This vigorous vine does double-duty in the garden, producing both pretty flowers and edible pods. It sends up twining stems that will quickly scramble up supports, so provide a trellis, pole teepee or other structure.
With its large, heart-shaped, dark green leaves, scarlet runner bean can also mask an unsightly chainlink fence or provide shade when grown on an arbor. Its vines bear clusters of bright red-orange flowers, followed by flat pods that can be harvested and eaten when young.
Let some of the pods mature and dry in early autumn, and collect the pretty black-and-purple-patterned seeds for sowing in next year’s garden.
Common name: Scarlet runner bean
Botanical name: Phaseolus coccineus
Plant type: Tropical perennial vine, grown as an annual
Zones: All zones (as an annual)
Height: 8 to 15 feet
• Sun: Full sun
• Soil: Fertile, well-drained garden soil
• Moisture: Evenly moist
• Mulch: None, or 1 to 2 inches of organic mulch
• Pruning: None
• Fertilizer: Apply compost or soluble fertilizer monthly during growing season, if needed
Pests and diseases
• Bean beetles, aphids and rust disease may damage foliage
• ‘Scarlet Emperor’ has red-orange flowers and is essentially the same as the species.
• ‘Painted Lady’ has coral-red and pinkish white flowers.
• Scarlet runner bean is a wonderful choice for kid’s gardens; little hands can easily hold and plant the large seeds, and a vine-covered pole teepee makes a fun hiding place.
• It’s popular with hummingbirds and beneficial bees like bumblebees.
• In very hot weather, it may bloom, but not set pods. However, it will start bearing when the temperature goes down a bit.
All in the family
• Scarlet runner bean is a member of the pea family (Fabaceae, also known by its old name, Leguminosae), a large family that contains many important food crops and ornamental plants.
• Scarlet runner bean pods are edible, but it’s the related Phaseolus vulgaris, known as green bean or garden bean, that’s more widely grown for food. Look for new hybrids like ‘Tenderstar’ that are a cross of runner bean and green bean and produce pretty red and white flowers and many large, tender pods.
Where to buy
• Park Seed, parkseed.com
• Renee’s Garden, reneesgarden.com
• Territorial Seed Co., territorialseed.com