Scarlet runner beans, while beautiful and oftentimes used for ornamental purposes, are also edible and can be substituted for lima beans in many recipes.
Scarlet runner bean plants do not do well in colder temperatures so seeds should be planted well after the last frost. The plants grow rather rapidly, reaching maturity in 70 - 115 days, and can reach heights (vining) of up to 8 feet tall, in a single season. They do best planted near a fence or trellis so the vines can climb.
As the name suggests, the scarlet flower clusters are a stunning feature against the full green, heart-shaped leaves with slender pods that can reach lengths of up to 12 inches - these plants definitely make for a gorgeous backdrop for any garden. These bright and beautiful plants tend to be a huge draw for hummingbirds. Pods can be picked for a continuous bloom. The beans are pink in color when young and turn to a mottled purple and black when more mature.
Young pods can be used like snap beans or, if allowed to mature further, the beans can be shelled and cooked or dried if desired. The flowers are also tasty, being a great addition to any salad.
As with many other beans, scarlet runner beans are susceptible to insects, particularly beetles, and being nibbled on by rabbit and deer. Fungus may also be problematic in more humid conditions, especially if crowded.
Sowing The Seed
Runner Beans can be started indoors, or directly outdoors as well. If started indoors, sow in peat pots, 6 to 8 weeks prior to the last frost. The beans are rather large, so be sure to place them at a depth of at least 1.5” under topsoil. Provide a support for early sprouts to cling to. Transplant, or direct sow your Runner Beans in the garden when the weather has warmed and all danger of killing frost has passed.
Runner Beans will require an area of full sunlight for the majority of the day. The plants will thrive in temperatures of at least 65F and require a soil that is fertile and rich in organic matter. You must also make sure that your sowing medium is well drained as well. Adding a light compost to any areas containing hard, compact soil will improve your overall drainage. Water the seeds daily until germination occurs.
Germination & Growth
Runner Beans typically germinate within a good 7 to 21 days after sowing. The plants will reach a vining length of 72 to 96 inches long. They can be spaced roughly 12 to 18 inches apart from one another. The use of a trellis, stakes and supports is recommended, since the plants are best grown upwards and will vine to such great lengths.