Scarlet runner bean plant

Scarlet Runner Bean Care: Learn How To Grow Scarlet Runner Beans

Beans don’t always have to be grown simply for their fruit. You can also grow bean vines for their attractive flowers and pods. One such plant includes the scarlet runner bean (Phaseolus coccineus). Let’s learn more about how to grow scarlet runner beans.

What are Scarlet Runner Beans?

So exactly what are scarlet runner beans? Scarlet runner bean plants, also known as fire bean, mammoth, red giant and scarlet emperor, are vigorous climbing, annual vines that reach up to 20 feet in a season. This annual bean vine bears large green leaves and an attractive cluster of red flowers from July through October.

Bean pods are large, sometimes up to1 inch in diameter and contain beans that are a beautiful pink when young and turn to a dark violet to black speckled with age. The beans are as attractive as the vines and flowers themselves.

Are Scarlet Runner Beans Edible?

Are scarlet beans edible? This is a common question concerning these plants. Although many people plant scarlet runner beans for their ornamental value, they are, in fact, edible.

While there is some argument over whether scarlet runner beans should be eaten raw when they are young, they can most certainly be lightly steamed in the pods and enjoyed as a snack like you would eat soy beans. The beans are easy to store and can be frozen after being blanched, stored in salt or dried.

When Can I Plant Scarlet Runner Bean Vine?

Now that you know what these plants are, you may be asking, “when can I plant scarlet runner bean vine in the garden?” Scarlet runner beans, like other bean varieties, are warm season vegetables and should be planted alongside other warm season vegetables once the spring chill has left the air.

How to Grow Scarlet Runner Beans

Scarlet runner beans should be planted in soil that is high in organic matter and in full sun. They grow quickly and require support. It is not necessary to tie these beans, as they will twine around anything close by.

The seeds are large and should be planted 2 to 3 inches apart to minimize overcrowding. Once planted, scarlet runner bean care is easy.

Scarlet Runner Bean Care

Provide regular water throughout the growing season, but do not saturate the ground.

Also, you should watch for common pests that like to nibble on any bean plants. A light dusting weekly of diatomaceous earth will help keep most pests at bay.

Grow Scarlet Runner Beans For The Flowers

We’re working toward growing and producing more and more of our own food. We’ve planted fruit trees, berry patches, herbs, and perennial and annual vegetables. Even so, we also like to plant certain species simply because they are the favorites of butterflies and hummingbirds, and we like to have these creatures flitting through our garden. Yes, these animals do provide a service by pollinating, and that is a benefit to us, but we just like to share our garden with them. We simply enjoy their presence.

We exercise organic gardening principles by building up the soil and rotating plants rather than applying fertilizers or pesticides. Insects are welcome to our garden. We do lose some of our harvest to the more pesky insects, but the damage is minimal because these pests are kept in check by the predaceous insects that also inhabit the gardens. We attempt to work with nature rather than fight against it and imposing our own design.

The fact that wildlife chooses to visit our garden is evidence that it is a living ecosystem. Our garden is alive. It is a place where nature can play out its story of life and death. While canaries portend doom in a coal mine when they cease to sing, the zipping flight of a hummingbird or the dainty flutter of a butterfly are likewise signs of an atmosphere’s quality, though in this instance, they indicate a healthy, functioning system.

>One of our favorite wildlife plants is scarlet runner beans. The beans sport bright, red blossoms that are magnets for hummingbirds. A bean in bloom boasts the same colors as the male Ruby-throated Hummingbird – green and red. And when one is visiting the bean’s blossoms, it can be so well camouflaged that the only evidence that it is present is the whirring sound of its wings. Among the butterflies that visit the bean’s red flowers are Tiger Swallowtails, Giant Swallowtails and Monarchs.

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Scarlet runner beans are relatively easy to grow. Give them a sunny spot with something to climb upon and they should do well. If the soil is rich with compost, they will do even better. Being an annual, the beans have no tolerance for frost. The seeds should be placed directly into the soil after all chance of frost is past. These beans grow as climbers and like to twine themselves around something for support. We grow them on trellises at the end of our raised beds. But they can be grown along a fence, on a teepee structure in a garden, or even up a sunflower or corn stalk. In our garden, the scarlet runners are in full flower about 2 months after the first sprouts appear. The red blossoms will persist until the first frost.

Hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees all find the scarlet runner bean irresistible. But so do hungry rabbits. If growing the beans from the ground, some bunny proofing will be necessary if you share your property with rabbits.

I must confess that we do not eat the beans from our scarlet runners. We grow them to enhance our garden ecosystem. Our children also enjoy the pink and purple hued beans and have used them dried in myriad crafts and mosaics. The bean pods are in fact edible. When still young and tender, they can be eaten like green beans. As they mature they become very stringy and should be eaten as shelling beans. If left to dry on the plant, they can be stored and used as dried beans.

Whether you choose to eat them or simply enjoy their beauty, scarlet runner beans are a nice addition to the garden. The local wildlife will thank you.

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Scarlet Runner Bean

In many parts of the world — especially in England and France — the scarlet runner bean is cultivated both as an ornamental and a vegetable. Until recently, the United States has embraced only its ornamental qualities. The lush, thick vines produce clusters of red flowers that are followed by the edible green beans. The Dutch runner bean, P. c. alba, has white flowers.

Description of scarlet runner bean: Scarlet runner beans are quick-growing vines with typical, 3-leaflet bean leaves. They grow 6 or 8 feet tall. The bean flowers are borne in clusters like sweet peas. The edible pods that follow are long, slender, green beans.

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Growing scarlet runner bean: Scarlet runner beans need fertile soil and adequate moisture in full sun. Plant them where they can grow up some kind of support. The beans don’t need to be tied — they twine around posts or poles. For covering fences, some kind of twine or netting will be needed for beans to climb. If allowed to grow over the ground, they will form a tangled mass of leaves, and the flowers will be hidden.

Propagating scarlet runner bean: Start new plants from seeds. Plant the large seeds directly in the ground after danger of frost has passed and the soil is warm. Plant seeds about 3 inches away from fences or posts, spacing them 2 to 3 inches apart. Thin the seedlings to a spacing of 6 to 8 inches. Seeds germinate in 5 to 10 days.

Uses for scarlet runner bean: These quick-growing vines are beautiful when trained up posts, arches, pergolas, or arbors. They make quick-growing screens to break up the garden.

Scarlet runner bean related varieties: Most seed catalogs list them only as scarlet runner beans and do not select them for special eating qualities. Butler has stringless beans; Painted Lady bears red and white flowers; Kelvedon Wonder is an early variety with long pods; and Scarlet Emperor is named for the color of its flowers.

Scientific name of scarlet runner bean: Phaseolus coccineus

Want more information? Try these links:

  • Annual Flowers. Discover your favorite annual flowers. We’ve organized them by color, sunlight, soil type, and height to make it easy to plan your garden.
  • Annuals. There’s more to an annuals garden than flowers. Learn about all of the annuals that enhance your garden.
  • Perennial Flowers. Complement your annuals with these delightful perennial flowers. They are also organized by height, soil type, sunlight, and color.

Download: Scarlet Runner Beans Growing Guide

Sometimes simply called “scarlet runners,” these plants have so many diverse benefits that they should be on must-have plant lists at every school, community, and home garden that has room for the vigorous vines!

Scarlet runner beans, Phaseolus coccineus, are in the same genus as garden beans, Phaseolus vulgaris. The species name coccineus is derived from Latin word for red and refers to the plant’s brilliant flowers. (The species name for garden beans, vulgaris, is Latin for “common.”) (Want to know more about botanical classification? Check out What’s In a Name?)

About Scarlet Runner Beans

In the U.S. scarlet runner beans are most often grown as ornamentals and are thus usually found in the flower section of catalogs and websites. In the U.K., however, the plants are prized for their edible harvest and are listed alongside green beans.

The plant is native to the mountains of Mexico and Central America and has been domesticated for more than 2000 years by the native peoples there. They consume most parts of the plant, including the starchy, tuberous roots.

When you observe most bean seeds germinate, you’ll see the stem rise from the soil, carrying with it the seed leaves (cotyledons). Then the first true leaves emerge from between them. The cotyledons of scarlet runner beans remain underground.

Scarlet runner beans produce vigorous vines that can reach up to 15’ and require a very sturdy support structure. Their vines twine clockwise around a support when viewed from above. Most other kinds of beans twine counterclockwise as they climb.

The abundance of red flowers makes the vines magnets for hummingbirds and bees. This prolific blooming also hints at the plants’ potential for yielding a generous, season-long harvest of edible beans. Scarlet runners are considered by some to be one of the highest-yielding types of beans.

Runners, Half-Runners, and Pole Beans

Are runner beans the same as pole beans? Although both produce long vines, the term “runner bean” refers exclusively to the species Phaseolus coccineus. (Oddly, the term “half-runner bean” most often refers to pole bean varieties, Phaseolus vulgaris, with relatively short vines. One might wonder why they aren’t called “half-pole” beans.)

Culinary Uses

Scarlet runner beans are used in many cuisines worldwide. Harvested as green beans, they’re a popular side vegetable in British cuisine. And specific varieties are grown for drying and prepared in signature dishes in Spain and Greece.

Plant parts are edible at nearly all stages of growth:

  • The striking scarlet flowers are edible, with a mild, sweet, somewhat “beany” flavor. Use in salads and to garnish soup and other dishes.
  • Immature pods can be harvested before they become fibrous, and then steamed and eaten as you would any green bean. The pods have a rougher surface texture than we’re accustomed to.
  • Let the pods grow a bit longer so the light pink seeds plump up inside them. Then shell them, cook, and eat as you would lima beans.
  • Allow the seeds to fully mature and dry inside the pods, then shell them and store them for use in winter soups.

Convinced to give them a try?

Step-by-Step Planting Instructions

  • Choose a spot in full sun with rich, moist soil that has been amended with compost.
  • Although the seeds will germinate in soil that’s slightly cooler than many other types of beans (50 degrees F.), the foliage won’t tolerate frost. Wait until after your average last spring frost date has passed and the weather has settled.
  • Erect a sturdy support for the plants.
  • Direct-sow the seeds around the support, placing the seeds 2–3” deep in the soil and spacing them 4–6” apart. Seeds should germinate in one to two weeks.
  • Plants grow vigorously and require regular watering, especially once they begin flowering. A layer of organic mulch, such as straw, shredded leaves, or pine straw, will help retain moisture. Keep the mulch an inch away from plant stems to prevent rot.
  • Begin harvesting at any stage, described above. The plant’s flower and bean production may slow in the heat of midsummer, but will pick up again as the weather cools.
  • At the end of the season you have several options, depending on your climate and preferences.
  • Save seed for replanting. Leave some pods on the plant until they’re completely dry and the seeds rattle inside. However, if a hard frost threatens, bring the pods indoors to finish drying. Then store in a cool, dry, dark place. Dig up and compost the rest of the plant remains.
  • Dig up the tuberous roots for replanting. Similar to dahlias, you can dig up the roots and store them in damp sand in a place that stays cool but not freezing. The plants will re-grow quickly once the roots are replanted in spring.
  • Leave tuberous roots in the ground. In regions with moderate winters, cut back the vines and mulch over the roots to protect them from freezing.

Scarlet Runner Bean

Flower Seed

DAYS TO GERMINATION: 4-7 days at 60-70°F (16-21°C).
SOWING: Transplant: Sow 2-3 weeks before last frost. Plant 2 seeds 1″ deep in individual cell packs
or containers. Thin to one plant per cell or pot. Harden off and transplant outside after the last frost.
Direct seed: After last frost, when the soil temperature is at least 60°F (16°C), sow about 6 seeds per foot, 1″ deep. When seedlings have true leaves, thin to 4-8″ apart.
Use a nitrogen-fixing inoculant for increased flowering and bean yields. Trellis or other support is necessary.
LIGHT PREFERENCE: Sun.
SOIL REQUIREMENTS: Fertile soil with high levels of humus.
PLANT SPACING: 4-8″.
HARDINESS ZONES: Annual.
HARVEST: Edible flowers: Harvest when the flower show strong color, as buds or as fully open flowers. Unopened buds can be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days on slightly damp towel in covered container. Open flowers should be used immediately. To encourage continued flowering keep the beans picked.
USES: Edible flower. For covering arbors, walls, and fences.
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Phaseolus coccineus

Scarlet runner bean (ANNUAL VINE)

Size and Method of Climbing

Scarlet runner bean can grow up to 15 feet high. It is a twining vine. Twining vines climb by twisting their stems or leaf stalks around a support. This type of vine grows well on trellises, arbors, wires or chain-link fences.

Plant Care

Provide full sun and a moist, well-drained soil.

Disease, pests, and problems

The same insects and diseases that afflict beans grown in the vegetable garden can affect this plant. This includes viral disease, bacterial blight anthracnose, Mexican bean beetles and Japanese beetles.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to tropial America.

Leaf description

Leaves are similar to those found on other bean plants: opposite leaves, each with three leaflets.

Flower description

Flowers typical of beans and peas, but bright red to red-orange in color.

Fruit description

The fruit is a legume (pod) filled with black, speckled, edible beans.

Cultivars and their differences

Golden Sunshine (Phaseolus coccineus ‘Golden Sunshine’): Red flowers and chartreuse leaves.

Painted Lady (Phaseolus coccineus ‘Painted Lady’): Bicolor flower (red and white).

Streamline (Phaseolus coccineus ‘Streamline’): Produces abundance of flowers and fruits; the pods can be up to 18 inches long.

Sunset (Phaseolus coccineus ‘Sunset’): Peach or pink-colored flowers.

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