Solanum melongena
Common Name: eggplant
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Solanaceae
Native Range: Sri Lanka
Zone: 9 to 12
Height: 2.00 to 4.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: Flowers not showy
Bloom Description: Violet
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Annual, Vegetable
Leaf: Colorful
Fruit: Showy, Edible

Culture

Eggplants are cold-sensitive and require a long warm season for best results. Plant seeds in sunny warm location in peat pots 8 to 10 weeks before transplanting into garden after all danger of frost is past and night temperatures are consistently at or above 65 degrees F. Eggplant roots are subject to cold damage and plants seldom recover from cold snaps. Plant in full sun in fertile, well-drained soil. Do not permit seedlings or young plants to suffer from low temperature or drought. Mulching between plants is useful. Space plants 18 to 24" apart with 30 to 36" between rows. Plants thrive in the heat of summer. Depending on the size of fruit you wish to harvest, pinch out terminal growth and blossoms to allow up to 6 fruits to mature or allow all fruits to set and harvest when small. For mature fruits, harvest after some color appears but always while fruits still have their glossy shine.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Sometimes resembling little trees, these robust-sized plants up to 3' high and almost that wide can have purple-tinged green leaves, drooping violet 1 1/2-inch flowers and, depending on the cultivar, fruits from grape to almost football size in white, yellow, red, green, violet or purple.

Problems

Subject to problems similar to other Solanaceae crops (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers), including Verticillium wilt. Avoid these problems by planting resistant cultivars and rotating with non-Solanaceae crops. Flea beetles, tomato hornworms, Colorado potato beetles and cutworms can be problems.

Garden Uses

Eggplants can be prepared in many ways -- in stews, roasted or grilled, sauteed, stir-fried, breaded and fried, baked, pickled or stuffed. They can be spectacular centerpieces in large containers and very effective in flower garden settings.