Growing Runner Beans in Pots from Seeds – A Full Guide

Growing Runner beans in pots.
Growing Runner beans in pots.

Growing Runner beans in pots

Runner bean is known as Phaseolus Coccineus Scarlet Runner bean, or multiflora bean, is a plant in the legume family, Fabaceae. Another common name is butter beans. Runner beans are the perfect space-saving crop and grow well in large patio pots. In fact, with their ornamental, heart-shaped leaves and pretty, nectar-rich blooms, they look perfectly at home.

A guide to growing Runner beans in pots or containers

Runner beans are one of the most productive and pretty plants for containers and an excellent choice for small spaces. Growing Runner beans in pots are not difficult.

Great Runner beans varieties to grow

Climbing Runner beans

Traditional cultivars have a climbing habit and need tall supports. They are heavy-cropping.

Dwarf Runner beans

Non-climbing bush Runner beans or dwarf Runner beans produce respectable crops of rather lower-quality beans than the climbers. Then, they are useful for raised beds and container gardening or gardens in exposed positions.

‘Red Rum’ – heavy cropper, even in poor weather conditions

‘Armstrong’ – heavy cropper of long string-free pods with a great flavor

‘Celebration’ – the pretty pink flowers are followed by plenty of straight, tender, great-tasting pods

‘Lady Di’ – a generous cropper with long, slender, stringless pods. Plants are tolerant of hot weather

‘Mergoles’ – produces abundant, long, fleshy pods that taste delicious

‘Painted Lady’ – an old favorite, with attractive red-and-white flowers and plentiful, well-flavored beans. Less vigorous than many modern varieties.

Where to grow Runner beans

Grow Runner beans in a sunny spot with shelter from strong winds. Runner bean plants are happy in any fertile, well-drained soil. It is a good idea to prepare the site in spring by digging it over and adding a well-rotted organic matter. Plant Runner beans in a sheltered spot to encourage pollinating insects and they grow well in partial shade.

A trench filled with water retaining material, for example, manure, garden compost, or shredded newspaper, will help cut down on watering later. To germinate the Runner bean seed needs a minimum temperature range of 10°C; this makes early sowing outside risky. Seedlings are vulnerable to soil pests and diseases.

Runner beans like lots of water

To grow and fruit well, Runner beans need plenty of water. Use a large pot of at least 20 liters but ideally 40 to 50 liters. Big pots hold more water and dry out quickly. Use a large container with a water reservoir. Keep well watered, mainly on hot or windy days.

Sun requirement for Runner beans

They need about 5 to 6 hours sun or more (around half a day) to grow and fruit well.  In many small spaces there is more light higher up and see if you can place your Runner beans to climb up into more sun as they grow. Runner beans require a few hours sun a day but are more tolerant of some shade than many vegetables.

Sowing Runner beans indoors

From April, you can start Runner bean seed off in pots and transplant them later on. Simply fill a pot with seed compost and create a hole of about 5cm deep. Drop-in a Runner bean seed before backfilling the hole with compost and watering the bean seed in. Runner bean seeds will germinate in about a week and grow surprisingly quickly. You will need to harden Runner bean plants off for about 7 to 10 days before transplanting them outdoors.

Process of growing Runner beans in pots

In case if you miss this: Growing Chives in Pots, Planting, Care.

The process of growing Runner beans in pots.
The process of growing Runner beans in pots.

Runner bean plants need a warm, sunny spot in well-drained soil. This kind of position benefits pollinating insects, which are essential for the plants to set pods. Fork in some well-rotted manure, before you sow your Runner beans.

Runner beans require support to climb up. The traditional method is to grow them individually up inwardly sloping about 2.4m (8ft) tall bamboo canes tied near their tops to a horizontal cane. Though, if you slope the bamboo canes so that they meet in the middle and tie them there so that the ends of the canes extend beyond the row, you will find picking is easier and the yield is better.

In smaller spaces, a wigwam of canes takes up less room and helps produce an ornamental feature. Loosely tie the Runner bean plants to their supports after planting; after that, they will climb naturally. Remove the growing point once the Runner bean plants reach the top of their support. This encourages side stems and keeps an eye out for slugs and black fly that may attack the plants.

Plant supports for Runner beans

Runner beans need support from garden canes, strings, or netting. Ideally, these should be put in place at the time of planting, but they can be added after seed germination if necessary.

The commonly used Runner bean support is an A-frame of garden canes that spans two adjacent rows of Runner beans. Insert a tall garden cane next to each seedling and tie each cane to the one opposite with garden twine to create a tunnel. A supporting cane runs along the top of the framework help to hold the structure rigid. The Runner beans will naturally twine their stems around the canes as they grow.

When growing Runner bean plants in containers, a wigwam framework is preferable. This can be formed from a circle of garden canes, tied together at the top. Growing Runner beans against walls and fences it is easiest to attach a piece of plastic horticultural mesh which will make perfectly adequate support.

Improve pod set in Runner beans

  • Plant Runner beans into the soil that has had plenty of organic matter. Lime the soil before planting if the pH level is below 6.5. Apply a mulch of organic matter over the root area, and to help conserve moisture.
  • Plant in a sheltered site, as this will encourage bees to visit and pollinate the Runner bean plants.
  • Rotate the crop each year, never growing it in the same site for 2 years running. This will help avoid the build-up of pests and also disease problems.
  • Water in dry weather, giving 5 to 11 liters per sq m twice a week throughout the cropping period. Don’t mist or syringe the flowers with water (as used to be advocated) as this has not been shown to help pod-set and can deter bees.
  • Take care when applying treatments for aphids or other insect pests of Runner bean plants, because the pesticide could also kill bees and other pollinating insects. Spraying at dusk will reduce danger to bees.
  • Where birds are a problem, try growing a variety with different color flowers the following year, as this can deter the bird pests. If this does not work, growing a dwarf Runner bean variety such as ‘Hestia’ or ‘Pickwick’, which can be netted against birds.

Runner beans plant care when growing in pots

Throughout the growing season, you will need to water your Runner beans regularly, particularly as they start to develop flowers. A lack of moisture is the main reason why Runner bean flowers can fail to set pods. A liquid feed applied every 14 days will also help to maximize your Runner bean crop. Pinch out the growing tips of the plants once the stems reach the tops of their canes to divert their energy onto producing Runner beans rather than growing tall.

When shoots have reached the top of their supports, pinch them out to prevent Runner bean plants from becoming top-heavy. Runner beans need copious amounts of water, particularly if the weather is dry when the buds start to appear. Throughout the season, apply 5-9 liters water per sq m every 3-to-4 days.

Runner beans growing problems in pots

Runner bean plants are one of the easiest vegetables to grow. Though, they can get several problems;

Sometimes pods do not set and usually, this is due to lack of water, but there are other causes.  Runner bean plants are affected by fungal diseases for example Runner bean and French bean rust and bacterial diseases such as halo blight.

One of the common pests of Runner bean is the black bean aphid. Red spider mite can occur especially in warm, dry conditions. The southern green shield bug is a relatively new pest found on Runner beans and though it is found in certain locations and is more serious than the native shield bugs that do negligible harm to beans.

Generally, trouble-free, young plants are at risk from slugs and pigeons; black fly can be a problem as the plants grow. The bean plants are not hardy and will be destroyed by frost or sit sulking if the weather is cold, so don’t plant out too early.

Harvesting Runner beans

Runner beans can be harvested when the pods reach 20cm long. Pick Runner beans every 2 or 3 days to ensure that they are tender and prevent them from becoming stringy. The more you pick, then the more pods will be produced.

Some gardening tips for growing Runner beans in pots

  • Runner beans are a productive and also beautiful container crop. You can grow a surprising number of beans in one pot and eight in a 40cm square pot will be fine.
  • Runner beans grow best with lots of water. Check by feeling the compost an inch or two down and it should be damp like a wrung-out sponge. They’ll probably require watering every day, particularly when warm or windy.
  • Runner beans need good tall support to climb up like a wigwam. Then, use canes or tall branches if you can find them.
  • When the runner beans reach the top of the canes, pinch out the tops (this means cutting the very tip-off).
  • It’s important to keep picking Runner beans as this encourages the plant to grow more. Pick the Runner beans small for a delicious, tender treat (big beans look cool but can be rather tough to eat).
  • To boost your crop, feed with liquid tomato food once every 2 or 3 weeks after the plant starts flowering.

Why do Runner beans fail to set pods?

  • This occurs if temperatures are too high and there is insufficient moisture at the roots during their critical watering period (when flowers and pods appear). Regular watering and mulching with organic matter will also help alleviate this problem.
  • When night temperatures are mainly high, this can affect the production of pollen and therefore a reduction is seen in the number of pods that set. As temperature ranges begin to cool, this problem will resolve itself and normal production of pollen and beans should resume.
  • Acid soils and very poor soils may reduce crop production so it is well worth taking the time to prepare the soil properly before planting Runner beans.

Commonly asked questions about growing Runner beans

You may also check this: Growing Turnips in Containers, Turnips Plant Care.

Runner beans questions.
Runner beans questions.
How long do runner beans take to grow?

Runner beans are ready to pick about 12 to 16 weeks after sowing. Regular picking encourages the plants to produce more flowers and more young beans.

Should I cut the tops off my runner beans?

Yes, nip the tops off and you’ll obtain more growing shoots coming from lower down. With the plants that just stalk leave them there and they are to grow more shoots later on.

Should you soak runner bean seeds before planting?

Many sources recommend 8 to 12 hours and no more than 24 hours. Again, too much soaking and the bean seeds will start to decompose. If you use hot water, the soaking time will decrease. We’ve always liked to use warm water and then start the soaking at bedtime, then plant first thing in the morning.

Why are my runner bean seeds not germinating?

Several possible causes are Runner beans are a warm-weather crop and seed may rot in soil less than 10 to 15°C. Delay planting until the soil has warmed; Soil is heavy or crusted; seedlings may not be able to push through.

Do you need to feed runner beans?

Feed Runner beans with a general liquid fertilizer each time you water them, and then switch to a tomato fertilizer once the first flowers start to form.

How long do runner bean seeds take to germinate?

Drop-in a Runner bean seed before backfilling the hole with compost and then watering the seed in. Runner Bean seeds will germinate in about a week and grow surprisingly quickly. You will need to harden plants off for 7 to 10 days before transplanting them outdoors.

Why does Runner bean leave turning yellow?

Proper fertilization promotes Runner bean plant health. A nitrogen deficiency causes leaves and bean plants to be light green or yellow. The vine also suffers from slow, inadequate growth and produces few flowers. A manganese deficiency main causes older leaves to turn yellow and develop dead brown spots.

Why do the flowers keep falling off my runner beans?

When the temperatures go too high, Runner bean flowers will fall off. The high heat makes it difficult for the Runner bean plant to keep itself alive and it will drop its blossoms. Soil is too wet Runner bean plants in soil that is too wet will produce blooms but will not produce pods.

Is bone meal good for runner beans?

Add a few handfuls of bone meal per square meter to plants and work well into the soil. Runner beans require a lot of moisture, and a soil with plenty of organic matter retains water and is ideal for this plant.

Why are my runner beans curling?

There are many reasons that Runner beans curl, but the most important one is the variety. A lot of Runner beans are just curly. Irregular watering is a common cause of bean curling in straighter bean varieties. Like other garden produce, Runner beans need regular, even watering during fruiting, to ensure that pods develop evenly.

If you are planning to grow organic runner beans, you should care about organic fertilizers and composts.


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