QUESTION: Do you need to prune eggplants? Will it make for a larger harvest? -Tim P.
ANSWER: Eggplants, like fellow nightshade family member tomatoes benefit from staking and pruning. In fact, eggplant actually produces more fruit when pruned. Pruning eggplant can also improve the fruit quality of the plant, and decrease the plant’s susceptibility to disease. Unlike tomatoes, which are pruned down to a single stalk, eggplant should be pruned to three main branches.
Prune your eggplant early so that a leaf canopy forms before fruiting to prevent sunburning the fruit. Continue to prune your eggplant periodically throughout the growing season or severely if production drops off for a new flush of leaves and flowers.
Using a sharp, clean pair of hand shears, prune your staked eggplant to three branches. The two main branches are the main division of the plant. Leave one branch below this division. Suckers are sprouts that develop between the main stalk and a leaf node. You will want to remove all suckers from your eggplant. If allowed to grow, suckers will produce branches that are like plants themselves, each with a main stem and side branches. Place the blade of your hand shears next to the stalk and clip out the suckers one by one.
After the eggplant begins to flower, clip the lower leaflets from the main branch. Removing these leaves boosts air circulation and allows light to penetrate the canopy. Continue to prune away suckers throughout the entire growing season to boost plant vigor and increase food production.