Eggplant Problems: Eggplant Pests And Diseases

By: Nikki Tilley, Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden

Eggplant is a commonly grown warm-season vegetable noted for its great flavor, egg shape and dark violet color. Several other varieties can be grown in the home garden as well. They consist of various colors and sizes, all of which can add unique flavor to many recipes or as stand-alone side dishes. Eggplant problems and eggplant pests can occur from time to time when growing eggplant; however, with the proper care, they can usually be prevented.

Growing Eggplant

Eggplants are cold sensitive and shouldn’t be placed in the garden too early. Wait until the soil has sufficiently warmed and all threat of frost has ceased. These plants require full sun and well-drained soil amended with organic matter.

When growing eggplants, space them about a foot or two apart, as they can become rather large. Since eggplants are susceptible to many pests and diseases, the use of collars or row covers on young plants may be necessary to reduce common eggplant problems.

Dealing with Eggplant Pests

Lace bugs and flea beetles are common eggplant bugs. Other eggplant bugs that affect these plants include:

  • tomato hornworms
  • mites
  • aphids
  • cutworms

The best way to deal with eggplant bugs is by using collars and row covers until the plants are large enough to withstand attacks, at which time insecticidal soap can be used to alleviate pest problems.

To prevent eggplant bugs, it may also help to keep weeds and other debris to a minimum and rotate crops every other year or so. Introducing natural predators, such as ladybugs, often helps minimize eggplant problems associated with aphids.

Eggplant Diseases in the Garden

There are several eggplant diseases that affect these crops. Some of the most common include blossom end rot, wilt diseases, and various types of blight. Many of these eggplant diseases can be eliminated or prevented by practicing crop rotation, reducing weed growth, and providing adequate spacing and uniform watering.

  • Blossom end rot, as found in tomatoes, is caused from fungus due to overwatering and affects ripe fruit. Round, leathery, sunken spots appear on fruit ends with the affected fruit eventually dropping from the plant.
  • Bacterial wilt can cause plants to suddenly droop, from the bottom to the top, turning yellow. Affected plants eventually wither up and die.
  • Verticillium wilt is similar to bacterial wilt but is caused by soil-borne fungal infections. Plants may become stunted, turn yellow, and wilt.
  • Southern blight is also caused by fungus and plants exhibit softening of the crown and root tissues. Mold may also be seen on the stems and surrounding soil.
  • Phomopsis blight usually affects fruits of eggplant, which begin as sunken spots that eventually enlarge and become soft and spongy. Leaves and stems, especially seedlings, may develop gray or brown spots first.
  • Phytophthora blight, which also affects peppers, can quickly destroy eggplants. Plants will get dark streaks prior to collapsing and dying.

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Eggplant problems

This is a picture of one of my eggplants which looks pretty unhappy. I have what I believe to be septoria leaf spot on my tomatoes (looks similar) which I am treating with some success with Chlorothalonil (sp) aka Daconil, however the label on that product does not list eggplant as a plant on which it can be used. I have been using a copper fungicide on the eggplant (also on my peppers) which I do not find to be as effective as the Chlorothalonil. I use a drip watering system to minimize any chance of wetting the leaves as much as possible (of course when it rains, which it has quite a bit this year, there is not much I can do about the plants getting wet)

Does anyone know of anything else I can/should do? I doubt there is much I can do anymore this year but I would like to minimize this problem next year. Is there a fungicide I can apply to the soil before I set out the plants next year? How about baking the soil by applying a sheet of clear plastic a couple of weeks before I set out the plants?

Any thoughts very much appreciated

That looks like early blight to me - brown to black spots on older leaves with yellow halos. Here is a website that describes it on eggplant. Daconil can be used on eggplant too. eggplant is in the same family as tomatoes.

I thought it unusual that eggplant was not listed on the approved plants for Daconil, I will give it a try. Hope it is not too late, I just sprayed with copper yesterday, I hope applying Daconil today will not cause any damage.

Mmmmm. I dunno know about that. I might wait and see how the copper works first. It's listed for early blight so it may be all you need.

Hen, Looking at your photo, it strikes me as being a bit bleak. In other words, the dirt doesn't look all that good. The plant looks a bit weak. The leaves are a bit yellowed, as if there is a mineral deficiency.
I'm not sure that an effort to use herbicides and/or pesticides is your best bet as a "knee-jerk" quick fix. I've been there, and I've had to 'bite the bullet' in the past.
What every successful gardener knows from experience is that the better the dirt, the better the produce.
I know it's a tough row to hoe, but the hardest part of growing a great garden begins months before you ever plant the first seed.

Good point, blmlb. and it's "soil". LOL.

The rest of the garden is doing fine (the other eggplants even look better than this one but this one had the best example of the problem I was trying to show).

Before I set out my plants, I dig compost into the soil, side dress with fertilizer once the plants are established and water (drip system as noted in my original post) when needed. I agree that this particular plant does not look happy and admit that eggplant has never been one of my better crops. I would welcome any thoughts as to what I could do to improve that.

ceejaytown: I think I will wait a week or so (or until after the next rain) before spraying with Daconil.

If you've sprayed with copper, I wouldn't use the daconil at all. That's kinda overkill. Unless, the copper label says you are to spray again in x number of days, and you would prefer to use the daconil at that time.

I have excellent luck with my eggplant - the durn plants get 5-6 feet tall and I have to stake them. They are in a raised bed, and I live in Texas. :-D They like the heat. I throw most of them away, 'cause I just can't eat that much eggplant, and DH won't touch them.

I used to have a drip system, but, to be honest, I don't think it delivered enough water to the plants. I know all of the hype about them, but they just don't work. Since I've switched back to the "normal" irrigation system, my plants do fine. I realize that this is going to set off an exchange, but that is MY experience.

If it were not for my disease problems (septoria leaf spot on tomatoes and early blight on eggplant), I might tend to agree with you but I want to keep the foliage as dry as possible. The other advantages are less water usage and not watering where you don't want it. It is possible to (either/or/and) add additional emitters, leave on for a longer period. Out summer here on Long Island has been cooler then usual this year, just starting to get into the 90's the past couple of days so maybe the eggplant will start to pick up.

Those temps might very well have everything to do with your problem. We're usually in the 90's in May.

Eggplant Flea Beetle

Eggplant flea beetle, Epitrix fuscula Crotch, Chrysomelidae, COLEOPTERA


Adult – The oval, black, 2 mm long beetle has thickened, jumping hind legs. Its antennae are 2 ⁄3 the length of its body. This species resembles the potato flea beetle but has black legs and slightly hairy wing covers.

Egg – Generally elliptical in shape, the egg is 0.4 mm long, 0.2 mm wide, and pointed at one end. Though white at first, it gradually becomes yellowish-gray.

Larva – A typical flea beetle larva is white with a brown head and three pairs of brown legs near its head. This species is 4 to 5 mm long when fully grown.

Pupa – Shaped roughly like adults, pupae are found in the soil. They are white at first but gradually darken.

Distribution – Occurring throughout most of this country, eggplant flea beetles tend to be most common in southern states.

Host Plants – This flea beetle has a narrow host range. Reports of its occurrence have been limited to eggplant, potato, horsenettle, pokeweed, sugar beet, and strawberry.

Damage – Feeding on new growth as it appears in spring, flea beetles can be very destructive to young plants. They leave foliage riddles with holes, the edges of which turn brown giving plants a diseased appearance. Though older leaves often withstand this injury, younger leaves may be killed. Flea beetle larvae feed on roots and may cause damage to tuber crops such as beet and potato.

Life History – Eggplant flea beetles overwinter as adults in soil or crop debris. Their life cycle has not been studied in North Carolina, but in Indiana they emerge from hibernation in mid- to late March. Weedy hosts such as horsenettle and pokeweed are infested until crop hosts become available. Eggs laid in soil near the bases of plants hatch in about one week. Larvae emerge from the eggs and feed on roots or tubers for 2 to 3 weeks. After developing through three instars, larvae pupate in the soil. The pupal stage lasts 7 to 10 days. Beetles emerge from the pupal skins, make their way out of the soil, and feed on leaves for 2 months or more. As a rule, flea beetles complete one to four generations each year. In North Carolina, there are probably three or four annual generations.

Cultural practices such as destruction of crop residue, weed control and late planting help minimize flea beetle problems. The removal of crop residue reduces the number of favorable overwintering sites for flea beetles. Covering plant beds and destroying trash around them also is beneficial. Control of weeds such as horsenettle and pokeweed around garden sites eliminates important early beetle food sources. Delayed planting favors the development of host plants over the establishment of flea beetles.

A number of insecticides (granular and foliar) are available to control adult flea beetles. For recommended chemicals and rates of application, consult the current North Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual.

A. Eggplant flea beetle. B. Flea beetle larva. C. Flea beetle pupa.

Planting from Seed vs. Buying Plants

Eggplant can be successfully grown from seed at home, or they can be readily purchased from your local garden center. You can start eggplant seeds indoors in seed-starting flats, eight weeks before the final frost. Eggplant seeds germinate well at temperatures of 70 to 80°F on average, so place them in a warm and sunny location or utilize a heating mat for best results. Planting your own seeds can provide you more variety in your selection of plants to grow, as you are not limited to the few varieties offered at a garden center. If you do buy your eggplants plants from a nursery, they should only be transplanted outside only after any threat of frost has passed.

Recommended Varieties

There are a plethora of varieties to choose from when it comes to planting eggplant. They vary from ornamental to edible and come in a variety of intriguing shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors. From more classic types to unique, eye-catching varieties, here are some of our favorites.

Sometimes called ripe fruit rot, this fungal disease often remains symptomless until the fruit is ripe and ready to harvest. The disease starts out as small, sunken, gooey spots that eventually merge into larger blotches. When spore-set occurs a few days later, concentric circles cover the lesions and orange or pink jelly-like patches of spores can be found covering the lesions. Prevent fruit from touching the soil, and harvest before they become overly ripe. Remove infected plants from the garden and throw away, and plant with disease-free seed.

Fusarium wilt symptoms often begin with drooping leaf petioles. Sometimes a single branch may wilt before the rest of the plant. In eggplants, this wilting often starts with the lower leaves, quickly progressing up the plant until the whole thing collapses. The entire plant may be killed, often before it reaches maturity. If you cut the main stem of an infected plant, you can see dark streaks running lengthwise through the stem. You might see dark-brown, sunken cankers at the base of the plant.

The fusarium fungus survives in the soil for several years and is spread by equipment, water and plant debris. Like many other diseases, it favors warm soil and high moisture. If fusarium wilt has been a problem for you in the past, be sure to rotate crops and try growing in raised beds to promote good drainage.

Young eggplants should be feed fortnightly with SeaMax Fish & Kelp until fruit develops, then stop feeding. Keep the plants well mulched and weed free to allow air circulation and reduce humidity and moisture loss. Water eggplant regularly so that they do not dry out, but refrain from over watering as this may lead to fungal problems.

Eggplant are susceptible to soil born fungus and verticillium wilt. Practice crop rotation, water in the morning and improve drainage to avoid these issues. Do not put infested plants in the compost. If plants become infested with aphids or caterpillar spray with Searles Bug Beater Natural Pyrethrum Spray or hand pick. Eggplant fruit are also susceptible to sunburn, so shelter the fruit behind leaves or create a shade cloth cover during the hotter months.


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