Gardening for Health

Scarlet Runner Beans Add Beauty 

By Maria Price 

I always believe that a garden, be it for flowers or vegetables, should always be beautiful. One of the most beautiful plants to dress up a vegetable garden is the scarlet runner bean. 

Phaseolus coccineus or scarlet runner beans were once considered of European origin but are actually a native of the Americas. The plants have 10-foot vines of red flowers and long green pods containing red seeds with black markings.  

There are many strains and varieties available from most seed companies. You could try the varieties from Native Seeds ( which are obtained from native peoples of the Southwest, but since these bear late in the season, they are better suited to southern latitudes.  

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds ( offers three types of runner beans, good for snaps, shell or dried beans. Park Seed ( offers a white flowering been called Stardust that is frost tolerant. One of the showiest varieties is Scarlet Emperor offered by Territorial Seed Company ( 

Although I planted my scarlet runners very late in July, they can be planted soon after all danger of frost is passed. They need full sun in loose garden loam with plenty of humus. If they start looking pale, fertilize with fish emulsion. Plant the seeds 1 inch deep and 6 inches apart. Pick the beans often to keep them producing. 

I used a piece of cattle fencing and strong metal fence posts to make an inexpensive arch in my vegetable garden for the vines to climb on. They are blooming beautifully and provide a little shade in the middle of my garden. 

The flowers are red, orange, white or with the Painted Lady variety, salmon and white. The flowering vines attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Sulfur yellow butterflies especially like them. The flowers are edible, too, and have a sweet, bean taste with a slightly crunchy texture. There is a sweet nectar in the base of each flower, so don’t remove the base. Use the flowers to top soups, in salads and as a garnish.