The herbaceous, slightly woody and thorny egg tree thrives in the nightshade family. Lovers of Mediterranean and Asian cuisines will appreciate the oblong, black-purple fruit commonly known as eggplant. Since the Solanum melonga is native to the subtropical climate, some hobby gardeners shy away from cultivating the vegetable plant. It is quite possible to provide the vegetable plant with the appropriate framework conditions so that it develops its enchanting flowers and elegantly shiny, club-shaped fruits in the Central European climate. Those who familiarize themselves with the essential cornerstones of the care instructions will master the entire process of the exotic culture from sowing to harvesting in no time at all.


In order for the egg tree, which originates from tropical climes, to thrive in the cooler regions of Central Europe, it needs a growth head start before it is planted in beds, in greenhouses or in tubs. Consequently, sowing starts under glass at the end of January/beginning of February. Our climate does not offer a sufficiently long warm period in summer for direct sowing, because the Solanum melonga takes its time for germination and growth.

  • Soak the seeds in water, chamomile tea or seed bath for 12 hours.
  • Fill a heatable seed tray or seed pots with seed soil.
  • Plant the seeds about 1 cm deep, press down and moisten the soil well.

At a temperature of 25° Celsius during the day and not below 18° Celsius at night, germination begins within 3 to 4 weeks, which can be seen from the small cotyledons. After another 2 to 3 weeks, the first leaves will appear. Depending on how close the seeds are to each other, it will now be too narrow in the cultivation vessel. Consequently, it is time to prick out the strongest eggplants into individual pots. Until mid-May, the young aubergines root in the bright, warm place in their pot while they are kept constantly moist.

If a heatable greenhouse is available, sowing takes place at the end of January/beginning of February. In contrast, the young Solanum melongas are planted out in this protected environment in mid-April at a row spacing of 100 cm.

Tip : Since the amount of daylight available during sowing is very limited, the plants receive additional lighting to prevent the shoots from wilting.

plants in the bed

When the ice saints have said goodbye in mid-May, the early eggplants can be planted out in the bed. Since they get along well with perennials and useful plants, aubergines are ideal for mixed cultivation. Only with other nightshade plants, such as tomatoes or peppers, should the neighborhood or crop rotation be avoided. The location is chosen with care, because aubergines are much more sensitive than other vegetables and ornamental plants.

  • Sunny, warm, sheltered spot with a minimum temperature of 20° Celsius.
  • A place in front of the south wall of the house or in a raised bed is ideal.
  • Humic, nutrient-rich, slightly moist soil.
  • Compost-based potting soil is suitable for cultivation in planters.

Once the decision for the optimal location has been made, the experienced hobby gardener first prepares the soil. Stones, roots and weeds are removed without leaving any residue. The incorporation of compost and horn shavings then enriches the potting soil to give each aubergine a good start to the outdoor season.

  • Dig planting holes at a distance of 60 cm x 60 cm.
  • Lay drainage out of gravel, perlite or pumice on the sole.
  • After planting, the egg tree receives a copious dose of water.
  • Place a stake next to each eggplant and tie them to it.

If the garden is in a rough region, the experienced gardener first spreads a mulch film over the prepared soil, cuts crosses into it at the planting sites and then places the Solanum melonga in the ground. Experience has shown that a high-quality mulch film increases the soil temperature by 4° Celsius, which is very beneficial for growth.

Tip : A garden fleece spread over the nightshade family or a tomato hood pulled over it improves the basic conditions for growth in the bed in the first few weeks.

plants in the bucket

Outdoor cultivation should only be considered if the garden is in a mild wine-growing region or on a sheltered southern slope. Otherwise, planting in a greenhouse or polytunnel is more advisable. In addition, growing in a bucket in a sheltered, warm corner of the balcony or terrace is an option.

  • The planter has a volume of at least 10 liters and a water drain in the bottom.
  • To prevent waterlogging, a drainage made of coarse material is laid over it.
  • The egg tree is planted in the middle, leaving a 5 cm high watering edge.

In the last step, the aubergine receives a dose of irrigation water. Any coasters that may be present are emptied after 20 minutes at the latest.

watering and fertilizing

Since the egg tree is susceptible to root rot, watering requires a delicate touch. If the surface of the substrate feels dry, the roots are watered directly and never over the flowers and leaves. A layer of mulch made of compost brings double the benefits. On the one hand it keeps the soil warm and moist, on the other hand it supplies the heavy feeder with important nutrients. Nettle manure, which is applied 2 to 3 times during the growing season from May to July at a dosage of 5 liters per square meter, is also an excellent fertilizer. During this time, the egg tree receives liquid fertilizer in the bucket once a week in the dosage specified by the manufacturer.

Each watering and fertilizing process is used at the same time to weed. At the same time, the knowledgeable gardener checks whether the egg tree needs to be tied a little higher to the support post. If you would like to do without support aids, crop the main shoot at a height of 40 cm, with the result that the habit is bushier and less high.

Pouring out

As with numerous nightshade plants, the hobby gardener also regulates the growth of a Solanum melonga by pinching out unwanted shoots.

  • When the first flower appears, a main shoot is selected and all side shoots are removed.
  • Only the side shoot immediately below the flower remains on the egg tree.
  • In the course of growth, the experienced gardener leaves a second side shoot.
  • An eggplant in the greenhouse will keep 4 shoots, each with 2 to 3 eggplants.

In mild wine-growing regions or in the greenhouse, where a sufficiently long vegetation phase is expected, the gardener breaks off the first fruits to encourage increased leaf growth, which results in larger aubergines and a richer harvest.

The wisest miserliness bears no fruit if there is a lack of fertilization in an egg plant. Consequently, the gardener shakes each plant at midday as soon as the flowers have appeared. Outdoors, this work is done by the wind.

diseases and pests

The egg tree is threatened by various infections and pests, especially during the summer leading up to harvest. If you know what to look out for thanks to care instructions, you can recognize an infestation in good time so that you can fight it without using chemical preparations.

Colorado potato beetle
The strikingly marked pests infest not only potatoes but also other nightshade plants, so that they also do not spare the Solanum melonga. A close-meshed insect net stretched over the bed has proven to be an effective defensive measure. It is also helpful to collect the Colorado potato beetle early in the morning and dust the larvae with rock flour.

Spider mites
The egg tree prefers a warm, dry climate in which the spider mites also thrive. In the greenhouse or in the polytunnel they besiege the leaves and blossoms during the summer in order to suck out the valuable plant sap. In this case, the plagued garden lover receives active help from the natural enemies of the spider mites, the predatory mites. The beneficial insects are available in specialist shops and are scattered directly on the plants. There they immediately attack the spider mites and migrate away after they have been destroyed.

Gray mold
It seems to be omnipresent in hot, humid summers, because gray mold affects more than 230 host plants. Fighting this fungal infection is difficult, especially if you don’t use chemicals because you’re growing the aubergines for consumption. Affected leaves should be cleaned immediately and disposed of with household waste. In addition, it is advisable to reduce nitrogen fertilization because it favors the growth of fungal spores.

harvest and storage

If the egg tree is cultivated in a greenhouse or polytunnel, a harvest is possible from the end of July/beginning of August with good care. In the field, it can still be a few weeks before the aubergines are ripe. When the skin is shiny and the fruit yields slightly when pressed, they are ready to be eaten. If harvested too early, the flesh is greenish instead of white and contains plenty of solanine. It is important to note in this context that eggplants do not ripen after harvesting. If the weather is already permanently below 20° Celsius, it is advisable to dig up the Solanum together with the half-ripe aubergines, put them in a bucket and let them ripen in a warm house.

Popular Varieties

In Germany, the aubergine is mainly known in the form of a club with a dark purple, shiny skin. Hobby gardeners who are keen to experiment can choose from an extensive selection of varieties.
Aubergine ‘Blue Queen’ (Solanum melongena ‘Blue Queen’)

  • robust, classic variety
  • medium-sized, oblong fruits in light blue to purple

Aubergine ‚Antigua‘ (Solanum melongena ‚Antigua‘)

  • Purple and white striped fruits
  • Growth height 60 cm to 100 cm
  • Harvest outdoors from late July to mid-October

Aubergine ‚Caspar‘ (Solanum melongena ‚Caspar‘)

  • spherical, white fruits
  • beautiful light purple flower
  • Robust variety for the field

Aubergine ‚Little Spooky‘ (Solanum melongena ‚Spooky‘)

  • thin, white fruits up to 20 cm long
  • pink-purple flowers
  • early harvest possible from mid-July

Aubergine ‚Obsidian‘ (Solanum melongena ‚Obsidian‘)

  • round fruits up to 15 cm in diameter
  • fine, fruity-spicy aroma
  • purple-veined green foliage

Aubergine ‚Thai Long Green‘ (Solanum melongena ‚Thai Long Green‘)

  • up to 30 cm long, light green fruits that turn yellow when ripe
  • Growth height 80 cm to 150 cm
  • suitable for cultivation in the open field and in a greenhouse

This is just a small selection from the ever-growing range of varieties, with the breeders trying to reduce the annoying thorns and to tone down the slightly bitter taste of the classic varieties.

If the egg tree finds a warm, sheltered place in the garden, with a little luck you can even grow it in the local regions. Thanks to the pretty flowers and the decorative fruits, the nightshade plant also harmonises wonderfully with plants in perennial beds or decorated in buckets on balconies and terraces. Hobby gardeners who value the richest possible harvest, on the other hand, will prefer cultivation in a greenhouse or polytunnel. Aromatic aubergines, fresh from your own garden, cannot be topped by vegetables from the supermarket.

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