Beans, Lima

Lima Bean (Phaseolus limensis)

Lima beans have an undeserved reputation for being difficult to grow.  If you follow the basic steps for growing snap beans, your limas will thrive.  As with green beans, lima beans come in two forms – bush lima and pole lima.  The bush limas will grow to 10 to 15 inches tall and 4 to 8 inches wide.  The pole lima will climb to 8 to 15 feet tall and the plants will be 6 to 8 inches wide.  For sure the pole lima will need a good sized trellis to hold it.  A 25 foot row of bush limas will produce 6 to 8 pounds of beans in their shells.  The pole version will produce 10 to 20 pounds for one plant.  


If your soil is decent, lima bean plants will send roots down 36 to 48 inches deep.  For sure you want to loosen your soil at least down to 12 inches.  Lima beans need full sun and will not tolerate any frost so don’t put them out too soon in the spring.  They prefer a soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0 as with most vegetables.  


The bush varieties of limas will grow in a container that is at least 12 inches deep.  

Ferry-Morse Seeds 1789 Beans - Lima Henderson Bush 28 Gram Packet

by Ferry-morse

  • 65 Days to Harvest
  • Plant 1-inch to 1-1/2-inch Deep, 20-inch Row Spacing & 4-inch Plant Spacing








Baby Lima Certified Organic Heirloom Seeds 30 Seeds

  • Sweet, tender, nutty and delicious underused bean.
  • Warm season crop, enough seed for one 5 foot row.
  • This is an abundant producer that matures early.
  • Enjoy fresh, freeze or dry them.
  • Phaseolus lunatus
  • These sweet, tender, nutty baby lima beans are a true delicacy - definitely not what you remember your mom feeding you as a child. This variety matures earlier than other limas and will produce abundant harvests. Eat this flavorful warm season crop fresh, frozen or dried. Enough seeds for one 5-foot row.





Lima beans are quite cold sensitive. If growth is poor, you may have planted them in soil that was too cold. To grow well, limas need 2 1/2 months of warm weather with daytime averages of 70F to 80F. The best soil temperature for germination is 75F to 85F, any lower and you are taking a chance on having a poor crop. You should delay your lima bean sowing until at least 2 weeks after the last hard frost and it will probably be later until the soil temp is 75F.  You can plant bush limas up to the 4th of July and still be able to get some harvest.


Seed Inoculant

An inoculant is a highly effective form of Rhizobia bacteria that, when placed in close proximity to a legume seed at planting, stimulates the formation of nitrogen-bearing "nodules" on the roots. Common legumes are:  garden beans, garden peas, fava beans, soybeans, and lentils. When tilled in following seasonal maturity and returned to the soil, these nodules add readily and easily assimilable nitrogen. Inoculation is a low-cost way to ensure nodulation in an environmentally safe manner



 Rigging A Trellis

If you are growing pole limas it is best to rig your trellis before you plant your seeds.  You want to plant the seeds around the base of the trellis.  Pole limas can grow 12 to 15 foot long, so a six foot trellis doesn’t do much good.  The most common pole lima trellis is made from 5 our 6 young trees from the woods that are about 2 to 3 inches in diameter and at least 15 feet tall.  You secure these poles about a foot from one end so it looks like the skeleton of an Indian teepee when it is stood up.


Planting Tricks (Optional)

Most yardeners do not have absolutely wonderful healthy soil for their vegetable garden.  One way to overcome some problems that might occur later in the season is to add some products to the soil before planting your seeds or seedlings.

Compost – A couple of handfuls of quality compost sprinkled along the line where the seeds will go or in the hole in which the seedling will adds micro-nutrients and valuable natural chemicals to the soil giving your new plants a boost as they get started.

Vegetable Thrive – This is an organic liquid that contains beneficial soil bacteria and beneficial soil fungi called mycorrhizae which helps develop strong root systems.  Sprinle Thrive lightly along the line where seeds will go or into the hole for the seedlilngs.  Your plants get a better start then if they were planted with these valuable amendments. 



Planting Lima Seed

Lima bean seeds should be planted 1 ½ to 2 inches deep.  Bush limas should be about 4 inches from each other in any direction.  On a trellis they should be about six inches from each other along or around the base of the trellis.  You can leave the soil bare after planting and wait for the seedlings to get to over 4 inches, at which time you apply a 3 inch layer of organic mulch.  The better technique is to spread a thin layer of quality compost over the seeded area then wait to mulch.


Mulching Lima Beans

There should be a 3 inch layer surrounding all lima bean plants from the time the seedlings are 4 inches tall until the end of the growing season.  You will need to add to the mulch to keep it at 3 inches.  That; thickness of mulch means no weeds, more water retained, soil cooler, and the soil food web is plenty of food.  



One of the reasons to use mulch is to avoid having to do any weeding, especially with a tool such as a hoe.  Any root disturbance around the lima bean plants will hinder their growth, so handle seedlings as little as possible. If you have to thin the seedlings, cut rather than pull unwanted seedlings.


















Water Requirements for Lima Beans

Make sure the plants get 1 to ½ inches of water every week from rain or by watering. Critical watering periods are during pollination and pod development; lack of water may cause pod drop. See the file on soaker hose watering systems for vegetable gardens.  






Feeding Requirements

This plant is a light feeder .  It needs some slow release granular fertilizer worked into the soil just before planting.  A handful for every four square feet should do the job.  Adding some compost at that time is helpful. While no more fertilizer is needed, your plants will do better with some foliar spray of something like liquid seaweed or compost tea once a month into the fall. 






How Long Until Picking?

Bush limas will be ready to pick in 10 to 11 weeks from planting the seed. The bush limas will produce beans for two to three weeks.   Pole Limas will take a few weeks longer to ripen but will produce beans right through to first hard frost.  


When to Harvest

If you will be using lima beans fresh from the garden, pick them when the pods are well filled and plump but still bright colored. The end of the pod should feel spongy when squeezed between your fingers. Fresh beans can be picked for 3 to 4 weeks. If you will be drying your beans, let the pods pass the mature stage, and pick them when they are dry and papery.


Best Fresh Storage Method - Refrigerate unshelled lima beans in plastic bags; they will keep for 2 weeks.

Best Long-Term Storage Method - Shelled lima beans can be frozen for up to 12 months.

Dried beans will keep for more than a year; limas can also be canned or used in pickles.

Seed Storage -  seeds can be stored in a dry cool place for up to 3 years.







Probable Cause

Pods are mottled with white, fuzzy fungus strands on them

Downy Mildew, A Fungal Disease

Fruits develop small, round, water-soaked spots; later, fruits darken and rot

Anthracnose, A Fungal Disease

Leaves are skeletonized

Mexican Bean Beetles

Leaves wrinkled or curled; discolored, stunted, tend to fall off

Aphids - Appear after last frost  

Leaves stippled, yellowing or bronze; dry out and (drop)may be webbing visible; sometimes galls form on leaves

Spider Mites

Fail to set pods

High Temperatures; Over Mature Pods; Extremes In Moisture 

Plant chewed to soil

Deer, Rabbits, or a Wood Chuck

Rust colored spots, underside leaves, leaves yellow, wilt, dry, fall off

Bean Rust, A Fungal Disease

Leaves coated with white powder

Powdery Mildew, A Fungal Disease



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