Planting aubergines: where, how & the best companion plants

Regina
Regina
Regina
Regina

I studied horticultural sciences at university and in my free time you can find me in my own patch of land, growing anything with roots. I am particularly passionate about self-sufficiency and seasonal food.

Favourite fruit: quince, cornelian cherry and blueberries
Favourite vegetables: peas, tomatoes and garlic

Aubergines love to grow in sunny, warm locations. Find out what is important when it comes to planting and growing your own aubergines.

Planting aubergine plants
When planting aubergines, the location and timing are crucial [Photo: Alexander Knyazhinsky/ Shutterstock.com]

The aubergine (Solanum melongena) is a nightshade plant (Solanaceae) that requires warmth, but thanks to its many uses and the availability of robust and tolerant aubergine varieties, it is increasingly being grown in the garden and in pots on patios and balconies. Discover how to grow aubergines successfully at home with our tips and tricks.

Planting aubergines: the right location

The right location is essential for growing high-yielding aubergines. Aubergine plants grow best in well-drained, medium-heavy, nutrient-rich soil with plenty of water in full sun. This article explains what you should pay special attention to when planting aubergines in a greenhouse, outdoors, in a pot or in a raised bed.

Growing aubergines in the greenhouse or outdoors?

It is possible to grow aubergines in both a greenhouse and outdoors. The variety chosen and the weather conditions are key to success.

For aubergines that will be grown outdoors, choose varieties that are tolerant of cooler weather, rainfall, and resistant to certain pathogens, such as late blight (Phytophthora infestans). When planting aubergines outdoors, cover them with a black mulch film at first to provide a warmer environment for the plants.

It is better to cultivate varieties that are sensitive and require heat in the greenhouse to obtain healthy plants with a satisfactory yield.

Black mulch film covering the soil under aubergine plants
Black mulch film helps warm up the soil and keeps it moister for longer

Planting aubergines in pots

Aubergine plants also grow well in pots on the balcony or terrace. It is critical to choose a large enough pot with at least 10 litres of soil volume and good water drainage. For sprawling, tall-growing varieties, use a 20-litre planter. A larger pot not only makes watering easier in summer, as more moisture is stored in the soil, but it also increases the supply of nutrients, which is essential for the highly nutritious aubergines. Choose a sheltered, sunny location on a south-facing wall so that the aubergine plant can benefit from the heat radiation.

Aubergine plant in a pot
Aubergines can be grown well in a pot in a warm location [Photo: Paul Maguire/ Shutterstock.com]

How to grow aubergines in a raised bed

To grow aubergines in a raised bed, opt for rather small varieties that also feel at home outdoors. Stake the aubergine plants to support them because a summer thunderstorm can easily knock them over or cause shoots to break off.

Aubergines planted in a raised bed
You can also plant out aubergines in the raised bed [Photo: Viktorya Telminova/ Shutterstock.com]

How to grow aubergines from seed

Aubergines can easily be grown from seed. As nightshade plants need a long time to develop, aubergine seeds can be sown from the end of January to the beginning of March. To do this, fill a suitable growing container with a low-nutrient potting soil, such as our Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost. The peat-free substrate, enriched with perlite and coconut fibre, retains moisture and promotes rooting of the seedlings.

Organic Herb & Seedling Compost, 20L
Organic Herb & Seedling Compost, 20L
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(4.8/5)
  • Perfect for herbs as well as sowing, propagating & transplanting
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Lightly compact the potting soil and then sow the aubergine seeds in it. The sowing depth for aubergines is about 1 – 2 cm. So, cover the seeds with 1 – 2 cm of substrate. Water thoroughly but carefully and place the seed tray on a warm, sunny windowsill. Cover with cling film or a small, clear plastic hood to increase the humidity and make it easier for the aubergine plants to germinate. At 20 to 25 °C the first seedlings can be seen after 7 – 21 days.

As soon as the seeds germinate and the first real leaves appear after the cotyledons, prick out the aubergine plants and transfer them to nutrient-rich substrate. Because the seedlings will spend some time in the pot, it is best to use pots with a diameter of at least 9 cm. Keep aubergine seedlings in a warm, sunny spot at a minimum of 16 to 18 °C until planting and slowly harden them off outdoors from mid-April.

Aubergine plant seedlings
Grow aubergines early in the year on a warm windowsill [Photo: kryska/ Shutterstock.com]

Planting out aubergines

From the beginning of May, the aubergine seedlings can move into the greenhouse. For planting aubergines outdoors or in pots on balconies and terraces, wait until the Ice Saints in mid-May have passed. Aubergines love nutrient-rich soil, so it is best to mix mature compost or a slow-release fertiliser such as our Plantura Tomato Food before planting. The animal-free fertiliser granules provide your aubergines with essential nutrients for the first few months after planting, promoting healthy growth and abundant flowering.

Dig a sufficiently deep planting hole or fill your planter with nutrient-rich potting soil such as our Plantura Organic Tomato & Vegetable Compost. This sustainably produced substrate can be used not only for growing plants in pots, but also to improve garden soil that is too heavy, light, or poor as well as to fill raised beds. Remove the aubergine seedling carefully from its pot and place it in the planting hole. Unlike tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum), aubergines are not planted lower than they were in their previous planter. Fill with soil and lightly press around the plant. Finally, stake the aubergine and water generously.

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Organic Tomato & Vegetable Compost, 40L
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£16.99

Aubergine plant spacing

Plant the aubergine seedlings 60 to 100 cm apart. The optimal plant spacing for aubergines depends very much on the vigour of the chosen variety. When planting aubergines in tubs, plant one per container.

Do aubergines need a climbing aid?

Aubergines, like their tomato relatives, require a climbing aid because the plants can grow up to 150 cm high and nearly as wide. The fruits can grow to be quite heavy, weighing more than 1 kg at times. A support keeps the plants upright and prevents injuries from tearing or bending caused by heavy fruits. Even small-growing varieties with low fruit weight, as well as aubergines grown in pots, should be supported so that neither the fruits nor the leaves fall to the ground. Bamboo or hazel sticks make suitable stakes, and they can also be tied up with twine made of sisal, jute or similar. Tips and detailed instructions for supporting aubergines can be found in our dedicated article on tying up tomatoes.

At a glance: Preparing and planting aubergines

  • Sow from late January to early March on a warm, sunny windowsill; sowing depth 1 – 2 cm at 20 – 25 °C; germination after 7 – 21 days.
  • Prick out into nutrient-rich potting soil when the first real leaves appear.
  • Harden off aubergine seedlings outdoors from mid-April.
  • From the beginning of May, plant the aubergine in the greenhouse; from mid-May outdoors and in containers for balcony and terrace; planting distance 60 – 100 cm depending on the vigour of the variety.
  • When planting, add mature compost or slow-release fertiliser.
  • Stake or tie plants up to support them.
  • Use black mulch film at the beginning to keep warm outdoors.
Aubergine plant growing with climbing aid
All aubergines should be given a support after planting [Photo: Peter Turner Photography/ Shutterstock.com]

Mixed culture: aubergine companion plants

Do not plant aubergines together with fast-growing vegetables, as they grow slowly in the early stages and compete poorly. It is not recommended to plant aubergines next to courgettes (Cucurbita pepo var. pepo convar. giromontiina) nor beside pumpkins (Cucurbita). In a mixed culture, do not plant close relatives in the immediate vicinity to reduce the chance of pests and disease from spreading. As a result, it is not recommended to plant aubergines and peppers (Capsicum annuum), nor aubergine and tomatoes together.

Good companion plants for aubergines, for example:

  • Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis)
  • Broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica)
  • Cabbage (Brassica oleraceae convar. capitata)
  • Lettuce (Lactuca sativa var. capitata)
  • Curled lettuce (Lactuca sativa var. crispa)
  • Spinach (Spinacia oleracea)

After growing aubergines, do a four-year crop rotation and do not plant any other nightshade plants in this location during this time.

After you have finished planting the aubergines and they are growing successfully due to your diligent care, you can look forward to a bountiful harvest in summer. Find out everything you need to know about harvesting and storing aubergines.

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