How to transplant eggplant (aubergine) seedlings

The general rule will tell you to wait for at least two pairs of true leaves and that you can transplant the seedlings deeper than they were growing. If you plant seedlings deeper, it is for stability as no roots will develop from the stem.

But I have always ended up treating my eggplant or aubergine seedlings a bit differently. And in this article, I will explain why and show you my method and how it works.

First, eggplant and aubergine are the same plants. In Europe, we say aubergine, but if you are reading from the United States, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand, you more than likely know this vegetable as an eggplant. I will use eggplant as it is shorter and easier to type.

Transplanting eggplant seedlings

You need well-draining soil, a spoon that fits inside the seed starting tray cell, water, and a nursery pot. I like to add perlite to my soil to ensure good drainage.

Perlite is a soil amendment for improving drainage in soils
Perlite is a great soil amendment for improved drainage

Make sure the soil is moist but not wet. You should be able to make a soil ball with your hand and then watch the ball crumble on the light touch of your fingers.

The soil in your seed starting tray should be moist, not wet, and definitely not dry.

7-step guide to transplanting eggplant seedlings

1. Fill the nursery pot with soil almost all the way up and use your thumbs to compress the soil gently.

2. Remove the seedling from the cell. Insert the spoon into the seed starting tray cell and gently lift the seedlings.

3. Make a hole in your nursery pot.

4. Transplant the seedling and use your thumbs to add soil to stabilize the seedling. Never grab, pinch, or press directly on the stem. Use an open hand to support the seedling as needed.

5. Water the nursery pot to help compress the soil without applying manual pressure.

6. Add more soil to stabilize the seedling in its new home. This is where you can plant the stem deeper to help stabilize the seedling. Again, work with the soil around the seedling; never press the stem directly.

7. Water and wait for the water to drip from the drain holes. This is how you know the soil is evenly moist. Let the nursery pot run off any excess water before you place it back.

And you are done. I shot a video of transplanting two eggplant seedlings growing in the same cell. Yes, I am a greedy gardener. 

The camera was mounted on my head, but it worked. I will leave comments open on this article as a first, and it would be great to hear from you if you are reading this article.

When eggplant seedlings do not grow perfectly compact and straight

This year, I started my eggplant seeds at the end of March. And some seedlings are growing leggy. And for no apparent reason. 

I am using the same soil mix for all seeds. The seeds come from the same packet, and the seedlings grow under the same full-spectrum grow light panel. 

But this happens and is not unusual. You do not have to do something wrong to get leggy seedlings. It happens to all home gardeners.

The solution is simple. Transplant the seedlings a bit deeper and watch the seedlings get compact and stable again.

When can I transplant my eggplant seedlings?

I transplant my eggplant seedlings when I see a minimum of 2 true leaves, not four. But you want the leaves to be prominent, as in bigger than the first leaves.

Seedlings not quite ready for transplanting
These seedlings are too young to be transplanted

Why not wait for more true leaves?

Because transplanting early gives the seedling more room to develop a robust root system and allows me to stabilize the seedlings if needed.

Grow two seedlings in one nursery pot?

Yes, you can. It saves on space, and your seedlings will grow and thrive.

Several eggplant seedlings transplanted into the same nursery pot
More than one eggplant seedling per nursery pot

There is no need to thin out seedlings unless they are all tangled together or if one seedling is weak-looking.

I even grow more than two seedlings in one nursery pot and re-pot them as they develop and need more space.

Transplanting eggplant seedlings deeper or not

Planting the stem a bit deeper can make all the difference if you have tall, leggy seedlings that need support to stand upright.

But unlike growing tomatoes, I do not transplant eggplant seedlings deeper by default. As no roots grow from the stem, there is no good reason. If given the option, I would rather have more space for root growth underneath the plant.

What about risks when transplanting seedlings early?

There are a lot of things that can go wrong with gardening, even if you do everything right.

However, I have found that eggplant seedlings have sound root systems when they show two mature-looking true leaves. And when I say mature, I mean that the leaves look like real leaves and are bigger than the first leaves. 

Transplanted eggplant, or aubergine, and tomato seedlings
A table of transplanted eggplant and tomato seedlings

But, of course, there is a risk involved with all transplanting. Transplanting too early could hurt the root system and even kill the seedling. But I have never had this problem with eggplant seedlings using my method. 

Why transplant eggplant seedlings early?

Seed-starting trays have smaller cells than nursery pots that can hold more potting soil. Early transplanting gives the seedling room to grow a robust root system to stand straight and tall.

Eggplants are vigorous growers, and giving the seedlings room to develop early on allows them to grow strong and healthy.

So why not start seeds in nursery pots from the start?

I rarely start seeds in nursery pots as there is an available space issue, and it is harder to control soil moisture in larger pots.

Come seed starting time, space is scarce, and there is only so much available room. Seed starting trays are ideal as they maximize growing space by design.

Also, nursery pots hold more soil, making it more complicated to control soil moisture inside the pot. Dry on top and wet at the bottom differ from what you want. 

Summary and conclusion

For some reason, many home gardeners are worried about transplanting seedlings. And I get it; we invest a lot of time in our seedlings and want them to do well. 

Yes, it is a delicate process, but there is no need to fear it. Follow the process above, and you will be fine. Use common sense, and you will find that your eggplant or aubergine seedlings are tougher than you think. 

Mattias Magnusson: Hello, I'm Mattias, a passionate and experienced gardening enthusiast. I am the creator of, your guide to year-round herb and veggie growing. Let's simplify green living, no matter your space or location.