Grow eggplant in container

How To Container Grow Eggplant Plants

Eggplants are versatile fruits that belong to the nightshade family along with tomatoes and other fruits. Most are heavy, dense fruits on medium to large sized bushes which wouldn’t be appropriate for container grown eggplant. There are cultivars, however, that have been developed to be compact as an answer to the growing number of small space gardeners. These smaller plants provide a means to growing eggplant in containers.

Container Grown Eggplant

Modern breeding programs are answering the call of the limited space gardener. With the rise of upside down gardening, traditional container gardening has expanded its previous barriers. Eggplants in pots are as easy to grow as tomatoes in pots. They need large enough containers to support the roots of such a heavy plant, a well draining medium, extra food and consistent water and, of course, the right container. Container grown eggplant require large pots to facilitate their growth and provide room for the small bushes.

How to Container Grow Eggplant

One of the most important elements of container grown eggplant is the container. Choose a large pot with a 5-gallon capacity. Growing eggplant in containers requires 12 to 14 inches of space per plant or three plants can be placed in a 20-inch container. Unglazed pots dry out more quickly than glazed pots, but they also allow the evaporation of excess moisture. If you remember to water, choose the unglazed pot. If you are a forgetful waterer, choose the glazed pots. Make certain there are large, unblocked drainage holes.

Eggplant starts are the best way to go unless you live in a sunny climate as they will give you a jump start on the growing season. The best medium for container grown eggplant is two parts good quality potting soil and one part sand. This ensures adequate nutrients and water retention while encouraging draining of excess moisture.

Plant the eggplant at the same level they were in their nursery pots and put a handful of time release fertilizer in the hole at the time of planting. Water the pots well and install a small support system, like a tomato cage.

Welcome to your go-to guide for growing eggplant in containers. For some, eggplant (also known as aubergine) may seem bland or possibly even mushy, but it’s a versatile vegetable that can be enjoyed in many different dishes and cuisines. Some of the most popular Italian recipes use eggplant as the main ingredient, but it’s also enjoyed in Indian, Japanese, Chinese, and Middle Eastern dishes.

This is a perennial that enjoys full sun and some days with a lot of heat. If you learn how to grow it properly in containers, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy a rich, bountiful harvest. Read on to learn how to get your garden started today.

Varieties

There are many varieties of eggplant to choose from. They range in colors from white to dark purple, as well as violet and striped. The flowers are also gorgeous, which makes it a joy to grow them. Here are some of the easiest (and tastiest!) eggplant varieties you can grow.

Sicilian

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Sicilian heirlooms have striped skins that can range from dark purple and white to rose and white. Sometimes they are called “graffiti”. They are the perfect variety for eggplant Parmesan, or try them stuffed with meat or rice. If you’ve had bitter-tasting eggplant before and didn’t like it, try the “Rosa Bianca” variety and you might be surprised!

Japanese Eggplant

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These eggplants are long and thin and have very dark, glossy skin. They’re the sweetest-tasting eggplant variety and have a creamy texture that melts in your mouth. The skins are thin, so they don’t need to be peeled. These beauties are perfect for stir-fries. Try the “Ichiban” variety—it’s prolific and perfect for containers.

Indian Eggplant

Indian Eggplants are short and squat, they are great for stuffing or using in curries. Try the “Ratna” variety, which is the most typical and well known. Get more Indian eggplant varieties here.

Dwarf Varieties

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If you don’t have a lot of space, try a dwarf variety like “Fairy Tale”. At maturity, the plants range from 1 to 2 feet in height and the fruits are about 5 inches long. They can be grown in smaller pots, and seem to do better in cooler climates because they don’t require as much energy as larger fruits do. They’re perfect for grilling, and have sweet, creamy flesh.

“Patio Baby” is another great dwarf variety. It produces small black fruits, and can be grown in a 1-gallon container on even the smallest balcony.

Container Types

Eggplants can grow rather large, so it’s a good idea to start with a large pot so it has lots of room to grow. A 5-gallon pot that’s at least 12 inches deep is recommended. Each eggplant requires 12-14 inches of space. If the eggplant really thrives, you may need to transplant it into a larger pot as it grows.

If you live in a cooler climate and still want to plant eggplant, you can try my method. I’ve had great success with getting a better yield by using black plastic pots. They retain more heat than lighter-colored ones, and keep the soil warmer, which is what the plant needs in order to fruit.

You can also try growing eggplants in an upside-down bottle planter, as pictured in the video above. This method works well for tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers too. If you’re really short on yard space, this “hanging garden” technique is invaluable! You can grow tons of vegetables without taking up valuable land.

Planting

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You can start growing eggplant in containers either from seeds or plant starts. In general, they do best in zones 5-12, and will grow as a perennial in zones 10-12. It’s absolutely possible to grow eggplant in colder climates, however, and you’ll find several tips throughout this article for how to do so.

First, be sure to use a good quality potting mix. It’s also a good idea to add some compost or aged manure to the pots, since eggplants are heavy feeders.

Plant your eggplants with tomato cages: they’ll need the extra support as they grow. If you don’t want to use a cage, insert a heavy-duty stick or stake that you can then tie the plant to in order to support the growing fruits. Otherwise, top-heavy fruits can break the stems and destroy your plant.

If you’ve never grown eggplant before, it’s a good idea to begin with plants rather than seeds. Your local garden center should have good ideas of which varieties are all purpose, and which grow best in your climate.

Planting Time

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The beauty of container gardening is that typical planting times can be altered. You can just move the pot around as needed to create the best growing environment. That said, eggplants do need a significant amount of heat and sunlight to fruit. If you don’t live in a warm climate, wait until all danger of frost has passed before planting it.

Planting from Seed

To start eggplants from seed, the temperature needs to be at least 68 F (20 C). If you wish to plant eggplant from seeds be sure to plant 2 seeds in each container, as this will likely ensure at least one will grow. They should germinate in 7-14 days.

Once the plants have sprouted and have at least four leaves, they can be transplanted into the desired containers.

Eggplant Care

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Sunlight and Water

Eggplants need at least 6 hours of full sun to produce fruit. That said, they will be more prolific if they get 10 hours’ worth.

Water well without letting the soil become soggy. Be sure that there is enough drainage on the bottom of the container in order to prevent root rot. Consistent watering is the best approach. If it gets very hot where you live, you may need to water twice a day because container soil can dry out more quickly than in a traditional garden or raised bed.

Temperature

Eggplants like to grow in temperatures above 50 F. If you live in a warmer climate or can bring your container in on colder days, you don’t have to worry too much about it. Just know that eggplants cannot be grown completely indoors, as they need to be fertilized by bees in order to produce fruit.

Fertilizing

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Eggplants are heavy feeders and do better if you add fertilizer every 2 weeks during the growing season. Use aged manure or blood meal for organic growing.

Diseases and Pests

The good thing is that most pest and disease problems don’t affect plants grown in containers. The most common problems facing your eggplant are flea beetles, verticillium wilt, and powdery mildew. Try this homemade spray to control flea beetles. If your plant gets powdery mildew, try neem oil on the leaves. This oil is also helpful for getting rid of other garden pests.

If you’re growing bush beans, tarragon or thyme, place them near your eggplants, as they’re helpful companion plants.

Sing to Them

Many anecdotal references show that singing to your plants helps them to grow better. Although there is no hardcore science to back that claim, there is a study that showed plants perform certain behaviors based on sound. For example, in 2014, scientists reported that the mere sound of caterpillars chewing was enough to cause thale cress plants to release more defensive chemicals.

Think your heat-loving eggplants would love the Mambo Italiano? Think again. Apparently, plants that were played loud, fast, fiercely intense music actually wilted and sometimes even died. Plants that listened to lullabies or classical music thrived.

It does makes sense, in a more practical way. A gardener who spends time every day talking or singing to their plants is keeping a close eye on them. Therefore, they have the best chance to thrive in the garden when well-tended.

Harvesting and Storing

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Eggplants usually reach maturity in 60-80 days. Their skins will look glossy and the fruits plump. Cut the fruits at the stem with a sharp knife or shears, leaving about an inch of the stem. If you try to pull the fruit, they won’t come off.

Store your harvested eggplants for up to two weeks at room temperature in humid conditions, where the temperature doesn’t fall below 50 F. Don’t puncture the skin or it’ll rot quickly.

Saving their seeds can be a bit challenging, but this guide should help if you want to save your eggplant seeds for future planting.

How to Eat Eggplant

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There are many delicious ways to enjoy eggplant. Try it grilled, roasted, breaded, fried, or baked. As mentioned, eggplant parmesan (parmigiana) is a classic favorite that everyone can enjoy.

If you’ve e only tasted bitter eggplant dishes in the past, then try the Italian way to prepare it for cooking. Cut it in the manner in which you’ll be preparing it (in cubes, in slices, etc.) then sprinkle with salt and allow it to drain in a colander for about 30 minutes. Then rinse the salt off and squeeze out all the excess water.

If you need more inspiration for how to enjoy eggplant, you are sure to find several recipes to try here.

Happy growing!

10 tips to growing eggplant in a pot or container

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Planting can be an excellent hobby and a great time pass especially when you are in a leisure time. Every parent or an adult in this world should grow plants and also allow their children to take part in this activity. If you don’t have a garden or a flowerbed, then they can take full advantage of growing vegetables in containers. This is very easy; all you need is the soil, a lay pot, some seeds and a place which will receive plenty of sunshine and air. There are different plants to grow in pots and eggplant is one of them. Growing vegetables in containers, especially eggplants can be the best decision you have ever made, here are ten tips for growing eggplants in a pot:

1) Growing eggplant from seeds in a pot or container can be very easy. Every two seeds should be planted in one pot. You can take a clay pot or plastic gardening pots or trays for planting the seeds. The container should be filled with fertilized soil and a hole should be made in order to place the seeds. Cover it with heap of soil and water the seed. Leave it until the seed germinates; make sure that the location of the pot or container receives ample of sunlight and wind. It is also necessary to check the level of nutrients or minerals in soil prior to grow egg plants in a pot. In case of absence of nutrients or minerals, the grower can face various problems or issues.

2) In order to house a mature eggplant, you may need a pot which must have a capacity of 5 gallon and should be full of soil. This pot can house one eggplant which will have one foot space to grow successfully. Many people may not know how to plant in pots.

3) Use fertilized soil which can also be done at home. For example, you can bury animal bodies such as those which have been slaughtered for meat a year before. This fertilized soil can help in enhancing plants for containers growth which can grow in a double size than the regular size because it is full of nutrients. The application of fertilizer is a nice option for growers. The fertilizer keeps the plants green and healthy. It is wise to add fertilizer regularly.

4) Egg plants grow well when they have good heat and so clay pot can be an excellent choice for them. How to grow egg plant in a clay pot? By simply adding two seeds in the soil and then watering them. The clay pot absorbs more heat which speeds up the growing process and is the best for your egg plant growth.

5) Make a draining hole in the clay pot on the bottom. Clay pots are also heavy and durable and so they can withstand the growing pressure of a mature eggplant. Many people may not know how to grow vegetables successfully, and this tip can be very beneficial.

6) Before planting the eggplant in a clay pot, first wash it properly and then leave it for one day under sun to dry. This is important otherwise the bacterium or their eggs present in the pot will grow and destroying the eggplant. In case of insect attack, the grower can use the chemicals and pesticide to kill the insects. It is necessary to kill the insects and pests.

7) You can add two part soil and one part sand which should be mixed well for growing the eggplant, the medium will be balanced. Container vegetable gardening can be a great work, nothing is better than having vegetables grown in your home.

8) Add a support stick or cage on the pot so that the eggplants can grow. The egg plants grow very fast to maintain good condition. These plants just require some effort and work to grow fast in the pots.

9) Plant the eggplants seed when the temperature is 13 degrees or higher, spring is the best time for the panting of eggplant seeds.

10) Always keep the eggplant pots outdoors; this is the best option for learning how to grow eggplant.

All About Eggplants

Can I Grow Eggplants?

Wait until night temperatures are consistently in the 60’s before setting out eggplant transplants. Even though the plants can recover from a few cold nights, they may become stunted or susceptible to disease organisms.

Be sure to provide good drainage and a rich organic soil, and be sure to give eggplants plenty of space-most varieties will need 18 to 24 inches between plants and two to three feet between rows. Black plastic mulch can help eggplants get off to a fast start in the spring when temperatures are marginal. Cover the plastic with light-colored straw mulch to reduce the build up of heat in the summer.

Eggplant Plant History

Should I Plant Eggplant Seeds Or Plants?

How To Cultivate Eggplant

Start by working lots of compost into the soil, plus 2 to 3 pounds of a complete fertilizer like 15-5-10 per 100 sq. ft. If you prefer, use an organic fertilizer like blood meal, well-rotted manure, cottonseed meal or bat guano. Burpee’s Big Boy Tomato Food is also super for eggplants.

Once the weather has warmed up enough or measures suggested to improve soil warmth have been applied, set transplants 18 to 24 inches feet apart in a row with rows similarly spaced. ‘Blue Marble Hybrid’ and ‘Millionaire Hybrid’ are best for container gardening or for closer spacing. If you use one of the dark-colored mulches, it’s best to cover it later in the summer with light-colored hay to reflect the sun’s heat. Old newspapers also make great mulch. Soak them in water just before laying them out- 8 to 10 sheets thick – and cover with hay, or dry grass clippings to hide the paper and keep it from blowing away. If you fertilize eggplants monthly use about one pound per 100 ft. of row. You can be fairly cavalier about sprinkling fertilizer down the row because the newspapers will act as a buffer. The paper will break down and can be dug into the garden at the end of the season.
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Eggplant Growing Tips

Eggplant Insects & Diseases

Flea beetles and spider mites love eggplants even more than gardeners do. It is not always easy to catch flea beetles on eggplants. They’re quite mobile, but you will see evidence of their damage – shot holes throughout the leaves.

Insecticidal sprays will often be necessary although botanicals like rotenone usually get the job done. Spider mites don’t chew holes in the leaves, but they suck the juices out of the plant leaving lots of small, dead specks in the leaves. They can become so numerous that the leaves begin to take on a grayish appearance and you may even see webs.

Eggplant Harvesting Tips

The primary criteria for harvesting eggplants is to pick them while the skins are glossy. If the eggplantÕs skin becomes dull, the seeds are beginning to mature and the potential for bitterness is increased.

Shop all our Eggplants!

Eggplant

Note Number: AG0124
Published: September 1994
Updated: May 2013

Eggplants are in the same family as capsicums and tomatoes and their growing requirements are similar. The eggplant plant thrives under warm to hot conditions and is extremely sensitive to frost. It is most suited to summer production in northern Victoria. Long periods of cool weather during the growing season will reduce yields by causing flowers to drop.

Cultivars

A range of cultivars are available including older open pollinated types as well as a range of hybrids. The fruit comes in many sizes and shapes although commercial varieties are purple-black in colour and usually oval or teardrop shaped. Some longer thin fruit are also marketed commercially.

Culture

A free-draining, deep, rich loam is preferred, but heavier soils with adequate drainage may also be used. The growing season takes around 110 days to maturity and the crop is harvested over an extended period until frost or cold stops growth. Conditions and cultural requirements are similar to those required for tomatoes, but eggplants require much higher temperatures. A sheltered sunny aspect is particularly important if the crop is to be grown in southern Victoria.

Seedlings

Because of the heat requirement, eggplant is usually planted in the field as seedlings. Plants can be direct-seeded but this must be delayed until soil temperatures reach a minimum of 21°C and is not practical. Weed control in direct-seeded crops is very difficult. Commercially, most seedlings are produced by commercial nurseries using cell trays.

Fertilisers

In light soils a dressing of fowl or animal manures applied four weeks before planting is beneficial. Also add a base dressing of 500-600 kg per ha of NPK fertiliser such as 5:8:4 or 5:2:1.

If only artificial fertiliser is to be used increase the base dressing to 1000 kg per hectare.

Farmers should be aware of the potential dangers of using phosphatic fertilisers with high levels of cadmium.

Research has shown that the use of phosphatic fertilisers which contain the heavy metal cadmium as a contaminant can increase cadmium levels in both soil and potatoes. There are legal maximum levels of cadmium allowable for vegetables sold in Australia, however no violations have been recorded for eggplant as a result of survey investigations. Fertilisers containing cadmium in excess of 1mg/kg are required to state the following warning:

“WARNING — this product contains cadmium. Continued use of this product in agricultural situations may lead to residue levels in plant and animal products in excess of the maximum level specified by the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code and the accumulation of cadmium in soils.”

It is in the grower’s and consumer’s interest to minimise the addition of cadmium to soils and agricultural produce. Growers should consult fertiliser suppliers or manufacturers for advice on the cadmium levels of fertilisers they are considering using. There are a number of low cadmium horticultural fertilisers marketed today. These have lower levels of cadmium than some superphosphate and other fertilisers.

Side-dressings can be applied throughout the growing season, using nitrogen at the rate of 180 kg per ha. Apply preferably when plants are 300 mm high and again when flowering commences.

Transplanting

Do not transplant seedlings until the ground temperature is from 18 to 20°C (usually mid-October to November depending upon the area). Plant in rows 600 – 1000 mm apart and space the plants 500 mm apart.

Irrigation

As eggplant grows slowly after transplanting do not over-water when the plants are small, but increase watering as they grow, particularly when flowering begins.

Pest control

There are several pest of concern for eggplant growers, particularly aphids, thrips, leafhoppers, two-spotted mite, heliothis grubs and ceropid (spittle) bug.

These pests can be controlled with an appropriately registered chemical, The APVMA maintains a database of all chemicals registered for the control of pests in Australia. Refer to the APVMA or your chemical reseller for chemicals registered for the control of pests. Ensure you meet the relevant Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) for the chemical in the end market, be it domestic or export.

Chemical users must ensure they read and understand all sections of the chemical label prior to use.

Pruning

The removal of the lower leaves at the start of flowering will improve fruit set. Thin to 8-10 fruit per plant if required. Where regular harvesting is not maintained always remove any fruit that is over-mature.

Harvesting

Harvest eggplant when large enough and deep purple. Do not pick immature fruit, that is, fruit in which the seed has not hardened. Cut the tough stems with a sharp knife or secateurs.

Yields

Yields may vary from season to season and between paddocks, but growers can expect yields to range from 9-15 tonnes per hectare.

Further information

For information relating to the safe and appropriate use of chemicals, including management of chemical residues and licensing requirements, contact us and ask to speak to your local chemical standards officer or visit our Chemical use page.

Acknowledgements

This Agnote was developed by Rob Dimsey, Farm Services Victoria in September 1994.

It was reviewed by Rob Dimsey, Farm Services Victoria in May 2013.

ISSN 1329-8062

Published and Authorised by:
Department of Environment and Primary Industries
1 Spring Street
Melbourne, Victoria

This publication is copyright. No part may be reproduced by any process except in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright Act 1968.

The advice provided in this publication is intended as a source of information only. Always read the label before using any of the products mentioned. The State of Victoria and its employees do not guarantee that the publication is without flaw of any kind or is wholly appropriate for your particular purposes and therefore disclaims all liability for any error, loss or other consequence which may arise from you relying on any information in this publication

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