seedlings a period of darkness for at least eight hours a day. Timers are handy for automating lights so you don’t have to keep turning them off and on every day.
Thin the seedlings to one plant per container when they develop their first set of true leaves.
Direct Sowing Eggplant
If you live in a warm climate it’s possible to plant eggplant seeds directly into the garden. Wait until late spring when all danger of frost has passed and soil temperatures are in the 50s or higher.
Choose a suitable location and prepare the soil with lots of organic matter to feed your eggplants. Poke a small hole in the soil and drop two seeds in. Gently cover the seeds 1/4 inch deep and water thoroughly.
Once seedlings develop their first set of true leaves, thin the plants to one every 24-36 inches.
When planting, add support for eggplants to grow on, like a stake, trellis, or lattice.
How to Plant Eggplant in the Garden
Once seedlings are a few inches tall and all danger of frost has passed, you can start moving them out to the garden.
If you can, wait until nighttime temperatures are in the 60s or higher. Eggplants grow faster in warmer weather.
Before planting eggplant outside, harden off the seedlings by setting the plants outside for a few hours each day. Slowly increase the time the plants are outside each day until they’re left out overnight. Now they’re ready to go into the garden.
Choose a sunny spot and dig a hole that’s about twice as big as the root ball on your eggplant seedling. Place the plant in the hole and fill in around it with soil. Water thoroughly and keep the soil moist as the plant grows.
Space plants 24-36 inches apart.
When you transplant the seedlings, add a support for the eggplants to grow on. Adding support when planting avoids disturbing the roots of your plant later on.
Caring for Eggplant
Another important part of learning how to plant eggplant is to learn how to care for the plants as they grow. Follow a few basic steps and watch your eggplants grow into strong healthy plants!
Like peppers and tomatoes, eggplants do best with support. Use a stake, trellis, lattice, or tomato cage to support eggplants as they grow.
For the best growth, keep eggplant soil evenly moist. Check on your plants regularly during hot weather to make sure the soil doesn’t dry out.
Eggplants need at least an inch of water per week, sometimes more if the weather is especially hot and dry.
When watering, use a hose or watering can to water at the base of the plant. Try to avoid getting water on the leaves. Overhead watering leads to damp leaves, which increases the risk of fungal disease.
Since they’re heavy feeders, fertilizing eggplant regularly is a good idea. Fertilize every 1-2 weeks with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer.
Adding mulch around your plants is simple and has a lot of benefits.
Mulch keeps the soil cool during the hot summer months, retains moisture, prevents weeds, and adds organic matter back into the soil as it breaks down.
Use natural mulch like straw, shredded leaves, or composted wood chips.
Wrapping up How to Plant Eggplant
Once you learn how to plant eggplant you won’t want to go back to store-bought! With the right method, growing these pretty purple vegetables is simple and rewarding.
To learn more about starting vegetables from seed, head over to the Seed Starting page on our website. There we have tons of resources for growing all kinds of vegetables, herbs, and flowers from seed. There are tips on how to plant, what soil is best for seed starting, how to care for seedlings as they grow, and much more.