Growing Eggplant in Containers

This is another installment about growing vegetables in containers. Click on Gardening Tutorials to see more in the series.

It’s safe to say I am a big fan of eggplant. With varieties that produce low calorie, high fiber fruits in all sizes, shapes, and colors – what’s not to like? For the last few years I have been experimenting with growing eggplant in containers. I grow them in the ground too in the vegetable garden, but growing in containers is easy, and a great way to have eggplant even if you don’t have a garden plot.

Hansel eggplant growing in container (click on any image to enlarge)

I can think of several advantages to growing eggplant this way. For one thing, they generally produce earlier. Eggplants love heat, and containers warm up faster in spring than garden soil does. For folks in colder climates or areas with short growing seasons, this can be a real advantage. Also, eggplant are susceptible to several diseases, including verticillium wilt, blights, and viruses. By growing in containers with good quality disease-free potting soil these soil borne problems can be avoided.

closeup of Hansel eggplants

The only real disadvantage is one that applies to growing anything in a container, and that is the watering issue. Containers need frequent watering in hot weather, at least daily and sometimes more than once a day. Letting the plants dry out will stress the plants and reduce the overall yield.

Fairy Tale eggplant in container

To successfully grow eggplant in a container, I start with one that is at least 12 inches in diameter. I have found that larger containers up to 16 inches in diameter will grow larger plants, and therefore more fruit. Self-watering containers are great for growing eggplant, and help with the watering issue by providing a reservoir of water for the plant to draw on. Another type of container that is becoming increasingly popular with gardeners is Grow Pots (or Smart Pots). I will be testing peppers and eggplants in Smart Pots this year, and comparing them with plants grown in plastic containers.

closeup of Fairy Tale eggplants

Eggplant is a pretty heavy feeder, so I use a good quality potting soil that has plenty of organic material in it. I also add a little compost to the mix, and some organic, slow release fertilizer (I like Espoma Tomato-Tone). That regimen has worked well for me the last few years, resulting in lots of tasty eggplant.

handful of Hansel eggplant

There are many eggplant varieties that do particularly well in containers. Two of my favorites are Hansel and Fairy Tale, which also happen to be All-America Selections. Gretel is another AAS winner that is good in containers and has slender white fruits.

Fairy Tale eggplants in 5″ bowl

Both Hansel and Fairy Tale bear a multitude of tasty eggplants over the growing season. This year I’m also growing Millionaire and Pot Black in containers. Millionaire is a widely available long slender purple Japanese type, while Pot Black is a new variety that produces small round purple fruits and was bred especially for container culture.

Eggplant is pretty versatile in the kitchen. It regularly plays a starring role here in stir fries and in such dishes as my Grilled Eggplant Parmesan and Grilled Eggplant with Tahini Yogurt Sauce. Grilling eggplant is a great way to prepare some of the smaller fruited varieties. When Fairy Tale is grilled, the flesh almost melts in your mouth.

Grilled Eggplant with Tahini Yogurt Sauce

Grilled Eggplant with Tahini Yogurt Sauce

Growing eggplant in containers is an easy way to add this wonderful vegetable to your own gardening repertoire, if you’re not already growing it. And if you’re not growing eggplants yourself from seed, your local garden center should be able to supply you with all the plants and supplies you need.

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16 Responses to Growing Eggplant in Containers

  1. Jenny says:

    I love eggplants from their large leafs, pretty flowers and of course fruit but they are not easy to grow up here for some reason. Maybe because it’s never really that hot to get them to grow properly. I’ll try again this year because I love Ichiban variety 🙂

  2. kathy says:

    Thanks for this tutorial, Dave! It inspired me to try growing my own eggplant in containers too!

  3. Liz says:

    I think eggplants make a really pretty pot plant. I grow mine in 40cm (about 16 inch) containers and they do really well. Although I usually grow mine in containers I put a couple of plants in the ground this year and was amazed by how big the plants got. Growing them in pots does retard their growth a bit but in all honesty although the plants were a lot bigger I don’t think I got that many (if any) more fruit.

  4. Bee Girl says:

    Thanks for the tips and information! I have a couple of eggplant starts that I was tyring to find room for in the beds…but now I don’t have to! Pots it is! 🙂

  5. Norma Chang says:

    Hello Dave,
    May I have permission to use your Fairy Tale eggplant in container photo for a vegetable class I am presenting at Dutchess County Cornell Cooperative Extention? I will give you photo credit.
    Thanks. Norma

  6. peelee says:

    Thanx for the info. I’m trying eggplant for 1st time this year and using a pot. (lack of garden space in apt. complex) I’m going to use the black pot as it sounds like eggplant likes heat. The black pot will absorb more heat for roots.

  7. Theresa says:

    How deep the pot (or planter) has to be for eggplants and bell pepper?
    How many eggplants and bell pepper can I have in a wine barrel?

    • Dave says:

      I think the container needs to be at least 12 inches deep. And you could put two or three plants in a wine barrel.

  8. Tracy says:

    I started an eggplant from seed two years ago in a pot. I had to transplant it into another bigger pot. It is two years old and still in my greenhouse growing taller and taller. It always get a lot of blossoms on it also. However, in the 2 years I’ve had it, I’ve never gotten any eggplant fruit. What am I doing wrong? It gets pretty hot in my greenhouse as I live in Arizona. Thank you!

    • Dave says:

      Eggplant is normally wind pollinated. If the plant is in the greenhouse, the blossoms are probably not getting pollinated. You can take a small paintbrush (craft or hobby size) and move it around inside the blossom.

      Too hot daytime or nighttime temps can also cause fruit to not set. Too much nitrogen is also a problem. If it were me, I would move it outside when weather is favorable. I have great luck with Fairy Tale and Hansel grown in containers outside.

      • Tracy says:

        Thank you very much! I will give these things a try.

      • Pat McGlone says:

        I have four eggplants in a raised bed. I did not get the yield I hoped for – only 4 eggplants, but do have two ready to pick. I was thinking of digging up the healthiest plant and potting it and putting it in the greenhouse we constructed this year. I’m in KY. The greenhouse is built using a 10 x 10 gazebo frame with two doors. I plan to put a light in it this winter since the days are shorter, and also use an Eden Pure heater when it’s really cold. I did move a zucchini and yellow squash to pots and am getting new leaves. Don’t know if they will produce vegetables, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. I started peppers and tomatoes from seeds on the 10th, and they are now about 2″ tall. I will have to repot them in another month or so. I do have blooms on the eggplants now – how long do they continue to produce? It seemed like through the summer months they didn’t do well, but have now sprung to life!!

        Thanks for any advice you can give me.


      • Dave says:

        Hi Pat,

        FWIW, it has not been a good year for eggplant here either. I regularly move potted eggplants and peppers into the greenhouse to extend the season. I think they will continue to produce outside until temperatures get too cold for their liking. Here’s a quote from U.C. about eggplant production: “Plant growth slows, and pollination problems
        occur at temperatures below 62°F (17°C) or above 95°F(35°C). Flowering is not affected by day length.”

        So I think the key to getting them to keep producing will be to keep them warm. I hope that helps a bit!

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