Runner Beans

Runner beans used to be grown just as an ornamental in the UK until gardeners and cooks realised that the beans produced by this plant can be delicious and can provide us with a prolific crop. Runner beans are said to be one of the easiest vegetables to grow.

Growing runner beans:

Runner beans like a sheltered position in full sun. They will grow best in a rich, deep fertile soil and flower set can be better in slightly alkaline soils. Some people will make a trench in which to plant their beans and fill it with compost or well-rotted manure. If you decide to use this method then it should be done at least two weeks before planting to allow the improved soil in your trench time to settle. Plant indoors in April and outside in May-July.

Runner beans will need a support to grow on. Wigwams formed of garden canes or other long sticks are a common way to grow runner beans. Other options include a trellis against a wall or an archway. Make sure your supports are strong enough and will not blow down if you have any high winds.

With support and large enough containers runner beans can also be grown in pots. Be sure to water plants well but also make sure that the pots have adequate drainage and do not become waterlogged.

It is very important that your runner beans get enough water, especially once the plants are in flower. If the runner beans do not get enough water during this time then the pods can fail to set. Plants can be mulched in warm, dry weather to help with water retention.

Pinch out the growing tops of runner beans when they reach the top of their support to encourage the plants to put their energy into making pods.

When runner beans are harvested, the beans should be pulled gently from the stems and they can be cooked and eaten fresh, blanched and frozen or preserved in some other way.

Why grow runner beans in the garden?

Runner beans can be a delightful ornamental plant with their dramatic vining habit and scarlet, peach or white flowers. They will be at home in a vegetable patch, kitchen garden or simply in a flower bed.

As a legume, runner beans can work with organisms on their roots to fix nitrogen from the air into the soil. At the end of the season when your crop is done, cut stems off at ground level and leave the roots in situ and these will give a nitrogen boost to nearby crops and/or those planted there the following year. Due to these and other properties, runner beans can be a very useful companion crop for a wide range of other vegetables and flowers.

Quick Facts

Latin Name
Phaseolus coccineus