Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Hyacinth Bean Second Year Efforts - Or Being Beany

"Being Beany" - this title is dedicated to our wonderful Hort Chair, Kitty Sprout, who had an unfortunate fall at Christmas and shattered her femur.  She has been in a wheelchair since then and still a couple of months to go.  Her spirit is indefatigable and we hope she will be up and around soon.  So, she participates by email and photographs and contributes names to our projects.

Several sprouts did have late success with their vines from last year.  You can read about our problems below and what we have decided to try instead this year.  We were able to save seeds; sending some to Shirley Meniece as well as saving some for our group.  Our goal is to have enough nice plants to take to the membership at the June picnic.

Purple hyacinth bean (Lablab purpurea) is a vigorous (take that word seriously!) ornamental vine.  It is not a native, but comes from Africa.  Purple-pink blossoms turn into lovely reddish purple pods in the fall growing about the size of lima beans with 3-4 smaller pea-sized seeds inside.  The vine adds great color to any garden and can serve as a pollinator plant for bees.  The vines take lots of summer heat and are drought tolerant.  In our climate (Zone 6b) the vines die back and only occasionally does a seed self sow.  Most of us save the seeds and they can be started now indoors or sowed direct after the last frost date. Some sources say that Thomas Jefferson’s favorite nurseryman Bernard McMahon sold hyacinth bean vine plants to Jefferson in 1804. Because of this, the hyacinth bean is also known as Jefferson bean.

The vine can grow to 10' and requires staking.  Note: The mature seeds contain toxins and should not be eaten raw!

Last year's vine growing up a
no-longer used basketball hoop in my driveway

Last year we were a very anxious group - our seeds sprouted quickly and of course took off quickly (remember - vigorous grower!).  The seeds were started in small 6 pack cells.  We were very anxious to transplant into the 4" pots - but many had difficulties with their vines after the initial potting up.  The stems were thin and crimped easily in transplanting and so we lost a lot.  There was also very little root growth early.   Afterwards we read that this plant, although easy to grow, likes little disturbance. 

This year we decided to continue to recycle our milk/water jugs.  Many people here are still using bottled water after our water crisis last year, so lots of jugs are available.  But this is not winter sowing, so we approached it differently. After transplanting in May or June the jugs can still be recycled in our city recycling. 

Dried seeds collected last fall
March 2, 2015:  Taking one gallon, opaque water jugs, we cut the front and sides about 2/3 of the way up.  We cut the front and then curved up around the back leaving a wide opening with handle intact to give the bottle strength and allowing us to be able to carry the jugs.   The jugs were filled almost to the top of the cut with a soilless, moistened mix; about 4-5" as you can see in the photo below.
Our jugs - notice how they are cut with the
handle intact in the back to provide strength
in carrying and for the weight of the soil.
Plant the seeds 1 1/2" deep.  Our jugs are now put indoors in indirect light.  The temperature should be fairly warm.  These seeds do not need stratification.  We want them to germinate and start growing.  Water lightly if the soil dries out as the seeds need moisture to germinate and we have not put in baggies or anything else to mimic a greenhouse.  Drainage holes can be added in the bottom of the jugs.   Trellises will be added - either bamboo stakes or even clippings from things in the yard to provide strength until ready.  When ready to plant outdoors, the side and bottom of the jugs can just be cut away and the plant set directly in the planting hole.  This way there will hopefully be lots of strong root growth and the plants will thrive.

WV Sprout has 3 appearing!

March 11, 2015:  WV Sprout reports first signs of germination.  3 visible and one more making a large bump in the soil - by morning it will be at least 2"!  Anyone else?

Kam Sprout has one up, too. 
Two others look they will be
out tomorrow. 
March 12, 2015:  Forgetful Sprout reports that hers must like where they are - in an indirect east window.  She used an arrow to point out the second sprout; saying it looks like vermiculite.  She switched the two milk jugs around and put the smaller sprout where it will get more sun.  These were sent this morning so they are probably 2" taller by now. 

 Forgetful Sprout says the arrow points
to one just breaking through the soil.
March 15, 2015:  75% germination rate on the plants I started.  8 out of 12 pots have sprouted.  I decided to go ahead and put the stakes in so as not to disturb the root.  I started by cutting the 4' long green bamboo stakes available at garden centers in half.  I put three in the water jug making a triangle and used a twist tie to hold together.  Then deciding that wasn't going to be tall enough to keep the vines upright until after our frost date and warm enough to put outside, I added one 4' tall on in the center. 
This plant is the best one
so far.  Smaller ones in the
March 16, 2015:  escwvsprout, new to the blog this year, sent this message today- when I left for the weekend no sprouts, on my return this is what I found: (remember patience is needed, some seeds are slower than others!)
Look what happened over the weekend!

May 18, 2015  Two photos from Kitty Sprout's yard.  One of her plants is in the ground and growing well.  Already flowering.
Kitty Spouts bean
on May 18, 2015.

Another photo of Kitty Sprout's plant
May 20, 2015  Our club's monthly general meeting.  Approximately 18 lovely hyacinth bean plants were taken and distributed to the membership.  All have found new homes.   Hope they all do well and congratulations to our Hort Committee for a fun project!
June 12, 2015
A visit to Kitty Sprout's house and look how much her bean has grown!  Almost to the roofline already.  Happy Hyacinth. Already 3 pods and many more flowers coming. 
Reaching to the roof.

Same plant from other side.


  1. 3 plants sprouting on the hyacinth beans! Anyone else having any luck? Send me a photo if so.

  2. Our newest member to the blog, Bean Sprout, reports hers are popping out of the soil. Forgetful Sprout sent photos that I am posting right now.

  3. Added some support stakes over the weekend for the hyacinth bean vines.

  4. escwvsprout now has plants popping out of the soil!

  5. Great fun and success with our hyacinth beans. One photo of Kitty Sprout's in her yard and 18 other plants in new homes!

  6. Kitty Sprout's vine climbing fast - almost to the roof line.

  7. Hi..Can I grow them in containers in my balcony?

    1. Yes, you may. Several things to think about. We found seeds did not like transplanting very well, so wait until your last frost date and plant directly into the container. They are very fast growers. I don't know what growing zone you are in - we are in 6b and our last frost date is May 10. If you start before then just watch for frost dates and provide some protection/coverage. They are an annual here in WV. They need as much sun as you can give them to perform well. Full sun is great. You will also need a good size trellis, a gutter, or some other strong support. You mention a balcony, so I could see you wrapping the vines around the balcony railings and they would fill in most of the balcony by mid August if planted in May. That would be lovely. Some people have put the pot against a wall and then used the wall as a backdrop attaching the vine with small hooks to the wall. You may prune back if necessary; just be sure to be selective so that you have plenty of flower buds. Be sure and use a large size pot. Water at the beginning for germination and to help new growth; once established they prefer dry, well drained soil and water only as necessary (wilted leaves indicated a need for water). Mine do better with less water. Remember that the beans are toxic unless cooked. Deer sometimes eat the lower leaves of my plants. Google "growing hyacinth beans in containers" and you will see additional information. Dave's Garden is a good resource. Thanks for being in touch.