This close relative to tomatoes and peppers shares their love of warm weather and their tendency to sulk if stressed by cold. However, eggplant (Solanum melongena) is fairly easy to grow and can be extremely productive. There are numerous unusual and ethnic varieties available to those who grow from seed, from the small green Thai types to beautifully striped large Italian types. Those new to growing eggplants may be surprised to see their beautiful African violet-like flowers, and to discover that the plants and calyxes (the green stem end) are punctuated with sharp little thorns.
For more growing tips on vegetable varieties, visit our Vegetable Growing Guide.
Habit: Compact, upright, and bushy. Plants don't require staking, but fruits will be straighter and easier to harvest if they are.
Days to Harvest: 55 to 73.
When to Plant: Cold-climate gardeners should chose quick-to-mature varieties and sow the seeds indoors 8 weeks before last frost. The plants cannot withstand cold soil, so seedlings should not be planted outdoors until daytime temperatures are in the 70s.
Light: Full sun.
Soil: Well-drained; average soil should be amended with compost prior to planting.
Watering: Water regularly, as both drought and excessive water will cause stress that may affect blooming and bearing.
Fertilizing: Fertilize weekly at half strength.
Pest Problems: Flea beetles are notorious for making Swiss cheese out of eggplant foliage -- exclude them with floating row cover or try sticky traps to catch them. There are some fatal fungal diseases, especially in humid areas; rotate crops to avoid.
When to Harvest: Fruits have better texture and flavor if picked when no more than half grown.