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Phaseolus coccineus – Runner Beans

Aztec Bean, Runner Beans, Butterfly Runner, Fire Bean, Multiflora Bean, Runner Bean, Scarlet Runner Bean, Scarlet Runner, Snap Bean

Phaseolus coccineus, Aztec Bean, Runner Beans, Butterfly Runner, Fire Bean, Multiflora Bean, Runner Bean, Scarlet Runner Bean, Scarlet Runner, Snap Bean

Runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) are not only delicious. They are also beautiful and are often grown as ornamental plants just for the beauty of their colorful flowers.

Runner beans are members of the same species group as other common beans such as green beans, black beans, pinto beans, and kidney beans. They are easy to grow and a staple vegetable in British cuisine. Also known as Aztec beans, fire beans, scarlet runner beans, or snap beans.

What are Runner Beans?

  • Runner beans belong to the plant family, Fabaceae, also known as the legume, pea, or bean family, which includes lentils, chickpeas, peas, and peanuts.
  • Although often considered a vegetable, beans are botanically classified as a fruit, as they grow from a flowering plant and contain seeds.
  • Runner beans are native to Mexico and Central America and have been cultivated for thousands of years.
  • Unlike common green beans (P. vulgaris), the Runner bean plant is a perennial species, although it is usually treated as an annual.
  • This fast-growing twining vine produces dark green, heart-shaped trifoliate leaves with purple-tinged veins underneath.
  • Runner beans produce loads of long green pods, up to 10 inches (25 cm), over several months. However, flavor and texture are at their best when picked young at 6-8 inches (15-20 cm).
  • The seeds inside are about an inch long (2.5 cm) and come in many colors, from white to black to violet-black mottled with dark red or violet-purple mottled in black.
  • Unlike many other varieties of beans, Runner beans are not only grown for their edible pods (green beans) and seeds (fresh or dried beans). They are also used as ornamental plants in many gardens.
  • From early summer to frost, pretty clusters of vibrant scarlet flowers attract pollinators such as bees and hummingbirds.
  • As an added bonus, flowers and young leaves are edible and offer a fresh and light bean flavor.
  • Like pole beans, Runner beans ramble through other vegetation or climb on a trellis or other support in the garden.
  • They can cover arbors and fences and serve as a decorative privacy screen or canopy when trellised. A few dwarf varieties are also available, ideal for large containers.
  • Runner bean plants are also unique because they form their cotyledons in the soil rather than above ground.;
  • Runner beans fix nitrogen and add nutrients that improve the soil, benefitting the plants that are growing beside them. Beans are great for heavy nitrogen users.
  • Popular Runner bean cultivars include Scarlet Emperor, Painted Lady, Red Rum, White Lady, Polestar, Benchmaster, Enorma-Elite, Firelight, Moonlight and Stardust.

Health Benefits of Runner Beans

  • While Runner beans make a flavorful addition to various dishes, they also provide health benefits.
  • Runner beans are low in calories but are rich in antioxidants, including vitamin C and folate.
  • Vitamin C strengthens the immune system. Folate is a B vitamin that helps reduce the risk of certain birth defects and is also important for reducing depression.
  • Runner beans are loaded with fiber, which may help lower bad cholesterol levels and improve your heart health.
  • Fiber also helps regulate the digestive tract and keep your digestive system healthy. Fiber may also reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • Runner beans are an excellent source of proteins that benefit healthy body function.
  • Raw, dried beans contain a toxin called phytohaemagglutinin, so they must be cooked before eating.
  • Nutrition Facts (per 100 grams): 22 calories, 3.2 grams carbs, 1.6 grams protein, 0.4 grams fat, 2 grams fiber.

Cooking with Runner Beans

  • Runner beans are typically eaten when they are immature and tender. They are often served cooked unless picked when very young, at which point they can be utilized like snap beans.
  • The beans are typically stringed and cut into short lengths using a knife.
  • They can be boiled, steamed, baked, sautéed, and braised.
  • The white or colorful seeds inside the pods can be eaten fresh (shelled and cooked like Lima beans) or dried.
  • The dried seeds have a chestnut flavor and require a long soaking and cooking time.
  • The beans are used in many cuisines and are a popular side vegetable in British cuisine.
  • Chopped beans can be added to quiche, curry, stews, sautés, and casseroles.
  • The flowers can be eaten as well and are popularly used as a garnish or added to salads.

Growing Runner Beans

  • Runner beans grow up to 6-12 ft. tall (180-360 cm) and 3-5 ft. wide (90-150 cm), depending on the variety. A few dwarf varieties are also available that are ideal for large containers.
  • Runner beans perform best in fertile, acidic to neutral (pH ranging from 6.0 to 7.0), moist, well-drained soils in full sun (at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day) in a sheltered location.
  • If your soil lacks nutrients, add well-rotted organic matter or compost before planting.
  • Keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy. Bean plants do require consistent and even moisture once they have formed flowers.
  • Depending on the variety, Runner beans take 60-75 days to harvest after planting.
  • Runner beans grow best between 54-79°F (12-26°C). They tolerate temperatures as low as 41°F (5°C) and perform poorly when temperatures rise above 85°F (29°C).
  • Sow seeds outdoors anytime after the last spring frost date after the soil has warmed. At soil temperatures below 60°F (15°C), most bean cultivars germinate poorly and are more susceptible to pests and root rot.
  • Do not start bean seeds indoors because their roots are fragile and may not survive transplanting.
  • Sow 2-3 inches deep (2-7 cm) and 4-8 inches apart (10-20 cm). Germination takes 7 – 14 days.
  • With climbing beans, it’s also best to put the supports in place before planting.
  • Beans are soil builders. They rarely need any fertilizer during the growing season.
  • Mulch to retain moisture, keep the soil cool, and control weeds.
  • Rotate crops: Prevent problems by not planting beans in the same location more often than every 3 years.
  • Beans are susceptible to a few pests. Keep an eye out for aphids, blackflies, cucumber beetles, cutworms, grasshoppers, Japanese beetles, Mexican bean beetles, root-knot nematodes, slugs, snails, spider mites, stinkbugs, thrips, whiteflies, and wireworms.
  • Beans are susceptible to diseases, including anthracnose, bean mosaic virus, powdery mildew, bean root rot, bean rust, and white mold.

Harvesting and Storing Runner Beans

  • Harvesting the beans encourages the production of additional flowers.
  • Pick pods when young and tender, about 6-8 in. (15-20 cm) long. The pods should snap easily, and the beans inside should still be small and pale in color.
  • Harvest your Runner beans regularly (every 2 or 3 days) to prevent bean pods from reaching maturity. Once this happens, the plant will stop blooming, and no more pods will form.
  • Runner beans should be stored in the refrigerator and are best if used within two to three days.

Best Companion Plants for Runner Beans

Beans are great for heavy nitrogen users. They add nutrients and improve the soil, benefitting the plants that are growing beside them.

A good example of companion planting is The Three Sisters Garden. Practiced by Native Americans thousands of years ago, this garden includes corn, beans, and squash. The tall corn provides shade for the lower squash but also stops the squash vine borer beetle. Corn also provides support for the bean plants to climb up. The beans enrich the soil with nutrients for both corn and squash. And the large leaves of the squash vines create a protective mulch that helps retain moisture while suppressing weeds. Another added benefit is the prickly vines of the squash deter the raccoons from stripping the corncobs.

  • Amaranth, apricot, basil, borage, catnip, corn, cucumber, dill, eggplant, Jerusalem artichoke, lettuce, melon, monarda, nectarine, oregano, peach, peas, pumpkin, radish, rosemary, rhubarb, spinach, summer savory, summer squash, watermelon, winter squash.
  • Summer savory with beans improves their growth and flavor as well as deterring bean beetles. It is good to attract honey bees too.
  • Pole beans help corn by restoring to the soil the nitrogen used up by the corn. In addition, Pole beans may be planted with corn to climb on their stalks.
  • Plant spinach with Pole beans as they provide natural shade for the spinach.
  • Borage flowers are pretty and not only attract beneficial insects but can deter pests from your beans. As a bonus, they are edible.
  • Catnip attracts beneficial insects and helps to repel flea beetles, a common pest found on many vegetable crops, including beans.
  • Chamomile attracts hoverflies and wasps, repels Mexican bean beetles, and accumulates calcium, potassium, and sulfur, later returning them to the soil. Growing chamomile is considered a tonic for anything you grow in the garden.
  • Dill attracts hoverflies and predatory wasps and repels aphids, Mexican bean beetles, and spider mites to some degree.
  • Basil is a valuable addition to the vegetable garden and an excellent companion plant for beans.
  • Marigolds in bean rows help repel the Mexican bean beetle.
  • Nasturtium deters bean beetle pests.
  • Fruit trees (apricot, peach, nectarine) do better with nitrogen-fixing plants like beans planted at the base of the trees.
  • Eggplants growing among beans will be protected from the Colorado potato beetle since the beetles find the beans repellent. In addition, beans help the eggplant receive enough nutrients by fixing the nitrogen and increasing the nutrients in the soil.
  • Cucumbers are great to plant with beans—the two plants like the same conditions: warmth, rich soil, and plenty of moisture.
  • Rhubarb protects beans against the black fly.
  • Rosemary repels insects and is good at deterring carrot flies, bean beetles, and cabbage moths.
  • You can plant oregano with beans to enhance their flavors. It also attracts hoverflies and Syrphidae and repels aphids.

Worst Companion Plants for Runner Beans

  • Do not plant beans near garlic, onions, chives, leeks, scallions, shallots, peppers, wormwood, fennel, or gladioli.
  • Alliums such as garlic, onions, chives, leeks, scallions, and shallots will stunt the growth of the beans.
  • Most plants dislike fennel, and it has an inhibiting effect on them.
  • Do not plant Runner beans with broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, beet, sunflowers, and tomatoes.
  • Sunflowers give off a chemical compound that inhibits the growth of pole beans,

Requirements

Hardiness 7 - 11
Climate Zones 1, 1A, 1B, 2, 2A, 2B, 3, 3A, 3B, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, A1, A2, A3, H1, H2
Plant Type Annuals, Fruits, Perennials
Plant Family Fabaceae
Genus Phaseolus
Common names Snap Beans, Runner Beans, Scarlet Runner Bean, Beans
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Height 6' - 12'
(180cm - 3.7m)
Spread 3' - 5'
(90cm - 150cm)
Maintenance Average
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Chalk, Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Attracts Bees, Hummingbirds
Garden Uses Arbors, Pergolas, Trellises, Beds And Borders, Patio And Containers, Wall-Side Borders, Walls And Fences
Garden Styles Informal and Cottage
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Alternative Plants to Consider

Phaseolus vulgaris – Cannellini Beans
Vicia faba – Fava Beans
Phaseolus vulgaris – Navy Beans
Phaseolus lunatus – Lima Beans
Phaseolus vulgaris – Pinto Beans
Phaseolus vulgaris – Cranberry Beans

Recommended Companion Plants

Zea mays (Corn)
Apium graveolens var. dulce (Celery)
Solanum melongena (Eggplant)
Laurus nobilis (Bay Laurel)
Beta vulgaris (Beet)
Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary)
Helianthus annuus (Common Sunflower)
Solanum lycopersicum (Tomato)
Cucumis sativus (Cucumber)
Satureja hortensis (Summer Savory)
Lactuca sativa (Lettuce)
Pisum sativum (Pea)
Ocimum basilicum (Sweet Basil)
Borago officinalis (Borage)
Nepeta cataria (Catnip)
Matricaria recutita (German Chamomile)
Tropaeolum (Nasturtium)
Prunus persica (Peach)
Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender)
Monarda (Bee Balm)
Tagetes (Marigold)

Find In One of Our Guides or Gardens

Bush Beans or Pole Beans – Which One Should You Grow?
Best and Worst Companion Plants for Bush Beans
Best and Worst Companion Plants for Pole Beans
Why Beans Are Good for Your Health
Nitrogen-Fixing Plants to Enrich your Soil
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.
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Requirements

Hardiness 7 - 11
Climate Zones 1, 1A, 1B, 2, 2A, 2B, 3, 3A, 3B, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, A1, A2, A3, H1, H2
Plant Type Annuals, Fruits, Perennials
Plant Family Fabaceae
Genus Phaseolus
Common names Snap Beans, Runner Beans, Scarlet Runner Bean, Beans
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Height 6' - 12'
(180cm - 3.7m)
Spread 3' - 5'
(90cm - 150cm)
Maintenance Average
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Chalk, Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Attracts Bees, Hummingbirds
Garden Uses Arbors, Pergolas, Trellises, Beds And Borders, Patio And Containers, Wall-Side Borders, Walls And Fences
Garden Styles Informal and Cottage
How Many Plants
Do I Need?
Guides with
Phaseolus (Beans)
Not sure which Phaseolus (Beans) to pick?
Compare Now

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