Growing Lima Beans

A Helpful Guide To Growing Lima Beans

Growing lima beans is easiest done if they are started inside, a few weeks prior to the last frost of the season.  To reach harvest, they must be given between 60 and 90 warm days in an ideal planting location.  Below is a helpful and thorough guide to growing these legumes in the ground however, they can also be grown in containers as well as long as they are a minimum of eight inches tall.


Although lima beans will tolerate partial shade, you will not enjoy a full harvest unless they are offered full sun.  Growing lima beans should be done in a well-drained, loose soil that is very rich in organic matter.  These types of beans prefer between a 6.2 and 6.8 pH soil rating so planting beds should be prepared in advance by working in an abundance of aged compost.

Always avoid planting these beans where there has been green manure crops previously grown in a nitrogen, rich soil.  You will experience beautiful full plants with plenty of foliage but not many beans to harvest.

Plant Nutrition

If the moisture of the soil is too high, the lima beans may not only crack but also germinate quite poorly.  Never soak your seeds in advance like you may be use to doing with some other types and avoid over-watering, especially after sowing.  Your goal when growing lima beans is to keep the soil moist during both flowering as well as pod formation.

These plants do not tolerate extremes in watering.  If you are due to experience heavy rainfalls, you may want to cover your plants up or the overhead irrigation may cause small pods and flowers to prematurely fall off.  When the temperature of the soil begins averaging 60 degrees Fahrenheit, offer mulch to conserve moisture.

Aged garden compost is the best fertilizer to use for growing lima beans.  Keep in mind that beans and soil microorganisms will set up a mutual exchange so they never require extra nitrogen.

General Care And Companions

Lima beans are friendly companion plants to cucumbers, bush beans, celery, corn, summer savory, scarlet runner beans and sunflowers.  Never attempt growing them with beets, onions or kohlrabi.


Lima bean seeds often have a hard time pushing their way through soil unless it has been well worked.  When sowing use vermiculite, sand or peat moss vermiculite mix to cover them instead of soil.  Always take caution to not disturb their shallow root systems by cultivating very carefully.

It is very important to handle the beans if they are wet because this can promote the spreading of fungus spores.  If you are planting a pale variety, set stakes, trellises or poles before you plant your seeds and make sure whatever you use is strong enough to support their weight.

Pests and Diseases

Growing lima beans can be challenging as they are susceptible to a few different pests and diseases.  Bean beetles, aphids, leaf-hoppers, flea beetles and mites are all known to attack these plants.  Some can be handled with a blast of the hose while others may require a scrubbing with an insecticidal soap.  Always look for eggs and destroy them.  You can easily pinch out most infestations.  Keeping your garden free of debris will help reduce the chance of your plants being attacked.

Lima beans are prone to mosaic, anthracnose and blight.  Always aim to plant varieties that are disease resistant.  When you come across diseased plants, throw them away in a paper bag.  They are also very vulnerable to soil-borne diseases so every three years you should rotate beans so they don't grow in the same location for too long.


When pods are firm and plump, they are ready to be picked.  To extend flowering and encourage further pod production, continue to pluck them as they ripen.  If the seeds mature, your plant will die.  Also, pods that are not attended to promptly will produce mealy and tough seeds.  Growing lima beans typically results in three pickings per season when done properly.