Helping You Become a More Successful Gardener
James H. Schutte
Scarlet Runner Bean
Grown for its electric crimson-red blooms and edible beans, this ancient crop is from the mountainous regions of Central America and is thought to have been cultivated for nearly 2,000 years. Scarlet runner bean, or case-knife bean, is a tender perennial vine with brilliant red flowers, while some plants may have red and white blossoms, and others all white blooms. All parts of the plant are edible. The flowers are beautiful as a garnish, new pods can be eaten whole, and mature beans eaten fresh or dried. Even the starchy tuberous roots can be cooked and enjoyed like potatoes.
Runner bean leaves are trifoliate (three-leaved) with broadly oval, dark green leaflets. Mature vines produce showy flowers typical of peas or beans. The red, white or red and white flowers have larger, rounded petals that subtend smaller petals which form a lip or keeled beak. They are produced in clusters on short stalks among the foliage. The flowers are self-fertile but require a visit from bees or hummingbirds for pollination and fruit set.
Long bean pods filled with six to ten large beans are produced in profusion. The beans themselves vary in shape and color, depending on the cultivar, but are often brown and mottled. Some tropical cultivars do not produce flowers or fruit in the first year from seed but will if planted as tubers.
Plant scarlet runner bean in full sun and fertile, evenly moist, well-drained garden soil. It is cold sensitive so plant after the soil has warmed and all danger of frost has passed. Seeds should be sown directly in the soil (beans do not transplant well) at a depth about three times their width. Tossing the seeds in a commercially available inoculant (Rhizobium inoculums) may be beneficial, but is not essential for success. In tropical zones, runner beans are a perennial crop. Plenty of water is required for good fruit set, but excessive water will cause root rot. Like pole beans, the vines can reach great lengths and require trellising. Harvest beans every few days to keep vines fruitful for longer. Where not hardy, the tuberous roots may also be lifted and stored like dahlias
The beautiful hummingbird-attracting flowers of scarlet runner bean add charm to any trellis or fence in a flower or vegetable garden. Be sure to protect against Mexican bean beetles, which consume the foliage of all garden beans.
11 - 1
8 - 11
A1, A2, A3, H1, H2, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
Full Sun, Partial Sun
6'-20' / 1.8m - 6.1m
Clay, Loam, Sand
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
White, Red, Crimson
Green, Tan, Brown
Green, Dark Green
Edible, Herb / Vegetable, Mixed Border, Tropical, Vine
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