Can You Hand Pollinate An Eggplant: Tips For Pollinating Eggplants By Hand

Can You Hand Pollinate An Eggplant: Tips For Pollinating Eggplants By Hand

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Eggplant blossoms need pollination in order to produce an eggplant. Generally speaking, they only need a draft of light wind or stirring of the surrounding air caused by the gardener walking nearby, or as in my case, the cat chasing bugs through the garden. On occasion, however, something goes awry — an eggplant pollination problem as it were. This has led me to wonder if I may be of assistance; in other words, how can you hand pollinate eggplant flowers?

Can You Hand Pollinate an Eggplant?

Just as it may be difficult to explain how babies are made to your child, understanding the exact mechanics required to produce fruit on an eggplant can be complex. Basically, there are two types of plants — those that need both male and female blossoms to produce and those that have only one type of flower that contains everything it needs to bloom.

The latter are referred to as “perfect,” “bisexual”, or “complete” flowers. The former count zucchini, cucumber, and watermelon among them, while “perfect” blooms include eggplant and beans. The process of hand pollinating eggplants is slightly different than for squash or cukes, but yes, pollinating eggplants by hand is definitely doable.

How to Hand Pollinate Eggplant Flowers

Eggplant flowers contain both pollen producing anthers and pollen receiving pistils, which only take a bit of air movement to move the pollen from one to the other. As mentioned, despite this seemingly perfect system, eggplant pollination problems may still plague the gardener. You can plant a garden that attracts pollinators, increase air circulation, or hand transfer pollen.

Hand pollinating eggplant isn’t rocket science. On the contrary, it’s very simple and can be done with your hand by lightly tapping the flower daily during the blooming season from mid to late summer, 70-90 days post germination. The goal is to shift the pollen from the anther to the waiting pistil.

Another way to transfer the pollen to the pistil is to use a delicate brush, like those for fine art or even makeup application. You can also use a soft cotton swab. Gently pick up pollen from inside the flower and move it around.

Whichever method you use for pollinating eggplants by hand, the ideal time is in the morning between 6 and 11 a.m.. However, in a pinch, hand pollinating eggplants can occur in the afternoon. You’ll have success when the flower closes but does not fall from the plant. This is a sure sign to expect a tiny eggplant soon.

If this sounds like too much monkey business to you, you can try to increase pollination by planting flowers that will attract bees. While eggplant doesn’t rely on pollinators, they can certainly be helpful buzzing around, creating air currents and moving pollen around. In an environment such as a greenhouse, pollination for “perfect” types of plants may be thwarted by the lack of air currents and/or pollinators. In this instance, setting a fan to lightly blow through the crop will increase the chances for pollination.

Growing Eggplant: How To Plant, Harvest and Care Eggplants

Eggplant (Solanum melongena), native to India and Southeast Asia, is known by different names such as Aubergine, Melongene, Brinjal (in UK, Australia, USA, India, South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore, and West Indies), Baingan or Baigan (in India), Garden egg, Japanese eggplant, Chinese eggplant and Guinea squash. Technically eggplant is a fruit, botanically classified as a berry, but in the culinary world it is treated like a vegetable. It contains several small edible seeds with bitter taste. All part of the eggplant including its seeds and skin are edible.

Learn how to grow eggplant from seeds in containers or garden beds, including the eggplant varieties, pollination and insects and diseases.

When to transplant

Eggplant seedlings shouldn’t be planted outdoors until all danger of frost is past, and the ground has warmed up significantly. Check the frost dates for your area and plan accordingly.

If you want to get a jump on the season, put a layer of black landscape cloth on your freshly tilled garden and tuck the edges down into the dirt. This will help to warm the soil quicker. However, later planting can help ward off pests, so it’s something to consider.

Before you can transplant your eggplant, you’ll need to harden them off.

You can do this by moving them to a cooler area in your home, as well as by putting them outdoors for a few hours at a time during the day. Slowly lengthen the time they spend outdoors and be careful not to let your seedlings dry out.

Vegetable Crops That Do Not Need Pollinators

Not all edible crops need to be pollinated by bugs. Some don’t need bees, or other pollinators, at all and some benefit from them but can still produce even if they are not around.

Here’s a list of what’s what:

What veggies need pollinators all the time:
• Cucumbers
• Melons and watermelons
• Berries
• Tree fruits
Melons and cucumbers can be hand-pollinated, but it is a somewhat cumbersome task. In the case of blueberries you also need some cross-pollination. This is easy to do just by planting two different varieties.

What veggies can be pollinated with human help:
• Squashes, both winter and summer types—by hand
• Tomatoes—by hand or wind
• Eggplant—by hand or wind
• Peppers, both Hot and Sweet—by hand or wind
Squashes, with their rather large male and female flowers, are easy enough to hand pollinate. Just remember to get as much pollen on the female plant as you can. The more there is, the better the chances the fruit will develop well.
Wind-pollinated veggies, such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, are fertilized by the beating of bees’ and other insects’ wings. You can likewise give the plants a little shake, or hand pollinate using a small paintbrush or cotton swab. In the greenhouse you can help these veggies simply by adding a fan to move the pollen.

What veggies do not need pollinators to produce:
• All leafy greens
• Brassicas: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kohlrabi
• Below ground root veggies and tubers such as carrots, parsnips, salsify, potatoes, sweet potatoes, horseradish
• Ground level root veggies such as beets, turnips, rutabagas
• Most legumes including peas and beans
• Corn—like other wind pollinated veggies, giving them a little shake helps distribute the pollen.
• Herbs, like the lemon balm pictured
• Celery
• Onions and leeks
These veggies will all grow by themselves when planted from seed.

Exceptions: There are a number of hybrids, some cucumbers and tomatoes for example, that are ‘parthinocarpic’. These varieties do not need to be pollinated and will not produce a viable seed, either. They are good for growing in greenhouses or where the availability of pollinators is limited.

To attract bees to your crops that need them, plant flowers they love. The closer they are to the veggies that need the help, the better your chances of pollination. Sunflowers are a particular favorite, and you can save and roast the seeds as well. We see that as a beautiful win-win.

Gardening Jones is a Pennsylvania master gardener. Learn more at her blog.

Eggplant Growing Problems: Troubleshooting

Eggplants demand rich soil, even consistent water, warm temperatures, bonus side-dressings of nutrients, and little or no wind.

They can be difficult to grow without these ingredients.

Here is a troubleshooting list of possible eggplant problems with control and cure suggestions: (More eggplant growing success tips are at the bottom of this post.)

Eggplant Growing Problems and Solutions

• Seedlings are cut off near the soil surface. Cutworms are gray or brown grubs that hide in the soil by day and feed at night. Handpick grubs from the soil around plants. Keep the garden free of plant debris. Place a 3-inch cardboard collar around the seedlings stem and push it 1 inch into the soil.

• Leaves roll downward but there is no yellowing or stunting. Physiological leaf roll, not caused by pathogen it may be a reaction to temperature or weather. Keep plants evenly watered. No action needed.

• Leaves deformed, curled, and discolored plants are stunted. Aphids are small soft-bodied insects–green and gray–that cluster on undersides of leaves. Aphids leave behind a sticky excrement called honeydew black sooty mold may grow on honeydew. Spray away aphids with a blast of water use insecticidal soap aluminum mulch will disorient aphids. Aphid predators include lacewing flies, ladybugs, and praying mantis.

• Leaves wilt, turn yellow, then brown. Whiteflies are tiny insects that will lift up in a cloud when an infected plant is disturbed. These insects suck juices from plants and weaken them. Spray with insecticidal soap. Trap whiteflies with Tanglefoot spread on a bright yellow card.

• Leaves appear scorched and wilted. Leafhoppers are green, brown, or yellow bugs ⅓-inch long with wedge-shaped wings. Leafhoppers suck juices from leaves and stems. Spray with insecticidal soap or dust with diatomaceous earth. Cover plants with floating row covers to exclude leafhoppers.

• Shoots are white or yellow stippled thin, fine webbing appears on underside of leaves. Spider mites suck plant juices causing stippling. Spray with water or use insecticidal soap or rotenone.

• Tiny round, shot holes in leaves lower leaves are affected more than top ones. Flea beetles are tiny black beetles that feed on leaves and jump when disturbed. Handpick beetles and destroy. Keep the garden free of plant debris. Cultivate the soil deeply to destroy larvae in early spring and interrupt the life cycle.

• Leaves are eaten and plants are partially defoliated. Blister beetles and tomato hornworms eat leaves. Handpick insects and destroy. Keep the garden weeds and debris. Cultivate in spring to kill larvae and interrupt the life cycle. Pick off beetles by hand. Spray or dust with Sevin or use a pyrethrum or rotenone spray.

• Leaves and shoots are stripped. Colorado potato beetle is a yellow beetle ⅓ inch long with black stripes and an orange head. Handpick off beetles. Keep the garden free of debris. Spray with a mixture of basil leaves and water.

• White, frothy foam on stems. Spittle bugs are green insects that can be found beneath the foam. Handpick and destroy. They do not cause significant damage and can be tolerated.

• Lower leaves wilt leaves on one side of plant wilt yellow patches on leaves. Fusarium wilt or eggplant yellows are a fungal disease which attacks plant roots and spreads into the plant’s vascular system. Plant in well-drained soil. Rotate crops. Remove and destroy infected plants older plants may be harvested and then uprooted and thrown away.

• Lower leaves yellow and die stem is discolored with brown streaks when the stem is split lengthwise plants wilt and die. Verticillium wilt is caused by a soilborne fungus. Plant verticillium-resistant varieties. Rotate crops and avoid planting in soil previously planted with pepper, potato, tomato, or cucumber family members.

• Leaves are mottled and streaked yellow and green leaves curl and crinkle. Mosaic virus has no cure. It is spread by beetles. Plant tobacco mosaic virus-resistant varieties. Destroy infected plants and keep weeds down that host cucumber beetles. Wash your hands if you are a smoker.

• Leaves turn yellow then brown brown to nearly black spots appear on leaves and lower stem. Early blight is a fungal disease spread by heavy rainfall and warm temperatures. Keep weeds down in the garden area they harbor fungal spores. Avoid overhead watering.

• Galls or knots on plant roots plants wilt in dry weather plants become stunted. Root knot nematodes are nearly microscopic, translucent worms that inject toxins and bacteria into plant roots. Plant resistant varieties labeled VFN varieties. Feed plants with fish emulsion which seems to counter nematode toxins. Rotate crops. Companion plant with marigolds.

• Leaves and stems have irregular greenish water-soaked spots whitish-gray growth appears on the underside of leaves fruit takes on a corrugated look. Late blight is a fungal disease brought on by a rainy period followed by heat and humidity. Keep the garden clean and free of weeds. Remove infected plants. Improve soil drainage.

• Plants have lush foliage do not fruit or have little fruit. The soil may be nitrogen rich and lack phosphorus. Add aged compost to the planting bed before planting and side dress plants with aged compost. If night temperatures are cool place a wire cage around eggplants and drape the cage with plastic at night. Increase pollination and fruit production by lightly tapping plants to make sure pollen is distributed.

• Blossoms fall without producing fruit. Blossoms may fall if the temperature drops much below 60°F or rises above 75°F. Plant early varieties or varieties recommended for your region. Plant in warmer weather.

• Plants do not grow, appear stunted blossoms drop off fruit does not develop. Temperatures are too cool, below 40°F. Set out the plants when the air temperature remains above 65°F, or protect plants with plastic jugs with the bottoms cut out or other protective devices. Plant when the weather is warmer. Plant varieties recommended for your region.

• Buds and blossoms have holes young fruits may have holes or drop mature fruit can become misshapen and blotchy. The pepper weevil is a dark beetle ⅛ inch long the larva is a white, legless grub found inside fruit. Handpick weevils and grubs. Nightshade plants host the pepper weevil destroy infested plants after harvest. Cultivate the soil to interrupt the pest’s life cycle.

• Fruit is normal-colored but small and flattened there are few or no seed inside. Pollination was poor or incomplete. Plant when the weather has warmed and insects are active. Attract bees and other pollinators to the garden. Increase pollination and fruit production by lightly tapping plants to make sure pollen is distributed.

• White spots on fruit leaf tips are distorted. Thrips are tiny insects, yellow, brown or black with fringed wings. They scrape plant tissue as they feed leaving a scar. Keep garden free of weeds. Spray with insecticidal soap or sprinkle diatomaceous earth on leaves.

• Sunken, water-soaked spots develop on blossom end of fruit spots can turn black and mold may appear patches may appear leathery. Blossom end rot is caused by irregular watering or the irregular uptake of water by plants this can happen when temperatures rise above 90°F. Keep soil evenly moist mulch around plants. The soil may have a calcium imbalance that inhibits the uptake of water add limestone to the soil if the pH is below 6.0.

• Sunken water-soaked areas on fruit and stems fruit may become watery and collapse. Anthracnose is a fungus disease that over-winters in infected seed and the soil. Destroy rotting fruit keep fruit off soil. Spray or dust with a fixed copper- or sulfur-based fungicide every 7 days. Do not collect infected seed.

Eggplant Growing Success Tips:

Planting. Grow eggplant plant in full sun sheltered from the wind. Eggplant prefers well-drained soil rich in organic matter add aged compost to each planting hole.

Plant time. Plant eggplant when the soil temperature is at least 60°F, not sooner than 2 weeks after the last frost in spring. To jump start the season, sow eggplant indoors 8 to 10 weeks before setting it into the garden.

Care. Eggplant is finicky there’s no getting around it. Keep the soil evenly moist, not too wet. Do not let the soil try out. Grow eggplant in organically rich soil and side dress plants with aged compost or compost tea 2 or 3 times during the growing season. Eggplant demands warm temperatures in the 70°s and 80°s. Growing eggplant against a stake or in a small tomato cage will ensure it does not fall or break when fruit is set and ripening.

Harvest. Pick eggplant when it is one-half to one-third its full size at maturity make sure you know the variety you are growing–a mature eggplant can be anywhere from 2 to 10 inches long. If you press the skin with your finger and the skin springs back, the fruit is ready for harvest. A fruit fast its peak will lose its shiny color.

4 Steps to Improve Pollination & Your Harvests

There are four steps I use and recommend to help boost successful pollination of your edibles and an abundant kitchen garden. The next 3 steps are covered in the following article.


This may sound like a real ‘no-brainer’ if you are an organic gardener! But there are hidden dangers many gardeners are not aware of. If you want to improve pollination and your harvests, chemicals of all kinds are a major threat. You may be innocently bringing them into your garden without knowing. How?

Do you buy plants or seeds from nurseries, online or retail outlets? If so, do you check if they are organically grown from chemical-free seed or plant material? If you’re not sure, and you are trying to grow a pollinator-friendly, safe food garden like me, then you may want to start digging deeper.

Many retail suppliers sell ‘bee-friendly’ plants for the home garden. However, rarely are the plants labelled to indicate whether or not they have been grown with chemicals.

“Unless retail plants have a certified organic label, you may risk introducing a plant that has been grown with a systemic pesticide (neonicotinoid) that is toxic to bees. – Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener

Think about those appealing looking seedling punnets. It’s so tempting to take them home and start planting.

Even many edible seedlings and seeds are treated with insecticides so please do your homework! Ask questions. Demand accountability from retailers.

Click below for helpful safe organic seed resources

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Unfortunately, pollinator friendly nursery plants sold to unsuspecting consumers carry neither a list of pesticides used, nor do they carry a warning that these pesticides could harm pollinators. Consumers may unwittingly be purchasing bee-attractive plants that have been pre-treated with neonicotinoid pesticides that may be harming or killing bees and other threatened pollinators essential to food production and ecosystem health. – FOE US Report ‘Gardeners Beware: Bee-Toxic Pesticides Found in “Bee-Friendly” Plants Sold at Garden Centers Nationwide’ 2013

Think this is just happening in the US? Sadly not. Here in Australia and the UK we have the same problem. No doubt it’s happening wherever you live.

Click below for bee-friendly garden resources

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“Neonicotinoids bind irreversibly to critical receptors in the central nervous system of insects and cause irreversible effects. The damage is cumulative, and with every exposure more receptors are blocked. In fact, there may not be a safe level of exposure. Neonicotinoids account for worker bees neglecting to provide food for eggs and larvae, and for a breakdown of the bees’ navigational abilities. Bees, the number one insect pollinator on the planet, are dying at an alarming rate. Neonicotinoids are prone to leach from soils and contaminate ground and surface water. Not only are they water soluble and mobile in soil, they are also quite persistent in soil and water.” – Henk A. Tennekes

Pesticides and herbicides are lethal to bees and many other beneficial insects. A bee’s lifespan, navigation, memory and ability to find food is affected by even tiny levels of pesticides. The first goal to enticing pollinators to your garden is to create a healthy environment – for you and them. Try organic solutions first and work with nature to overcome pest and disease problems.

There’s no need for chemicals when you encourage a balance of beneficial insects like ladybirds who dine out on aphids.

What else can you do to Improve Pollination & Your Harvests?

  1. Read insecticide product labels carefully. Look for acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam as active ingredients. Avoid using neonicotinoid insecticides altogether.
  2. If you really need a solution for pests or disease in your garden, buy or make organic products instead.
  3. Ideally, raise your own plants from certified organic seeds and propagate from known organic gardens or sources.
  4. Follow the tips on this website for creating a garden that supports a diversity of insects and work with nature to create balance and harmony and create a bee-friendly garden.
  5. Watch this video for more tips:

In the next post ‘4 Steps to Improve Pollination & Your Harvests: Part 2’ you’ll find the final 3 steps. I share illustrated instructions on how to hand pollinate your crops, bee-friendly flowers to grow and easy ways to make your garden a bee magnet. Plus a BONUS FREE printableHOW TO HAND POLLINATE FRUIT & VEGETABLES GUIDE‘.

Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. I only recommend products or services I use personally or believe will add value to my readers. Please read my Disclosure Statement for more details.

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Watch the video: How to hand pollinate eggplant flowers.


  1. Garman

    This is new

  2. Tygogis

    Cool! Smiled! Aftar - respect!

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