There is little better way to enjoy fresh fruit than to plant eggplant in the home garden. However, planting eggplant is only the first step in the growing process since pruning eggplant is vital if you want a more productive plant. Learn when and how to prune eggplant and care for it throughout the growing season for optimal fruit production.
Eggplant plants (Solanum melongena) are relatives of the tomato plant and an excellent addition to the vegetable patch. There are varieties of eggplant seeds and eggplant seedlings to pick from at your local nursery, from Japanese eggplant and Italian eggplant to Fairy Tale eggplant. Some are ideal for growing in a bed, while others are perfect for container growing.
Whatever eggplant variety you grow, it’s essential to prune your plants for the best harvest. While we don’t often consider pruning annual vegetables or fruits, some plants, like an eggplant plant and an indeterminate tomato plant, benefit from an occasional trim.
Pruning and Growing Eggplant
There are essential things to consider when you grow eggplant, whether you are dealing with Sicilian eggplant vs. regular eggplant. For example, does your garden have the correct soil pH, and should you water your plants with drip irrigation or a soaker hose? Additionally, eggplant need a place with full sun and fertilizer to thrive, and pruning eggplant plants promotes healthy growth and production.
Learn when to prune eggplant and how to trim back the correct stems and leaves. Discover how to care for eggplant plants as they mature, problems to watch for throughout the season, and how to tell when the fruits are ready for harvesting.
Why Pruning Eggplant is Important
We’re all aware of the importance of clipping away dead or damaged stems and leaves, but why is it necessary to prune eggplant if it’s growing well? Learn the benefits of pruning eggplant and how this practice produces more fruit.
As the plant grows, eggplant nutrients go into root, stem, and leaf production, and often, a plant grows more foliage than is necessary. Energy moves up through the main stem, and sap splits into all of the stems, including sterile stems. Therefore, pruning eggplant to remove non-fruiting stems encourages it to produce more flowers and fruits.
When to Prune Eggplant
Pruning an eggplant ensures that the plant has enough energy to produce eggplant flowers and fruits, but proper spacing for eggplant at seed planting is important, too. However, there are different times to trim eggplant for optimal growth. Find out when to prune eggplant for the most promising results.
While the best time to trim eggplant is when the plant is established and already producing fruit, there are other times to prune this plant. Start by pinching off the first flowers as they bud to stimulate the plant to put more energy into root growth.
As the eggplant grows, remove the lower leaves to promote high-quality fruit. Remove new blossoms four weeks before the first frost to encourage the plant to ripen existing eggplant fruit before winter sets in.
How to Prune Eggplant
While trimming eggplant is pretty straightforward, there is a right and wrong way to do it. Explore how to prune your plant by removing the proper leaves and stems.
To prune eggplant flowers, use your fingers to pinch off the buds from the plant, right where they meet the stem. After a few weeks, the plant grows new blossoms at a time when the plant is better able to grow larger fruits.
Use shears to remove low-growing leaves by clipping them off as close to the stems as possible to improve air circulation and allow more light to reach the plant. Prune away suckers during the growing season since these grow branches like smaller plants, taking nutrients away from the main plant.
If you grow your eggplant as a perennial, use pruning shears to prune the entire plant back to its lowest growth before winter.
Caring for Eggplant through the Season
Pruning eggplant is not the only task to perform in the veggie patch. These plants also need a little TLC as they grow to maturity. Here are some planting tips to ensure you develop the healthiest and most productive eggplant plants.
Eggplants grow best in loam or sandy loam dirt, rich in organic matter. Consider adding two to three pounds of general fertilizer for each hundred square foot of area before planting. Give your plant a good soaking each week to ensure that it gets one inch of water, and spread plastic mulch over the soil to retain moisture.
Drive a 24-inch stake into the ground about an inch and a half away from the plant’s base to give your plant support. Secure the main stem below a branch to the stake loosely with twine.
Try to limit five to six fruits on a large eggplant variety and up to 12 on a small eggplant type by pinching off blossoms when necessary to prevent stem breaking or snapping.
Problems to Watch for as Eggplant Grows
Nothing is more disappointing than giving your plants everything they want to flourish, only to lose them to an unforeseen problem. Your plants may encounter common challenges as you wait for harvest time.
Check your eggplants regularly for pests, like the flea beetle, Colorado potato beetle, hornworm, aphid, and cutworm, and prune away damaged leaves or blossoms immediately.
Tiny holes on leaves are signs of flea beetles, while potato beetles cause chewed leaf edges, and other insects destroy the eggplant stems. Remove the bugs by hand or use a pollinator-friendly insecticide to prevent harming a beneficial insect.
Common eggplant diseases include anthracnose fruit rot, blossom end rot, early blight, verticillium wilt, and powdery mildew. These fungal and bacterial diseases may destroy a plant or prevent fruit growth if left unchecked.
Remove infected leaves immediately, keep the bed or container free of plant debris, and water your plants at ground level to keep the soil from splashing on the foliage. Perform crop rotation and disinfect tools to help stop the spread of many diseases.
Wilting leaves may result from overwatering, which causes the roots to rot, preventing the plant from taking up water. Underwatering also causes leaves to wilt, leading to a poorly growing plant and spongy fruit. Monitoring the amount of water your plants get each week is vital.
When are Eggplants Ready to Harvest?
You’ve watched your eggplant grow from seedling to mature plant, and it’s finally nearing the end of the season. Discover how long eggplants take to grow and how to tell when they are ready to harvest.
How long do eggplants take to grow? The answer depends on the eggplant variety. However, they are generally ready to begin harvesting 65 to 80 days after transplanting and up to 120 days after sowing the eggplant seed.
The most straightforward way to tell if an eggplant is ready to harvest is to look at the skin. If the fruits are firm, the skin is thin and glossy, and the flesh is cream-colored, they are ready for picking; harvest them when they are small and developed. However, waiting until they reach full size provides you with more fruit.
When you’re ready to begin harvesting, put on a long-sleeved shirt and gloves since an eggplant’s stem is prickly, which may cause skin irritation. Use a sharp knife to cut the fruit from the stem, leaving a short piece of the stem attached to the top of the fruit. Take care when picking eggplants since the fruits bruise easily.
Store the fresh eggplant in a cool room, like the basement or garage, for up to four days, or keep it in the fridge crisper drawer for up to one week.
Make a Simple Side Dish with Eggplant Fruit
Now that you know when to trim eggplant, give it proper care, and harvest the eggplant fruit, it’s time to reap the benefits of your hard work. One of the simplest ways to prepare eggplant slices is to roast them with your favorite spices.
Put parchment paper on a cookie sheet and preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the eggplant lengthwise, slice each half into quarters, and cut them again into thin slices. Spread them on the cooking sheet with the skin side down and brush them with olive oil.
Sprinkle salt, pepper, and your favorite spices to taste over the top, and roast them for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden and softened. Squeeze lemon juice over the roasted eggplant and serve hot.
Growing eggplant is easy, whether you grow them from seed or nursery plants. However, unlike some vegetable plants, it’s essential to prune eggplant plants to redirect energy to the plant’s fruits. Trimming your eggplants encourages strong and healthy growth, resulting in a bountiful harvest.
Now that you know when and how to prune eggplant for the best fruit production, why not share our eggplant pruning guide and plant care tips with the gardeners in your life on Facebook and Pinterest?