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VICIA faba

Image of Vicia faba

Nancy Engel

Family

Fabaceae

Botanical Name

VICIA faba

Plant Common Name

Faba Bean

General Description

Cultivated for thousands of years, broad beans - also known as horse, Windsor, English and fava beans - preceded snap beans in the human diet. In addition to being large, fava beans are nutritious, high in protein (approximately 23%) and plants are variable in habit. It is thought the area or origin or domestication is the Mediterranean Basin, though no wild species are present. Today broad beans are used for human consumption, dried or fresh, and as animal feed for horses and poultry.

Like pole snap beans, broad bean are annuals. The vines have no tendrils and climb by twining. The leaves are compound with two to six leaflets which are arranged in an alternate fashion on the angled stem and have elliptical to oval leaflets. The large flowers are white with purple markings and typical of peas or beans; larger, rounded petals subtend smaller petals that form a lip or keeled beak. They are produced in loose clusters on short stalks among the foliage. Pods filled with large seeds follow the flowers about 120 days after sowing, though days to harvest may vary from 90 to 220 days depending on climatic conditions and variety. Most types require insects for pollination.

Broad bean pods are harvested when small, young and tender and eaten whole. They are also shelled when beans are full sized and eaten fresh or dried and stored.

This is a long, cool season plant that performs poorly in hot dry conditions. Broad beans will withstand some frost. Plant them in the very early spring in temperate regions and winter in subtropical areas. In tropical zones, broad beans perform best at higher altitudes. Full sun and fertile, evenly moist, well-drained garden soil is best. Seeds should be sown directly in the soil at a depth of about three times their width. Pre-treating seeds in a commercially available inoculant (Rhizobium inoculums) may be beneficial but is not essential for success. Broad beans are vines that can reach great lengths, so they require trellising or other support.

Some people may have health problems associated with the consumption of fava beans in the form of an inherited condition known as favism. For more information please see these links: http://bit.ly/zDN0oe and http://bit.ly/w4kSFY

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    10 - 6

  • Sunset Zone

    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

  • Plant Type

    Vegetable

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    4'-6' / 1.2m - 1.8m

  • Bloom Time

    Indeterminate

  • Native To

    Mediterranean, Northern Africa, Eastern Asia, Southern Asia

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Vining/Climbing

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White, Purple

  • Flower Color Modifier

    Bicolor

  • Fruit Color

    Green, Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    Yes

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Edible, Herb / Vegetable, Vine

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    No