It takes a while for eggplant to reach a harvest-ready stage, and during that process, the plant must go through several different stages of maturity. Once I learned how to recognize each individual stage, it made it easier and more fun to wait for that final harvest. And I could make sure I tailored the care to what the plant needed at each phase.
Eggplant growing stages can be broken up into seven identifiable steps:
- True leaves appear
- More leaves and stems grow
- Flowers blossom
- Fruits develop
- Time for harvest
In this article, we’ll look deeper at eggplant growth stages. Each one is a unique step on the journey from seed to harvest, and in my opinion, it’s really satisfying to watch the plant progress through each one. I’ll also share my best care tips for each stage.
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
Eggplant Growing Stages: 7 Steps
I’ll cover each of these seven stages in detail, but here’s a quick overview of the growth progression if you’re in a hurry:
Eggplants are members of the nightshade, or Solanaceae, plant family, which also includes tomatoes and peppers. Each of these plants take quite a bit of time (usually several months) to produce their harvests. But they’re worth the wait!
At each stage of development, your eggplant has certain care needs that will help it thrive. Here’s a closer look at how to identify each stage and how to care for your eggplants properly:
Just like any other plant, eggplant starts out as a seed. They look very similar to pepper seeds, and if you’ve ever grown peppers from seed, the planting and care process is the same.
If you live in a warm climate, you can plant your eggplants directly in the ground. But I live in a northern growing zone, so I start my eggplants indoors in the early spring.
I plant my eggplant seeds in cell trays filled with seed-starting potting mix. Give them some water to moisten the soil, cover with a humidity dome, and place the tray in a warm area. Keep the soil moist- I always find that a spray bottle is perfect for this. Don’t worry about lighting at this point; the eggplant seeds don’t need it until they sprout up.
Germination is the process of a seed opening up and sending a root shoot downward and a stem with seed leaves upward. The root comes first, which you can’t see. So even though it seems like your seeds aren’t doing anything, something important is going on under the surface.
The first leaves you see are called cotyledons, or seed leaves. In eggplants, they’re narrow and pointy. Cotyledons are the baby plant’s source of nourishment until they develop mature leaves that can photosynthesize food.
The germination time for eggplant seeds depends on several factors, such as soil temperature and moisture levels. In my experience, they usually sprout 7-14 days after planting. So make sure to have plenty of patience!
Once you see your eggplant plants breaking the soil surface, remove the humidity dome and place your baby eggplants under a grow light or in a bright window that gets at least 8 hours of direct sunlight daily. Your eggplants will do best in an area that’s about 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Give regular water to keep the soil moist. I like to switch to a small squirt bottle right about now- I’ve found that a plastic condiment bottle works wonderfully. This keeps the leaves from getting wet while still being a gentle stream of water that won’t disturb the new plants.
3. True Leaves Appear
On average, eggplant seedlings produce their true leaves 10-14 days post-germination. These true leaves resemble those found on a mature eggplant plant- just on a miniature scale. True leaves are fully capable of photosynthesis to produce the sugar that sustains the plant.
Once the true leaves appear, the eggplant is officially in the “seedling” stage, and it will stay in this stage for a few weeks.
Eggplants need plenty of water to grow, so give enough to keep the soil evenly moist. You can also begin fertilizing your eggplants with a balanced fertilizer solution every two or three weeks. I recommend diluting the fertilizer by at least half; you’re always better off giving a little less than too much, especially when the plants are so small.
4. Maturing Leaves and Stems
After those first true leaves appear, your eggplant will keep on producing more and more of them, and the stem will gain length and strength. If you plan to stake your eggplant for support, this is the time to do it.
This is known as the “vegetative stage.” While different varieties take shorter or longer times to mature, your eggplant plants will likely be in the leaf-producing maturing stage for 6-10 weeks.
Every part of the plant contributes to its overall health and fruit production, so you want the healthiest leaves possible for the best harvest. Keep a sharp eye out for yellow leaves on eggplant plants or signs of pests or disease. Properly weeding the garden and avoiding getting the leaves wet while watering are two key ways to keep your eggplants healthy.
Ensure your eggplants get at least 1 inch of water weekly; a soaker hose is a great way to do this easily. Give a dose of organic vegetable fertilizer every 3-4 weeks at this stage.
It’s also a good idea to apply a 2-inch layer of mulch around your eggplants. This will help retain moisture, prevent weeds from sprouting, and keep the soil cool.
5. Flowers Bloom
Once the plant has several sets of large, healthy leaves and strong central and lateral stems, you’ll see purple or white blossoms appear. This signals that you’ve reached the eggplant flowering stage.
Eggplant fruits develop from flowers, with each blossom being capable of producing fruit. Eggplant flowers are self-pollinating, meaning that every flower contains both pollen and immature fruit. This is different than plants like pumpkins or cucumbers which typically have pollen-producing male flowers and fruit-bearing female ones.
However, the pollen in an eggplant flower needs to move from the central stamen to the inner ovary. Insects like bees and butterflies can take care of this for you. Choosing the right companion plants for eggplant can be really helpful here- growing other flowering plants nearby can draw in those pollinators!
You can do some pollinating yourself by gently shaking or brushing over each eggplant flower to spread pollen. If you’ll be assisting in the pollination process, do it during the morning hours—the earlier, the better—when flowers are starting to open.
After pollination has taken place, the fruit will start developing from those flowers.
Now that the plant has turned its attention to producing fruit, it needs more water and fertilizer than ever. Make sure your plants get 1-2 inches of water a week, and give a balanced vegetable fertilizer every two weeks.
6. Fruits Develop
After pollination, eggplant fruits will begin forming within 8-10 days, depending on variety and growing conditions. They typically continue to mature over a 30-50 day period.
Eggplants are heavy feeders and drinkers, so continue to give your eggplants 1-2 inches of water weekly and fertilize every two weeks.
It’s also a good idea to support your eggplant fruit. Since the eggplant fruit can become heavy when it forms, support the plant with stakes or cages to prevent its stems from breaking and its fruit from touching the ground. Doing this also reduces stem breakage.
The time between planting seeds and harvesting eggplants varies based on their variety and growing conditions, typically taking 70-120 days. That’s a pretty wide timeframe, so I recommend carefully looking at the seed package to find out how long the variety you’re growing should take.
Your eggplants are ready for harvest when it has a deep color that’s appropriate for the variety and smooth, shiny skin surface. There are some miniature varieties out there that only get a few inches in diameter or length, but most of the standard varieties should be harvested when they’re 4-6 inches in length.
You could wait a little longer if you want a larger fruit, but be careful. Overripe eggplant can be bitter, very seedy, and have a tough texture. So you’re better off harvesting sooner rather than later.
Eggplants have a slightly spiny stem, so it’s a good idea to use a sharp knife or pruning shears to cut the fruit free. Leave about 1 inch of the stem when you harvest your eggplant to prevent premature rot.
Now go enjoy the fruit of your labor and patience in your favorite eggplant recipe!
Frequently Asked Questions about Eggplant Growing Stages
I hope this walk-through of the eggplant growth stages has been helpful to you. I know it was a game-changer in my gardening when I learned how to recognize and appreciate all the awesome things my plants were doing in the time between planting a seed and gathering in the harvest. Plants are truly amazing!
I’d love to hear from you! Do you have any other questions about eggplant growing stages, or in taking care of your eggplants? Please feel free to share in the comments- if you’re wondering about it, chances are someone else is too!