Growing Lima Beans:
How to Grow Lima Beans Organically

If you are interested in growing lima beans, you aren’t alone, for this is a very popular vegetable for planting in home gardens, especially in warmer climates. A native of Central America, the lima bean enjoys full sun and flourishes in areas with warm summers.

In these conditions, lima beans are very easy to grow and require average soil with good drainage. Rich soil can cause this plant to have excessive foliage and fewer beans.

Growing Lima Beans: Plant Snapshot (Phaseolus lunatus)

Growing Lima Beans
  • Family: Fabaceae (Phaseolus lunatus)
  • Annual or Perennial? Annual - Ready for harvest 60 to 90 days after planting.
  • Recommended varieties: Willow Leaf, Sieva Lima, Dixie Speckled, Christmas
  • Cold tolerance: Warm Season – Will not survive frost and their seeds will not germinate in cold soil. Plant them at about the average date of the last 32 degree F (0 degree C) temperature in spring
  • Required Sun: Full sun (at least 6 hours each day)
  • When planning vegetable crop rotation, group with crops from this family: Legumes: French beans, peas
  • Companion plants (see Companion Planting Charts for more info):
    • Companions: Beets, Cabbage family, Carrots, Celeriac, Celery, Corn, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Lettuce, Marigold, Pea, Potato, Radish, Rosemary, Strawberry, Savory, Tansy, Marigold
    • Avoid: Basil, Fennel, Kohlrabi, Onion
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Growing Lima Beans: Planting the Seed

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Learning how to grow lima beans is simple. In fact, lima beans sprout and flourish so easily that they are frequently used in schools to teach children about plants.

You can plant lima beans at three to four week intervals to provide several harvests throughout the growing season. Seeds are planted one inch deep, four to six inches (10 to 15 cm) apart and in rows of thirty to thirty-two inches (76 to 81 cm) apart after all danger of frost has passed.

Lima beans prefer a dry soil, so take care not to overwater them.

Snapshot: Planting Lima Beans

  • Planting depth: about 1 inch (2.54 cm)
  • Spacing in rows: about 30 to 32 inches (76.2 to 81.38 cm)
  • Germination soil temperature: 65 to 75 degrees F (18.3 to 23.8 degrees C)
  • Days to germination: 2 to 4 days
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Growing Lima Beans: From Germination to Pre-Harvest

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Once planted, watch lima beans closely for signs of growth as the plants must be thinned to stand four to six inches apart. If you have planted lima beans of the pole variety, then you will need to provide a series of poles for the bean vines to grow upon.

Bush lima beans need no support. While the bean pods and blossoms are developing, the plants will need approximately an inch of water per week.

While you shouldn’t overwater them, also be careful not to underwater them while they are blossoming. Lima beans must have sufficient water while blossoming or they may drop their flowers prematurely, affecting harvest yields.

Snapshot: Growing Lima Beans

  • Preferred soil pH (see soil pH tester for more information): 6.5 to 7.5
  • Growing soil temperature: 65 to 75 degrees F (18 to 24 degrees C)
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Growing Lima Beans: Harvesting Time

The more you harvest lima beans from your plants, the higher your yield will be.

You’ll know that lima beans are ready when the pods are a bright green color and have filled out to be nice and plump. The end of the lima bean pod should feel a little spongy.

Lima beans with yellow pods have been on the vine for too long, though they are still edible. Young lima beans are very tender, while more mature beans have a meaty texture. Pick lima beans by hand.

Snapshot: Harvesting Lima Beans

  • Time to harvest: About 12 to 16 weeks after planting
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Storing Lima Beans and Freezing Lima Beans

Lima beans should be shelled for refrigerator storage. Use perforated plastic vegetable bags, and store shelled beans for no longer than one week.

Frozen lima beans can last over a year. To freeze them, wash and sort according to size, then blanch small limas for two minutes, medium limas for three minutes, and large limas for four minutes. Cool and drain, then package as desired and freeze.

Lima bean seeds are viable for three years.

Snapshot: Storing Lima Beans & Freezing Lima Beans

  • Storage temperature: 32 to 40 degrees F (0 to 4.44 degrees C)
  • Humidity: 90 to 95% relative humidity
  • Storage life (unfrozen in above conditions):1 week
  • Storage life (frozen): 9 to 14 months
  • Seed longevity: About 3 years
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Growing Lima Beans: Pests & Diseases

The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Lima Beans. For more information about preventing and controlling them, see Organic Garden Pest Control.

Pests

  • Aphids
  • Armyworms
  • Bean weevils
  • Corn earworm
  • Cucumber beetles
  • Cutworms
  • Darkling beetles
  • Earwigs
  • Grasshoppers
  • Leafhoppers
  • Leafminers
  • Loopers
  • Lycaenid pod borers
  • Lygus bugs
  • Nematodes
  • Saltmarsh caterpillar
  • Seedcorn maggot
  • Snails/slugs
  • Spider mites
  • Stink bugs
  • Thrips
  • Whiteflies
  • Wireworms

Diseases

  • Bean rust
  • Curly top
  • Damping off
  • Fusarium root rot
  • Mosaic viruses
  • Powdery mildew
  • White mold
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