Growing Scarlet Runner Beans

You won't have to trade a cow to get your hands on these magic beans, which can grow high into the sky

Credit: Carol Pope

Like something out of a fairy tale, these scarlet runner beans will grow and grow and grow

Truly a magic beanstalk: scarlet runner beans are a dream to grow

Called ‘Magic Beanstalk’ by Renee’s Garden, the scarlet runner bean truly is worthy of fairy-tale status. In my garden, these gorgeous vines twine up eight-foot stakes (placed teepee style in groups of three) seemingly a foot at a time, twisting around and around and then bursting into brilliant scarlet blooms.

Placed at the end of each of my raised beds, these bean teepees add architecture and interest for the eye, and also act as a beacon to hummingbirds and bees who are in constant attendance of the bright-red blooms all through July, August and September.

These flowers are followed by huge delectable pods that swell up with “magic beans.” We enjoy the whole pods slightly steamed or stirfried every day most of the late summer — like many generous vegetables, it’s good to remember that generally the more you pick the more you will get.

Tasty Edible Beans

Don’t forget about the yummy edible flowers for salads or stirfries. Also, it’s worth letting some of the pods mature so that you can pop some of the pretty purple and black beans out to dry for winter soups.

When drying beans, you can hang onto the biggest of the bunch if you like, so that you can use them to plant next year’s crop.

Planting Scarlet Runner Beans

Typically, I plant these beans in the late spring once the soil warms. There isn’t a big rush to get them started early because once the summer heats up, they grow like mad.

One important tip: whether you start them in pots as I tend to do, or in the ground as Renee’s recommends, give them some protection from the birds who love the beans as much as we do — they won’t hesitate to peck them out of the ground.

I usually cover the soil with a plastic mesh tray (such as the type you bring home from nurseries when you buy bedding plants) until the first set of leaves have developed; at that point, it’s safe to uncover them and let them reach for the sky.