You will know that eggplant, or aubergine, whichever name you recognize this heat-loving vegetable by, is one of the most rewarding vegetables to grow during the summer.
Although the eggplant is commonly treated as an annual in the veggie garden, it goes through seven stages during its lifecycle and will continue to live for up to 3 years.
The seven growing stages start with planting a seed, then germination, and developing a seedling.
After the seedling stage, the eggplant will grow into a matured plant which then flowers; after flowering, fruits will form, and you can begin to harvest.
7 Eggplant Growth Stages Timeline
Growing eggplants can be easy as they are a hardy fruiting plant of the Solanaceae (Nightshade) family.
The relatives of the eggplant are the other tasty vegetables we know, such as peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes which all have their own different growth cycles.
Look at the following growth stages to familiarize yourself with how your eggplants will flourish this year.
1. Planting Seeds
As you have seen, when cutting open an eggplant, there are lots of tiny brownish seeds in the center, which can be grown to form a new plant.
To plant the seeds of eggplant, make sure the temperatures are suitable. You can grow them indoors from the beginning of January or up to 10 weeks before the last frost date in your area.
Use a seed tray or eggplant and fill it with good-quality potting soil. Make a hole in each cell ¼ inch deep and plant two to 3 seeds in each – these seeds are tiny, so some exceptions can be made when planting.
After sowing the seeds, water them and cover them with clear plastic to create a greenhouse effect.
You can soak your seeds for 24 hours before planting, which will increase the success rate of germination and speed up the germination time.
Keep your seeds moist and in temperatures between 60-95°F (15-35°C), and you should see them sprout within ten days.
2. Germination Begins
The second stage of the eggplant’s growth cycle is germination. This is when the seed shell has cracked and started to sprout.
You will see a tiny shoot emerge from the seed around ten days after planting if they have been kept in warm moist conditions.
During this time, it is essential to control the seeds’ temperature, and some gardeners opt for using a heat mat to maintain suitable temperatures.
Suitable temperatures are 60-95°F (15-35°C) during this time which is the typical indoor temperature of most homes.
When watering the seeds, use a misting method or spray bottle, as the seeds still produce a root to anchor themselves into the soil, and heavy watering can cause them to wash away.
3. Seedlings Develop
After seeing the seeds germinate and the tiny shoots have sprouted, they will grow a stem and their first set of leaves.
The first set of leaves on your eggplant seedlings are known as cotyledons and will eventually drop off after the second set of leaves has grown.
This is a great time to give your seedlings the first boost of nutrients, and you can do so using a water-soluble balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium).
As the seedlings are not fully matured, use a half-strength dose to prevent the small root system from burning. Keep your seedlings in a sunny location during this stage, as they will need as much light to produce their leaves.
As the seedlings grow, they may outgrow the cells they originally sprouted in. You can check the base of the cells, and if you see roots escaping the drainage holes, pot them into a pot of the next size up.
After 6-10 weeks of this seedling stage, your eggplant seedlings should have grown around four to six leaves to be around 6 inches (15 cm) tall, and you will be closer to your final frost date.
4. Reaching Maturity
As your final frost date arrives and the soil temperature has increased, this is a great time to transplant your seedlings into the garden, where they can become mature plants.
Before planting your seedlings, ensure you have hardened them off in the sun for a week to prevent plant stress. Hardening off can be done by taking the seedlings outside during the day and bringing them indoors at night.
This exposes them to the outdoors gradually instead of shocking them. Choose a position in the garden that receives 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day and plant in well-drained, sandy loam soil high in rich organic matter.
Eggplants are heavy feeders and prefer fertile soil containing well-rotted manure or blood meal.
After planting, keep a regular watering routine; they will begin to mature as their stems grow thicker and leaves grow more prominent.
5. Flowering Time
After transplanting your mature eggplants, they will start the flowering stage to show they are happy and have a successful root system to reproduce.
Depending on the variety of eggplant, the flowers can contain five to ten ruffled purple, pink, or white petals with yellow anthers. The eggplant flowers are self-pollinating, meaning they don’t rely on insects or bees to carry the pollen.
Providing the male parts of the flower come into contact with the female parts, they fertilize and set fruit.
This stage is when your eggplant is showcasing its flowers which will naturally attract insects, so keep checking for any possible infestations that can cause harm to your plants.
6. Setting Fruit
After the eggplant has been through the flowering stage and pollination has occurred, the flower petals will drop off, leaving the sepals holding the fruit.
This is the fruiting stage of the eggplant, and depending on what variety you are growing, you will see different shapes, sizes, and colors produced.
Around 50-80 days after flowering, the fruit of the eggplant will be matured and available for harvest.
7. Harvest Time
The final stage of the eggplant’s growth stage is harvesting, which occurs 100-120 days after planting the seeds and 65-80 days after transplanting the seedlings.
You can harvest your eggplants when the skin is thin and glossy and the fruit is firm to the touch. To gather them, use a sharp pair of scissors or a knife and cut the fruit an inch (2.5 cm) from the stem leaving the sepal at the top.
The flesh of the eggplant should be cream, and the seeds should not be visible at this stage. If the eggplants are left on the plant for too long, they will begin to seed inside, and the flesh will become woody.
On the other hand, if eggplants are harvested too early, the flesh will be soft and still green inside, giving them a bitter taste.
The number of eggplants you can harvest will depend on the variety you are growing. You can expect to see 2 to 12 eggplants on one plant when they are in the proper condition.
How Long Do Eggplants Take To Grow?
Eggplants take 100-120 days to grow from seed, and you can expect an eggplant to reach 2-3 feet (61-91 cm) in height for most varieties.
Some varieties are more compact and grow just 16 inches (40 cm) tall. The root system of the eggplant will descend to 2 feet deep in the soil and should be grown 18 inches (45 cm) inches apart for sufficient space.
You can grow eggplants in containers like a 5-gallon (18-liter) bucket or trough. Eggplants may need the help of a supporting stake or frame to prevent the fruit from touching the ground and rotting.
When watering eggplants, make sure you give them 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) of water per week and apply some mulch to the base of the plant to retain moisture and prevent weeds from growing.
To save seeds from your crop of eggplants, leave a few fruits on the plant to fully mature; the skin will become dull, and the seeds inside will be fully developed, giving you a substantial stock of seeds to plant out the following year.
FAQ About Different Eggplant Growing Stages
How many eggplants do you get per plant?
Depending on the variety you grow, you can expect to get 2-12 eggplants per plant.
The number of eggplants will vary with the growing conditions too.
How long after flowers do eggplants appear?
Most varieties of eggplants will produce fruit within 50-80 days of flowering.
Should I trim eggplant leaves?
Trim the lower leaflets from the eggplant as soon as it starts to flower.
This helps the plant to focus its energy on flowering and fruiting rather than growing foliage.
How do I make my eggplant bear more fruit?
Increase production of your eggplant by hand pollinating the flowers. Gently shake the flowers to cause the pollen to move around.
To Sum Up
Eggplants are a great summer crop to grow and are far from challenging to maintain. They are heavy feeders, so do rely on good feed to keep them going through the growing period.
If grown in containers, you can overwinter them during the cold months, and they will produce again the following year.
Eggplants are still susceptible to common pests and diseases, so you should keep an eye out for any threats to your eggplants, especially during the flowering period.