How to Grow Scarlet Runner Bean (Phaseolus coccineus)

By Jennifer Poindexter

Do you enjoy filling your yard or garden with classic plants? I don’t mean common classic plants. I’m talking more about plants with history. Plants like the scarlet runner bean.

These plants are native to the mountains of Mexico and Central America. They’re known for producing at higher altitudes than other bean varieties.

However, in the 1600s they began appearing around the world in a variety of garden settings. The scarlet runner beans were originally used as a food source.

Over the years, they’ve been grown mainly for their ornamental value. Whether you want to grow this plant for aesthetic purposes or you’d like to enjoy a different crop, you’re in the right place.

I’m going to provide what you should know when growing this plant around your home. Here’s what you should know about growing scarlet runner beans:

Growing Conditions for the Scarlet Runner Bean

The scarlet runner bean is a unique plant because it grows tall like pole beans. You can’t help but notice the plant due to its heart-shaped, rich green foliage and vines which grow up to 15 feet or longer.

Between July and October, you should begin to see vibrant red or white blooms. These flowers open with the sun and close as the sun goes down.

After the flowers are finished, they give way to beans which grow to be as long as 12 inches. Scarlet runner beans are the most productive bean variety.

Expect them to set more beans when the temperatures are cooler versus in hot conditions.

Now that you know what to expect with this plant, let’s discuss the ideal planting conditions. Scarlet runner beans are typically grown as annuals.

However, they’re short-lived perennials in planting zones seven through eleven. In these areas which receive mild frost, the tuberous root systems will survive but the green foliage will die back.

In the spring, new growth will sprout. In the planting zones where this plant is hardy and doesn’t receive frost, scarlet runner beans should remain evergreen.

Whether growing as an annual or a short-lived perennial, be sure to plant the scarlet runner bean plants in areas with full sunlight and in nutrient-dense, well-draining soil.

By supplying adequate growing conditions, you’re ensuring that your scarlet runner beans start their life cycle on the right foot.

planting scarlet runner beans in garden

How to Plant the Scarlet Runner Bean

There are two ways to begin growing scarlet runner beans. The first method is to sow the seeds directly into their outdoor growing location.

Wait until the soil temperatures are at least 50-degrees Fahrenheit. When ready, till the ground in the area where the beans are being planted.

You should till the dirt between 6 and 12 inches deep. From there, sow the seeds approximately 2 to 3 inches deep.

Place a half foot of space between each seed. Then lightly cover them and water gently. You don’t want to oversaturate the seeds as this could lead to rot.

Yet, they will need to remain consistently damp until germination occurs in approximately 1 to 2 weeks.

The next growing method is to start scarlet runner beans indoors. They should be started approximately four to six weeks prior to the final spring frost.

Begin this process by filling a growing tray with well-draining, nutritious soil. Push the seeds into the soil and gently cover them.

Spritz the soil with a spray bottle of water and wrap the tray in plastic to provide a greenhouse effect. The seed tray should be placed in a warm location.

Check the soil daily to ensure it never fully dries out. In approximately two weeks, the seeds should sprout.

From there, move the plants to a bright and warm growing location. Continue to provide adequate care to the plants until frost is over and they’re sturdy enough to be transplanted.

Prior to transplanting the seedlings be sure to harden them off. Then move them to their permanent growing location.

These are two ways to add scarlet runner beans to your landscape. Pick the method which works best for you and add this vibrant plant to your garden area as soon as the weather allows.

scarlet runner bean seeds

Caring for the Scarlet Runner Bean

Scarlet runner beans are easy plants to care for. They require a few basics to keep them strong and vivid throughout the growing season.

The first thing you must do to care for this plant is provide water. These plants shouldn’t be oversaturated, but they should never fully dry out either.

To find balance, try watering the plants deeply. Do this by supplying water to the area for longer periods of time, fewer days of the week.

In doing so, you’re saturating the roots at the time of watering, but you’re also supplying water to the ground around the plants.

As the days progress, and the plants need more water, they’ll dig their roots deeper into the soil to retrieve it.

In the process, this creates a deeper, stronger root system. This can lead to healthier plants overall.

If you’re unsure as to when you should water the plants again, test the soil. Insert your finger into the dirt next to the plant.

When the soil is dry to your first knuckle, it’s time to have another deep watering session. This should provide a balanced amount of moisture to keep your plants healthy.

Next, you should mulch around your beans once they’re established. This not only helps keep moisture around the plants, it also helps with keeping weeds down.

Weeding is another task you should perform to keep scarlet runner beans vibrant. They don’t do well when they must compete with weeds for nutrients.

Plus, if weeds are allowed to grow around the plants while they’re smaller, it could block the sunlight and choke the runner beans out.

The next thing you should do to care for the scarlet runner beans is apply fertilizer right before blooming. Ensure the fertilizer is high in phosphorus to encourage prolific blooms.

Last, be sure to trellis your plants. Each plant produces long vines which can easily take over an area. By keeping the plant off the ground, you have better control over its growing location and the health of the plant.

It makes it easier to spot potential disease issues and can provide better airflow to help the plant deter disease.

These are the things the scarlet runner bean plant needs from you. Put these tips into practice to encourage your plants to shine as brightly as possible in your landscape.

scarlet runner beans in vegetable garden

Garden Pests and Diseases Which Could Impact the Scarlet Runner Bean

It’s difficult to grow a plant if you don’t know how to protect it. The reality is, most plants face enemies in their growing location.

By being alert to potential risks of pests or diseases, you may be able to catch problems before they manifest into large issues.

The main pests which bother scarlet runner beans are rabbits, deer, beetles, and slugs. You may treat beetles and slugs with an insecticide.

However, you may also place a layer of coffee grounds or diatomaceous earth on the ground around the plants to deter slugs.

This creates a dangerous terrain for the slugs to crawl over.

When trying to deter rabbits or deer, you can place a granular deterrent around your plants. This creates a scent which keeps pests away.

Plus, you can surround your plants with chicken wire. This creates a barrier between the pests and your plants.

The only diseases which tend to bother scarlet runner beans are fungal issues. Most fungal diseases can be treated with a fungicide.

However, it’s best to deter these issues by planting in areas of ample sunlight and well-draining soil. You can also prune thick areas of these plants to ensure better air circulation.

The more you do to deter cold, wet growing areas the less likely fungal disease will form. You should also do your best to ensure that all foliage has a chance to dry thoroughly as well.

These are the tips which can help you treat or deter pests and diseases. By staying on top of these problems you give your plants a fighting chance at surviving any attacks they may endure. 

harvesting scarlet runner beans

Harvesting Scarlet Runner Beans

The last thing which should be mentioned when growing scarlet runner beans is how to harvest them. As mentioned, this plant is edible and was once produced for its beans instead of flowers.

If you wish to grow the plant for the beans, it’s important to know when to harvest them. It’s best to harvest the beans while they’re young.

The older they get, the more leathery they become. Pluck the beans from the plant and be sure to slice them prior to cooking to make them more tender.

You may enjoy these beans by steaming, baking, or boiling them.

Another way to harvest from this plant is to harvest the tuberous roots in the fall in areas where the plant is only an annual.

This could save you from buying more plants the following year. Dig up the roots and store them in a pot that’s filled with damp sand.

Store them in a cool, dark location. The next year, after all frost is over, plant them back into an area with ideal growing conditions. These plants should bloom faster.

Whether harvesting the roots of this plant or the produce, it’s important to understand how you can get the most out of your scarlet runner bean plant.

You now have a great foundation on how you can successfully grow scarlet runner beans. Whether growing for edible purposes or ornamental value, it’s important to understand how to keep these plants productive and looking their best.

Be sure to provide adequate growing conditions, proper care, and sufficient protection from threats, and you should be able to enjoy this plant as either a short-lived perennial or annual around your home.

Learn More About Scarlet Runner Beans

scarlet runner beans and plant in garden on trellis with text overlay vegetable gardening how to grow scarlet runner beans

The post How to Grow Scarlet Runner Bean (Phaseolus coccineus) appeared first on Gardening Channel.



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