Eggplant Growth Stages: How Fast Does Eggplant Grow?

Not sure how long it will take your eggplant to mature? In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen takes a deeper look at how long it will take your eggplant to grow, and examine the life cycle of your garden grown eggplants this season.

eggplant growth stages

Contents

Eggplant (Solanum melongena) is an easy-to-grow warm-season crop. If you have a garden plot, a raised bed, or even a large container, you can grow eggplant. Give these plants plenty of warmth, bright sunlight, and rich, moist, well-drained soil, and you will be well on your way to your first harvest.

There are many different varieties of eggplant available to grow that you probably won’t see in your local supermarket. If you want an eggplant that looks like an actual egg on a plant, try a rounded white variety. If you like giant stuffed baked eggplant boats, try a large fleshy variety.

But if you are more interested in stirfries and sauteed veggies, I would recommend a long narrow variety. You can find eggplants in white, green, and assorted purple hues.

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Eggplant is a garden staple and is easy to grow.

You can easily grow eggplants from seed or get a head start by buying young plants from a nursery or garden center. The most difficult thing about growing eggplant successfully may be that they are a favorite food of many pests. Keep a close eye on your plants throughout the growing season and be proactive about handling any new problems.

Once you harvest your eggplant, you can look forward to your own tasty home-grown dishes. Eggplant is an excellent summer food to cook on a grill. You can also roast, broil, bake, or saute it. These plants love the summer heat and will provide you with plenty of eggplants throughout the summer and until the first frost.

If you’re ready to start growing, read on to learn more about eggplant’s different growth stages and what you can expect during each stage.

9 Growth Stages of Eggplant Plants

StageKey Notes
Selecting Seeds– Start seeds indoors 8-9 weeks before the last frost
– Sow ¼-½ inch deep
– Sow 2-3 seeds per pot
– Keep warm and moist
Sowing Seeds– First green shoot emerges above the soil
– Tiny green leaflets
– Appear 6-12 days after planting
– Last 2-3 weeks
– Keep warm and moist
Germination– Seed softens and opens
– Tiny root emerges
– You probably won’t see this stage
– Seeds germinate 5-10 days after planting
– Keep warm and moist
Cotyledons– Appear 7-14 days after cotyledons
– Last for the rest of the plant life
– Wavy edges, slightly rough to tough
– Beginning of rapid growth
– Time to thin seedlings
– Time to transplant into the garden
True Leaves– Appear 7-14 days after cotyledons
– Last for the rest of the plant life
– Wavy edges, slightly rough to tough
– Beginning of rapid growth
– Time to thin seedlings
– Time to transplant into garden
Vegetative growth– Fast growth rate
– Leaves grow larger
– Watch for pests and diseases
Consider companion planting
– 1 to 2 inches of water per week
Flowering– 60+ days after starting seeds
– Plants continue flowering until frost
– Plant maturity
– Pale purple, star-shaped flowers
– Flowers attract pollinators
– Time to fertilize
Fruiting– Fruits develop after flowering
– 7-14 days from flower to harvest
– Fruits are thick and fleshy
– Continue regular watering
– Fertilize again
Harvest– 65-100 days from seed to harvest
– Ripe fruits are firm but with slight give
– Harvest at peak
– Old fruits are bitter with tough seeds
– Cut stems to harvest fruits
– Enjoy cooking with eggplant!

It can take anywhere from 65 to 100 days to grow an eggplant from seed to harvest. If you start your plants from seed, you can observe each stage.

If you start with nursery-grown stock, you will be starting at either the “True Leaves” or “Vegetative Growth” stage, depending on how mature your plant is at the time of purchase.

Some varieties mature faster than others, and plants will grow fastest under ideal conditions. Let’s dig in a little deeper and learn more about each stage.

Eggplant growing basics

LightFull sun, at least 6 or more hours of direct sunlight each day.
TemperatureEggplants like it hot! Ideal daytime temperatures are anywhere between 65°F and 95°F. Plants are sensitive to cold and will die after a frost.
Soil typeRich, loamy, well-drained.
Soil moistureConsistent soil moisture is ideal. 1 to 2 inches of water per week.
Soil pH6.0 to 7.0
FertilizerFertilize at flowering and again during fruiting. Use rich organic compost or vegetable gardening fertilizer. Follow the directions on the package.
Weed and pest controlRemove weeds from your garden area. Pests can be challenging to control. Hand-pick larger pests. Try to avoid chemical insecticides that also kill beneficial insects.

Selecting Seeds

Close-up of scattered eggplant seeds from a paper bag on a white background. Seeds are small, oval, bright orange. The paper bag shows a ripe variety of eggplant.
To grow eggplant from seed, choose the variety based on your preferred cooking and appearance.

Before you can grow an eggplant from seed, you must select which variety you want to try. There are an assortment of unique eggplant varieties, and all will have the same basic growing requirements and stages of growth.

If you like making and eating stuffed eggplant, try one of the large meaty varieties. If you prefer to slice and fry your eggplants, try a long thin, Asian variety. If you want something unique and different, try an oval-shaped white eggplant that looks like the plant is growing eggs – reputed to be the origin of the plant’s common name! There are plenty of fun varieties in shades of white, green, and purple, long and thin, broad and plump, or small and rounded.

Eggplant seeds are pale brown in color, small, flat, and round. They should remain viable for 4 to 6 years if stored in a cool, dry place. Seed viability will decrease over time, but you can still grow a plant as long as the seeds sprout. If your seeds are old, moldy, or musty smelling, you’re probably better off buying fresh seeds.

Sowing Seeds

Close-up of sown eggplant seeds in moist soil, in rows. Seeds are small, rounded, orange-beige. The soil is black and very wet.
For successful eggplant planting, start seeds indoors in small pots with quality soil.

Once you have your seeds, you will need to plant them. You will probably find it easiest to start seeds indoors because you will have the most control over temperature and soil moisture.

Eggplants are a warm-season crop, so start the seeds indoors 8 to 9 weeks before the last average spring frost date. If you don’t want to start your plants from seed, you can also buy young plants from a garden center to transplant directly into your garden after all danger of frost has passed.

If you do start with seeds, prepare several small seed-starting pots with high-quality seed-starting soil. Fill the pots with soil and then sow 2 to 3 seeds per pot.

Push them ¼ to ½ inch deep into the soil and moisten the soil in the pots. Keep the pots warm (anywhere from 65°F to 90°F) and moist while waiting for the seeds to germinate.

Place your pots in a warm, sunny window or use a grow light. A seed-starting heating mat can be really handy to help keep the seeds warm and encourage germination.

If using a heating mat, check the pots frequently and water them as often as necessary to keep the soil moist.

Germination

Close-up of a germinated eggplant seed in a starter tray filled with moist soil. The sprout is small, has a short stem and a pair of thin, pale green, slightly hairy leaves.
Under favorable conditions, eggplant seeds typically germinate within 5 to 10 days.

In favorable conditions, eggplant seeds take 5 to 10 days to germinate. During germination, the tough outer layer of the seed softens and cracks open to reveal the first rootlet. The root naturally grows down into the soil to anchor the seed in place.

Because germination all happens underground, you won’t see this growth stage from casual observation. The seed will sprout a tiny white root that will quickly grow longer and soon start to make tiny branches, and it seeks moisture, nutrients, and anchor points in the soil.

Keep the soil warm and moist so the roots will continue to grow. A tiny green sprout will appear within a few days of root formation and poke up through the soil surface. You will then move on to the next stage, cotyledons!

Cotyledons

Close-up of eggplant sprouts in a square container with moist soil. The sprouts are small, have thin pale green stems and a pair of cotyledons. Cotyledons are the first leaves to be lanceolate with pointed tips.
Following seed germination, cotyledons typically appear within 6 to 12 days.

After the seed germinates, you should have only a few more days to wait until you see the cotyledons. After planting seeds, if the conditions are favorable, you should see the cotyledons within approximately 6 to 12 days.

The cotyledons are the first seed leaves of a plant. They don’t look anything like the true leaves that form next. Eggplant cotyledons typically appear as a pair of thin, pointed leaves. Occasionally, you will see one with three seed leaves.

These tiny plants are very sensitive during this phase. The leaves and stems will be very tender and vulnerable to drying out, extreme sun, or cold.

Keep them warm and moist and check on them frequently to be sure they don’t dry out for too long. The cotyledon stage will last approximately 14 to 21 days, but before they disappear, you will probably see the emergence of the first true leaves.

True Leaves

Close-up of young eggplant seedlings in a starter seed tray on a light windowsill. Seedlings have pairs of oval bright green leaves with slightly wavy edges. The tray has rounded deep cells filled with soil.
These oval-shaped leaves gradually grow larger, with wavy edges and a slightly fuzzy texture.

The first true leaves appear around 7 to 14 days after the cotyledons. The better the conditions, the faster the plant will develop. And once the true leaves form, you will notice your plant grows faster. At this point, it has already put in the energy needed to sprout and start its new life, and now all the energy is invested in growth.

The true leaves of an eggplant are somewhat oval-shaped with gradually tapering tips. The first couple of true leaves will be relatively small but will start growing larger. The larger leaves will be wavy around the edges and slightly fuzzy or rough to the touch.

When your plant has grown a couple of true leaves, it’s time to do some thinning. If you have more than one plant growing in a pot, remove all but the healthiest-looking seedling.

Use sharp scissors to snip the stems of the plants you are removing. If you pull them out by the roots, you will likely disturb the roots of the plant you are trying to cultivate.

Transplanting Young Plants

Close-up of male hands transplanting young eggplant seedlings in the garden. The seedlings have long hairy stems and medium oval green leaves with slightly wavy edges and a rough texture. The soil is loose, dark brown.
Transplant the young plants into well-prepared garden soil, ensuring they are spaced around 18 inches apart.

When plants are around 5 inches tall, and all danger of frost has passed, you can start preparing them for transplant outdoors. The first thing to do is get them used to harsher outdoor conditions; this process is called hardening off.

To begin, take your young plants outside, where they can experience some limited exposure to bright sunlight. Put them in a location protected from strong winds and curious animals. Bring them indoors at night if the temperature drops below 55°F.

Allow your plants some protected outdoor time every day for a week, exposing them to slightly more sunlight each day. After a week of hardening off, your young plants should be ready to transplant into the garden.

Eggplants can easily be grown in a raised bed, container, or traditional garden rows. Eggplants love hot weather, so wait until daytime temperatures are around 70°F before transplanting them outside.

Dig a hole in your prepared garden site with rich, fertile, well-drained soil, and carefully transfer the young plant into the hole. Space plants about 18 inches apart to give them plenty of space to grow.

Vegetative Growth

Close-up of growing eggplant plants in rows in a garden. The soil is covered with thick layers of straw mulch. The eggplant plant has large, oval leaves with a slightly fuzzy and rough texture. The leaves are dark green with wavy edges and slightly purple veins on the underside.
Providing ample sunlight and keeping the soil consistently moist is crucial.

Once your young plants have developed a few true leaves, they will start rapid vegetative growth. The roots grow quickly below the surface, and your plant regularly produces new leaves in preparation for flowering and fruit development.

The green leaves absorb sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide and undergo photosynthesis to create oxygen and sugar energy that the plant needs to grow.

During this time, your plant will need plenty of bright sunlight. Eggplants should be in a location with full sun, receiving at least six or more hours of direct sunlight daily.

Keep the soil moist as well. Eggplants need 1 to 2 inches of water each week. If you don’t receive that much rainfall, do some supplemental watering around the base of the plants to ensure they get a good deep drink of water. You can also apply an organic mulch around your plants to help maintain soil moisture.

Keep a close watch for insect pests the entire time your plant is growing. Numerous insects eat eggplant plants, and these pests can cause a great deal of damage. Watch for holes in leaves, leaves becoming thin and “veiny” looking, wilting and leaf curling, and insects on the plants.

Pests and diseases

Top view, close-up of many Colorado potato beetles on an eggplant plant in a sunny garden. the plant has large oval leaves of pale green color with wavy edges. The Colorado potato beetle is a small insect with a distinctive appearance. It has an oval body with bright stripes and patterns. The head and chest are yellow, and the wings alternate black and yellow stripes. The beetle is round and has six legs.
The Colorado beetle is a common insect pest that can cause damage to eggplant plants.

Flea Beetles

  • Small black beetles
  • They chew numerous small holes in leaves
  • These can be particularly devastating to seedlings and young plants
  • Older plants are more tolerant but still receive extensive damage
  • Very common
  • Difficult to control

Potato Beetles

  • Medium-sized orange, white, and black-striped beetles
  • Larvae are soft-bodied, bright orange with black spots
  • Larvae and adults feed on eggplant and potato leaves
  • Chew holes around edges of leaves
  • Difficult to control
  • Hand-pick insects and drop them into soapy water

Hornworms

  • Large green caterpillars
  • Feed voraciously on leaves
  • Common on tomatoes and eggplants
  • Quickly consume entire leaves and can defoliate smaller plants
  • Remove by hand (they may look daunting, but these caterpillars are harmless to humans)

Stinkbugs

  • Large insects with prominent sucking mouthparts
  • Suck juices from leaves
  • Damaged leaves and fruits develop dead brown spots
  • Remove by hand and drop into soapy water

Blight

  • Many forms of blight attack eggplants
  • A fungal infection that affects all parts of the plant
  • Causes severe wilting, blackened dead leaves, stems, and fruits
  • Quickly kills plants
  • Don’t allow your plants to sit in wet soil
  • Rotate crops

Bacterial Wilt

  • Bacterial infection
  • Causes sudden wilting and death
  • Leaves, stems, and fruits turn brown
  • Rotate crops
  • Avoid planting eggplants, tomatoes, or potatoes in successive years

Many insects feed on eggplant leaves, and they can be very difficult to control. You may be tempted to buy some broad-spectrum insecticide and spray your plants regularly, but remember that not all insects are bad.

Eggplants (and most other garden plants!) rely on pollinators to produce fruits. Broad-spectrum herbicides will kill beneficial insects as well as pests. If you must use a pesticide, spray sparingly and in the late evening when pollinators are less active.

Tips for a Healthy Crop

Crop rotationDon’t grow eggplants, tomatoes, or potatoes in the same place two years in a row. These crops all attract many of the same pests. Rotate them with other crops to discourage repeated infestations.
Soil moistureKeep an eye on soil moisture. Eggplants shouldn’t be sitting in wet soil, but they do like consistently moist soil. Water regularly so plants receive 1 to 2 inches of water each week.
Be proactiveCheck your plants regularly. If you notice any signs of illness or disease, take appropriate steps to correct the issue quickly so it doesn’t get worse or spread to nearby plants.
Keep area cleanClean up debris and dead plant matter. Insect pests and slugs like to hide out in leafy debris.

Companion Plants

A close-up of a garden bed with growing rows of eggplants and garlic as companion plants. The eggplant plant has upright purple stems with large green oval leaves with wavy edges. The fruits are large, oval, oblong, with a glossy dark purple skin.
Practice companion planting with eggplants by growing pest-repellent plants.

Another way to benefit your garden plants is to practice companion planting. Companion plants are different species that grow well together and benefit each other in some ways. Companion plants can provide support, shade, enhance soil, attract pollinators, or repel pests.

Because eggplants attract so many pests, try growing companion plants nearby that help repel pests. Some excellent pest-deterrent plants include marigold, oregano, and kohlrabi. You can plant borage nearby to help attract pollinators, and you can plant beans to help enrich the soil.

Flowering

Close-up of an eggplant flower on a blurred green background. The flower is small, star-shaped, with purple papery petals and a bright orange center.
Eggplants flower in about 60 days, signaling maturity for fruit production.

An eggplant may start flowering in as little as 60 days after seeding. As long as the plant remains healthy, flowering will likely continue until the first frost. Flowering signals that the plant has reached maturity and is ready to produce fruits.

Eggplant flowers are pale purple and star-shaped. The flowers are self-fertile, meaning that a single plant can produce fruits. But you will almost always have a better yield if the flowers are cross-pollinated with another nearby eggplant. Once you start seeing flowers, watch for the beginnings of the first fruits!

Eggplants are fairly heavy feeders and will greatly benefit from fertilizer applications during their growing season. When your eggplant plant starts to flower, add some rich organic compost around the sides of the plant and carefully work it into the soil.

You can also use a general-purpose vegetable gardening fertilizer and follow the directions on the package. Be careful not to over-fertilize, however, which will cause the plants to develop plenty of leaves, to the detriment of fruit production.

Fruiting

Close-up of a ripe eggplant fruit on a bush in a garden, against a blurred green background. The fruit is medium in size, oblong, oval, covered with a smooth, glossy purple-black skin.
Once eggplant plants flower, it takes around one to two weeks for the fruits to fully mature.

After your plants flower, developing fully mature fruits will take a week or two. The fruits will continue to grow but don’t wait until they are as large as possible. Fruits are the most tender and sweet when they are young. Older fruits will tend to be bitter with larger, tougher seeds.

There are various eggplants with different colored, shaped, and sized fruits. Some eggplants actually look like white eggs growing on the plant. Other white eggplants are oblong and longer. Another variety of eggplant produces fruits that are small green orbs.

The most familiar varieties of eggplant produce either thick meaty fruits or long slender fruits that range in color from pale lilac to deep purplish-black or a combination of purple and white. Enjoy watching them grow because soon, it will be time to harvest!

Harvest

Close-up of a man's hand picking a ripe eggplant in a sunny garden. The plant has beautiful large oval leaves with wavy edges. The fruit is medium-sized, firm, oval in shape, with a bright purple glossy smooth skin.
Ripe fruits have smooth, firm skin and small, tender seeds.

Eggplants require anywhere from 65 to 100 days from sowing seed until the first harvest. The timing will depend on your eggplant variety and growing conditions. You may need to do a bit of guesswork to figure out exactly when you should harvest the fruits. When the fruits start to look like the ripe ones you expect, it’s probably a good time to harvest them.

A ripe fruit will look ready and appear in its prime. If you feel it, the skin will be smooth and firm. The fruit will also feel firm but not rock hard; it will have a very slight give to it.

Old fruits will become soft and wrinkly. Soft brown spots on the fruits can indicate that they are overripe or diseased. Inside, ripe fruit will have small, tender seeds that will most likely be white or off-white in color. An old fruit will have larger, darker seeds that start to feel hard.

To harvest an eggplant, hold onto the fruit with one hand and snip the stem just above the fruit with sharp scissors or pruning shears. Don’t try to pull or twist to remove the fruit. This will damage the plant, and you may end up pulling the entire plant from the ground.

Now that you’ve harvested some eggplants, what will you do with them? Store your eggplants in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for 1 to 2 weeks, and plan for an eggplant feast!

While a raw eggplant is technically edible, most people don’t eat them raw because they are pretty bitter. Eggplant tastes best when cooked. You can bake it, sautee it, roast it, grill it, use it in stirfry, or bake it until soft and mash it into a creamy dip (“baba ganoush” is my favorite way to eat eggplant!).

Final Thoughts

If you are a fan of eggplant, you can grow your own. If you have a full-size garden, a single raised bed, or even a large container, this plant grows well in any sunny, moist, warm location.

Take care of your plants by watering them regularly, giving them some extra nutrition while they’re flowering and fruiting, and managing any pests and diseases before they get out of control. Once your plants are producing fruits, enjoy your home-grown produce in many delicious dishes.

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