Green beans in containers

Green Beans and Containers

Pound for pound green beans are a nutritious, productive, and easy-to-grow crop. Beans adapt well to containers, so you can enjoy their crisp snap and tender taste even if you don’t have a plot of land.

Types of Green Beans

Both pole beans and bush beans grow well in containers. Pole beans are the tall, vining beans; they need support. The “beanstalk” Jack climbed up was probably a bean growing up a pole. Pole beans produce throughout the growing season and are easy to harvest.

Bush beans don’t need support, but they take up more room and you have to search inside the leafy bushes to find the beans.

Green beans, especially pole beans, are vulnerable to a number of plant diseases. It’s important to grow the varieties that are known to have the least pest problems in your area, and your local cooperative extension service will have that information. You can find the extension office nearest you through the U.S. Department of Agriculture website.

Planting Green Beans

Green beans need warm soil to germinate. Sow seeds in your containers after the danger of frost is past, otherwise your seeds will rot or be slow to germinate. In most areas you can plant every two weeks through mid summer for a continuous supply of beans.

You can plant seeds of bush beans one inch deep and two or three inches apart in a two-gallon (or larger) container. You can sow pole bean seeds four-to-six inches apart in a long container with a trellis behind it. Or, you can sow three to four pole bean seeds around each pole in a half barrel. To prevent damage to seeds and plants, place the supports in the containers before you sow.

Whether you use buckets, barrels, planters made from scrap wood, or decorative terracotta pots, make sure your containers have drainage holes in the bottom. Cover the holes with wire or plastic mesh to prevent the soil from leaking out the bottom.

Soil Mix for Container Green Beans

Grow your beans in a well-drained soil mix that is high in organic content. You can buy a potting mix or make your own from equal parts of compost, garden loam, and clean, coarse builder’s sand or perlite.

How to Care for Your Container Ready Green Beans

Spread compost between the seeds. Water when the soil feels dry at a depth of two or three inches, and mulch to retain soil moisture. You might be surprised at how much water your beans need. Bigger containers require less frequent watering. Fertilize with a balanced liquid fertilizer at half-strength, organic fish emulsion, or a slow-release fertilizer. Inspect regularly for insects and diseases.

Harvesting Green Beans

Bush beans tend to mature all at once, while pole beans give an extended yield. Harvest when the beans are just full; don’t wait too long or your beans will be tough.

Want to Learn More About Growing Green Beans in Containers?

You can grow nutritious and delicious green beans with very little cost or trouble. Here are a few websites to inspire you:

2003: The Year of the Bean has a lot of great info on growing green beans in containers.

Ventor Permaculture has a great blog post about Growing Runner Beans in Containers.

The University of Arizona College of Agriculture has lots of great container gardening info in their post, Vegetable Garden: Container Garden.

Container Gardening: How to Grow Beans in Pots

Green beans can be beautiful plants for pots. With their pretty flowers and attractive foliage they can be a real asset on a sheltered patio, balcony or in a courtyard setting.

There are climbing and bush forms of green beans which include scarlet runners and haricot or French beans; all are possibilities for containers.

Beans need warm temperatures to germinate and grow, so you can sow them much later than many other vegetables. It’s never worth starting before late spring if sowing outdoors. In colder areas start them indoors and plant out after danger of frost has passed.


Climbing beans, especially scarlet runners, need a situation sheltered from wind. When they have covered the canes or supports the luxuriant foliage offers considerable wind resistance; even large containers can be blown over.

Runner beans need a few hours sun a day, but are more tolerant of some shade than many vegetables. In fact some shade at midday can be advantage in preventing wilting. Haricot or French beans do best in an open sunny position.

Sowing the seed

Beans dislike cold and are killed by frost, so start the seeds in pots indoors and plant out in late spring or early summer. Scarlet runner bean seeds can be sown individually in 9cm (3”) pots or in root trainers.

Haricot beans can be sown two or three seeds to each pot. Sow about three weeks before you want to plant out. This will produce substantial, well-rooted plants that will get off to a flying start when planted out.


Climbing beans need a large container, deep enough to support canes or other framework used to grow them up. A half barrel filled with multi-purpose growing media with added loam is ideal.

A container that is 75cm ( 30”) in diameter would support eight or nine plants growing up a simple wigwam of canes.

Although climbing beans can be grown in grow-bags this is rarely ideal. The small volume of compost means that it is difficult to keep them watered when fully grown; supporting the plants is a challenge. If you want to use grow bags then choose bush haricot beans.

The climbing varieties of round podded haricot beans are lighter in growth habit and can be grown in smaller containers; a large pot 45cm (18”) in diameter is ideal for eight plants.

Their twining stems work well when grown up the curly metal plant supports originally developed for tomatoes. These are available in a range of colours and are a feature on the patio, even before the beans advance up them.

There are bush varieties of scarlet runner beans as well as haricot or French beans. These can be grown in smaller pots, troughs or vegetable growing containers. They can even be grown in window boxes or balcony troughs.

They can also be combined with other vegetables such as cut-and-come-again lettuce or bushy, trailing tomatoes.


Watering is critical at the flower production stage. If the plants dry out the buds drop. In warm weather, when the plants are in full growth and flower; they enjoy being sprayed with water over leaves and flowers in early morning or evening. This also helps with pollination.


There are plenty of varieties to choose from, old and new. It is probably best to choose a red or bicoloured flowering variety of runner bean for pots as these are prettier.

‘Red Rum’ is a popular choice because it is self-fertile and less dependent on pollinating insects. ‘Painted Lady’ is one of the most attractive with red and white showy flowers.

The bush runner bean ‘Hestia’ is deservedly popular for patio pots. It is free-flowering and showy with red and pink flowers and a plentiful crop of beans.

The climbing haricot bean ‘Blue Lake’ is unbeatable for flavour, and is a good choice if picking is going to be irregular at any time in midsummer. The succulent pods are stringless and do no go tough with age. Its flowers are insignificant and the beans seem to appear from nowhere, so keep an eye open for them.

Of the bush French Beans ‘Purple Queen’ is very attractive with dark green leaves and tiny purple flowers followed by a heavy crop of delicious purple beans. The only disappointment is that they go dark green when cooked.

‘Mont d’Or’ has flattened succulent pods of soft yellow. They are delicious cooked and served cold with vinaigrette dressing. These yellow beans are often called wax beans.

Whichever type of bean you grow pick them when the pods are young and tender. It is unlikely that you are trying to grow the longest pods for competition so pick for flavour and quality. Scarlet runner beans should be around 20cm ( 8”) long and snap without obvious strings. French beans should be around 15cm (6”) long, smooth and not bulging with seeds.

Companion planting

Climbing beans can be combined with lighter growing sweet peas such as the old-fashioned ‘Cupani’ to make them even more attractive. The scarlet blooms of a red-flowered bean make a striking combination with the rich purple flowers of the sweet pea.

A few nasturtiums or calendulas can be sown around the base of the beans to add colour around the top of the container.

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Growing Pole Beans in Containers

Pole beans are great balcony garden plants because they grow on long vines making them perfect for vertical gardening. Kentucky Wonder are my favourite Pole Beans. I’ve had no problems getting them to flower and set loads of fruit. Vines easily grow over 12 feet with beans reaching up to 8 inches long when grown in a container.

The best container for planting pole beans on the balcony is a long container: 2-3 feet long, 10 inches wide and 10 inches deep. Use a self-watering container if you have one available. The large leaves transpire lots on hot breezy days and the self watering container helps keep the plants continuously hydrated.

Young pole bean plants ready to start climbing.

I get two or three harvests like this from 14 or 15 plants.

I don’t do anything special to the potting soil. The usual mix will do. But you will need to add fertilizer constantly as the season progresses. I always end up cheating and using a water soluble in-organic fertilizer throughout the growing season for pole beans. The plants get big and suck up lots of nutrients. Beans, like all legumes, are nitrogen fixers which means they have the ability to pull nitrogen from the atmosphere. But don’t let that fool you into a false sense of nutrient security. These plants needs lots of nitrogen and they will not thrive in a container without additional nutrients, including nitrogen.

Beans are easy to grow. Don’t start them when it’s too cold outside. I find they don’t tolerate the cold. Chilly winds easily damage young bean plants. Seed them directly into their container in a single row along the container with approximately 2 to 3 inches of spacing. More space is better and if you can, give them more than 4 inches of separation. I tend to overcrowd my plants: a bad habit that’s easy to fall into when you don’t have as much space as you’d like to have.

In a garden that gets lots of overhead sunlight, pole beans can be planted in a hill beneath a teepee like structure. The beans will grow up the structure and be bathed in sunlight from above. But on my balcony, the sunlight only comes in from one side so a trellis works best.

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I usually build a trellis (at the last minute) from from bamboo poles. It’s never pretty but it works. I put two long vertical poles at either end of the container, with horizontal poles across the bottom, middle and top. String, wire, cable ties… even duct tape is used to hold the trellis poles together. I then tie lengths of heavy cord at the top and bottom of the structure wherever I planted a bean seed. As the vines grow they will climb the cords to the top of the trellis. My uprights usually extend 6 feet above the container. Sometimes I duct tape smaller poles together to make longer poles. To provide stability for the upright poles I drill holes through the sides of the container on both sides of the poles, then use wire or a cable tie to secure the pole to the wall of the container.

Once the vines start climbing the trellis they grow fast and within a couple of weeks they should be up to the top of the trellis. You can pinch off the tops of the vines to encourage branching further down. Or just snip the ends with a pair of scissors. I like to prune off some of the vines that shoot off from the main vines if they look skinny and weak so they don’t steal nutrients from flowers and fruit. Especially if those vines project out the back of the trellis where they won’t see much sunlight.

Pole beans having just reached the top of their trellis. These will fill out much more before the season is over.

The beans on my plants reach 6 to 8 inches in length. I like to pick them before they get too mature.

As the vines grow and fill out, you’ll end up with a wall of green. Watch the leaves for signs of nutrient deficiencies: yellowing or dead spots. And be on the look-out for spider mites. One advantage to having your plants up on a trellis is that you can get behind them to spray the backs of the leaves and blow away any spider mite colonies or mildew that might take hold. Also watch for leaves wilting in the heat as the summer progresses. Having all that plant mass growing out of a single container means you’ll need to water it regularly.

Within a month of sprouting you should start to see flowers on your plants. The flowers are perfect, which means they have both male and female components and can self-pollinate. All it takes is a good breeze to shake things up a bit. Each flower should turn into a bean if conditions are right. Most pole bean plants produce rather long beans. I like to pick mine before they get too big. Once the seeds start to bulge inside the pod, that’s too late for me. I like them tender. As you pick the beans, the plants will be encouraged to produce more until they eventually give up for the season.


Bean sprouts

Direct sow beans in the garden 1 to 2 weeks after the last expected frost when the soil has warmed to at least 60°F (16°C). Start beans indoors 3 to 2 weeks before transplanting to the garden.

• Bush beans are usually determinate with one week or two week period of harvest; bush beans are usually planted every 10 days to ensure a continuous harvest through summer.

• Pole beans are usually indeterminate, or vining, with a continuous harvest over 6 to 8 weeks if the beans are picked every two days.

• Warm-season beans are further categorized as (1) snap beans which are eaten pod and all when immature and still tender, (2) shell beans which are picked when the beans in the pod are just slightly lumpy—these beans are eaten without the pods, and (3) dry beans which are allowed to dry and wither on the vine before being harvested and threshed.

Beans growing tips at How to Grow Beans.

Common names for warm-season beans are snap bean, green bean, French bean, wax bean, Romano bean, string bean, and stringless bean.

Bush beans mature in 45 to 60 frost-free days. Pole beans mature in 60 to 85 frost-free days after sowing.

Bean Sowing and Planting Tips

  • Grow beans from seeds or seedlings.
  • Seed is viable for 2 years.
  • Direct-sow beans in the garden in spring after all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed to 60°F (16°C). In warm-winter regions, sow beans in late summer for harvest in winter. Time sowing so that beans come to harvest before the first frost.
  • Optimal soil temperature for growing bush or pole beans is 70°F to 80°F (16-18°C).
  • If you want to start beans indoors, sow seed in peat pots 3 to 2 weeks before transplanting seedlings to the garden. The optimal indoor temperature is 65°F (18°C) until germination.
  • Sow seed 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep.
  • Seeds germinate in 4 to 10 days.
  • Transplant beans into the garden after the soil has warmed to at least 70°F (21°C).
  • Space bush beans 6 inches (15 cm) apart in all directions; space pole beans 4 inches (10 cm) apart.
  • When sowing pole bean seed at or before sowing, put poles or a trellis in place for vines to climb.
  • Bush beans are usually determinate with a 1 to 2 week period of harvest—then the plant will be finished; poled beans are indeterminate with a continuous harvest over 6 to 8 weeks if they are picked every two days and are not allowed to ripen on the vine.
  • Keep the soil just moist; letting the soil dry out will interrupt pod development.
  • Fertilize with fish emulsion or a soluble complete fertilizer at half strength.
  • Add aged compost to planting beds in advance of transplanting.
  • Beans prefer a soil pH range of 6.0 to 6.8.
  • Grow beans in full sun for best yield.
  • Avoid planting beans where cabbage family plants or onions have grown recently.
  • Common bean pest enemies include aphids, bean leaf beetles, leafhoppers, cabbage loopers cucumber beetles, flea beetles, Mexican bean beetles, and whiteflies.
  • Common diseases include Anthracnose, bacterial blight, and wilt, bean rust, common mosaic, fusarium wilt, downy mildew, powdery mildew, yellow mosaic.

Interplanting: Plant bush beans with carrots, celery, chard, corn, cucumber, eggplant, potatoes, and strawberry. Plant pole beans with corn, rosemary, and sunflowers.

Container Growing Beans: Choose bush varieties for containers. Use a container 8 inches (20 cm) wide and 8 to 10 inches deep.

Bean Planting Calendar

  • 4-2 weeks before the last frost in spring: sow seeds indoors for transplanting out after a week or two after the last frost.
  • 1 week after the last frost in spring: direct sow bush and pole beans in the garden when the soil has warmed to at least 60°
  • Every 2 weeks after direct-sow succession crops of bush beans in the garden until mid- to late-summer; pole beans should keep producing if pods are picked regularly.

For Fall Harvest:

  • 14-12 weeks before the first frost in autumn: direct sow or sow seeds indoors for transplanting out when space opens in the garden.

Beans are a tender, warm-weather crop with the exception of Fava beans which are a cool weather crop. There are two types of warm-season beans bush beans and pole beans.

Recommended Bean Varieties

There are many varieties of bush and pole beans:

  • Snap beans: ‘Blue Lake’ and ‘Kentucky Wonder’ are classic bush or pole varieties.
  • Shell beans: ‘French Horticulture’ is a favorite shell bean.
  • Dried beans: ‘Great Northern White’, ‘Jacob’s Cattle’, ‘Vermont Cranberry’.
  • Lima bean: ‘Fordhook 242’, ‘Henderson Bush’.
  • Fava bean: ‘Broad Windsor’ is a classic fava bean.
  • Chickpea: ‘Chickpea’, ‘Garbanzo’.
  • Soybean: ‘Early Hakucho’, ‘Envy’.

Botanical Name: Phaseolus vulgaris

Beans are a member of the Fabaceae family.

More tips: How to Grow Green Beans and Snap Beans.

Indoor Bean Care Guide: Can You Grow Beans Inside

Whether it is the middle of winter or you are hard-pressed to find space for a garden, growing plants indoors is both appealing and beneficial. For many who wish to begin growing flowers and vegetables, doing so indoors is often the only option. Luckily, many crops can be grown in limited spaces and without access to a large vegetable plot. For those looking to begin planting indoors, crops such as beans offer a great alternative to traditional methods.

Can You Grow Beans Inside?

Growing beans indoors is an excellent option for many gardeners. Not only are indoor bean plants able to thrive, but they offer growers the benefit of attractive foliage throughout the process. Their compact size and quick growth habit make them ideal for container culture as well.

Indoor Bean Care

To begin growing beans indoors, gardeners will first need to select a container. Beans do well in most larger containers, but grow best in those which are narrow and at least 8 inches (20 cm.) deep. As with any container planting, ensure that there are adequate drainage holes in the bottom of each pot.

Each container should be filled with a well-draining potting mix that has been enriched with compost. Since beans are members of the legume family, it is unlikely that additional fertilization will be necessary.

When choosing which bean cultivar to grow indoors, make certain to consider the plant’s growth habit. While it is possible to grow both pole and bush varieties of beans, each will present challenges. Pole varieties will require the addition of a trellis system, while bush bean varieties will produce on small compact plants – much easier to handle inside.

Bean seeds can be direct sown into the container according to packet instructions, usually covered with soil about an inch (2.5 cm) deep. Once the seeds have been planted, water the container well. Keep the planting consistently moist until germination occurs in approximately seven days.

From planting, indoor bean plants require temperatures of at least 60 F. (15 C.) to grow and produce harvestable beans. Additionally, it is imperative that the plants receive at least 6-8 hours of sunlight each day. This can be achieved through the use of grow lights, or by placing the containers in a sunny window.

Water the beans as the soil becomes dry, making sure to avoid wetting the leaves. This will help to prevent the occurrence of disease.

Harvests from indoor bean plants can be made any time the pods have reached the desired size. To pick the pods from your indoor bean, carefully snap it from the plant at the stem.

Potting Mix And Container Size For Growing Beans – Tips On How To Grow Beans In Pots

Beans may be vined or bushy and come in several sizes and colors. They are primarily a warm season vegetable that is best grown in spring but can also be started for a late summer harvest in some temperate zones. Gardeners with small spaces can learn how to grow beans in pots. Growing beans in containers is also useful for early starting where soil temperatures remain too cool for in-ground potting. These plants will need to be brought indoors at night to protect them from possible freezing temperatures.

Container Size for Growing Beans

The depth of the container size for growing beans varies dependent upon the type of vegetable. Pole beans need 8 to 9 inches of soil, whereas bush beans can do with only 6 to 7 inches.

Ensure that the pot has several unobstructed drainage holes when growing beans in containers. While the appearance of the pot isn’t important, using unglazed pots will help the containers to “breathe” and allow for the evaporation of excess water so the plants don’t drown.

The number of plants you can sow in a container depends on the diameter of the pot. As a rule, plan on nine plants for every 12 inches of surface space.

Use a seed variety that produces well in container gardening such as Kentucky Wonder, Blue Lake pole or Topcrop.

How to Grow Beans in Pots

Whenever you are growing beans in containers, the most important components to consider in the successful care for potted bean plants are the soil type, drainage, pot depth and ambient conditions.

Fill your container with the proper potting mix for beans and other vegetables. You can purchase a vegetable start mix or make your own. Use equal parts sphagnum moss or compost with pasteurized soil and vermiculite or perlite.

Incorporate vegetable fertilizer or manure prior to planting. You can also use a soilless medium as a potting mix for beans. Plant the seeds an inch deep and provide even moisture until the seeds germinate. Space the seeds 3 inches apart or plant two to three seeds around each pole for vining varieties.

Care for Potted Bean Plants

Your bean seeds will germinate in five to eight days. Once they have pushed up, spread mulch lightly over the surface of the soil to help conserve moisture. Bean plants need plenty of water, and this is especially true with the care of potted bean plants. You need to provide irrigation when the top 2 to 3 inches of soil is dry to the touch.

Fertilize once a month with a diluted liquid vegetable fertilizer unless you mixed a time-release food into the soil medium.

Provide pole beans with a long stick or pole to climb up. Alternatively, insert a tomato cage into the container for the vegetables to twine around. Bush beans need no special support.

Watch for insects and other pests and combat with vegetable-friendly products such as horticultural soap or neem oil.

Growing beans in containers should provide you with edible pods in 45 to 65 days when grown in full sun. Harvest the beans when the pods are medium sized with firm pods. Use them fresh for the best taste, or you can freeze or can them to enjoy far past the season.

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