QUESTION: Can you grow eggplants from cuttings? Can I start new plants this way? -Tim S.
ANSWER: Growing eggplants from seed can take a long time, generally 100 to 120 days after sowing. To cut off some of the time it takes to cultivate eggplants, some gardeners opt to grow them from cuttings instead of seed. To grow eggplants from cuttings, first take your cuttings from existing plants at the end of the growing season and start them indoors. Wait a couple of weeks after the last frost to ensure that warm weather is on its way before moving them into the garden as eggplants need warm soil in order to grow.
The supplies you will need to grow eggplants from cuttings include: A mason jar, a one-gallon plant container, potting soil, organic compost, mulch, garden stakes (6-by-½ inch wide), and a roll of twine.
First, fill the mason jar ⅔ of the way full with water and place the eggplant cuttings inside the jar. Do not put more than two or three cuttings in each jar. Refill the jar as the water evaporates, checking on it daily and refilling when needed. Roots should start to appear within two to three weeks.
Fill a gallon-sized pot two-thirds of the way full of potting soil. Remove the cuttings with new roots from the mason jar and plant them into the gallon-sized pot taking care not to cover the cutting above the new root area.
Protect the young seedling by keeping the container indoors until all threat of frost has passed. Two weeks after the last frost in cool climates, spread a plastic ground cover on the garden bed to help warm the soil in preparation for transplanting the cuttings.
Before transplanting the cuttings, improve the garden soil by adding compost to create the low acidity level that eggplants need to thrive. Be sure to select an area that has sufficient drainage or take action to improve the drainage in the area that you choose. Then, plant the cuttings one inch deep and one foot apart in a row. If you have multiple rows, space them two feet apart to allow room for the developing and mature plants.
Stake your cuttings with wooden garden stakes which are six feet long and a half an inch thick. Use twine to secure the cuttings gently to the stakes. Eggplants tend to produce heavy fruits which can droop and break as they mature and stakes will help to support the weight of the fruit and keep them from bowing and breaking.
Finally, add a two to three inch layer of mulch around the plants to seal in the warmth and help retain moisture. Fertilize the eggplants with organic compost after the third week, and twice a month during the growing season. Side-dress the rows by working in the compost six inches to the side of each plant. Mix the compost into the soil with a rake and irrigate the rows.