Scarlet Runner Beans Are Perennials That Make the Vegetable Garden Beautiful


As summer draws to a close, I have begun planning next year’s garden and building several trellises and raised beds to allow that garden to happen.  One of the main things that I plan to add next year is an assortment of places to plant Scarlet Runner Beans, which I have discovered are perennial in some areas–and perhaps in my Zone 7 garden on the Jersey Shore.   Up close, the flowers of the Scarlet Runner are gorgeous:


And look what a trellis can do with the plant:


Scarlet runner bean growing on a tall teepee. An obelisk planted with Scarlet Runners.

“The quick-growing twining vines can get up to 15 feet or more in length (although they tend to be closer to 6-8 feet in most Midwestern gardens), rambling through other vegetation, or climbing on a trellis or other support in a garden.

“About two months after sowing plants produce scarlet red, or occasionally white, typical legume flowers with the two lowermost petals combining into a “keel”, the uppermost petal modified into a hoodlike “standard”, and the petals on the sides spreading as “wings.” Up to 20 inch-long flowers are produced in each cluster (raceme) along the vines.

Scarlet runner beans flowering (L), with closeup of buds (C) and open flowers (R).

The red flowers are atractive to pollinators such as ruby throated hummingbirds (L) and bumble bees (R). Flowers open at sunrise and fade at sunset. The flowers are highly attractive to hummingbirds and bees. Flowers are followed by typical bean pods up to a foot long. Under ideal conditions scarlet runner bean is the most productive of all the beans. Fewer pods are set in hot weather, so the best bean production may occur in cooler summers or in the fall.  The seeds are about an inch long, with 6-10 seeds per pod. Runner beans readily cross-pollinate, so they must be isolated in order to have seed from heirloom varieties come true….

Because they are tougher than many green beans, they are best sliced before cooking. Some people do not like the rough texture of the skins. The seeds are multicolored, often black with maroon mottling.The white or multicolored seeds inside the pods can be eaten fresh while still light pink (shelled and cooked like lima beans) or dried. The dried seeds, which have a chestnut-like flavor, require a long cooking time and are best soaked for 6 to 8 hours before cooking. The seed color varies from white to shining black to violet-black mottled with deep red or violet-purple mottled in black, although their gray color when cooked is not particularly attractive.”


3 Comments Add yours

  1. estherconejo says:

    I planted some scarlet runners in early August. They are looking kinda sad… but I am still hopeful! Maybe the cooler weather will do them some good.

    1. jackikellum says:

      I am not sure where you live. I live in Zone 7, and I read that July 12 is the last date for palnting Scarlet Runner Seeds.
      Good Luck!

      1. estherconejo says:

        I’m in Zone 8… Zone 8b… on the verge of Zone 9, basically. Got suckered by the seed packet that said: “Plant in early August for a late September harvest.” I’ll be happy to just to see some flowers!

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