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Hyacinth Bean Vines Grow Like Magic!

Jill likes cooking, writing, painting, & stewardship, and studies gardening through MD Master Gardener & Master Naturalist programs.

Hyacinth bean vines produce long bracts of shell-like purple flowers.

Hyacinth bean vines produce long bracts of shell-like purple flowers.

Fast and Easy to Grow

Nutritious yet slightly poisonous, tropical yet ideal as an annual in temperate gardens, fast-growing yet not invasive—that’s the hyacinth bean vine (Dolichos lablab or Lablab purpureus), one of the easiest plants to grow for food or for decoration. Hyacinth beans germinate and grow so quickly, you'll think they're magic beans.

Out of Africa

Lablab purpureas is a tropical vine that probably originated in Africa. Today, it's grown as a food crop in some places there. Hyacinth bean vine is also cultivated throughout Asia. In temperate climates, it is considered a fast-growing annual.

Even out of its natural tropical element, hyacinth bean vine is a quick grower, producing long vines that drip bracts of shell-like purple flowers. Its glossy burgundy seed pods are both ornamental and edible.

The large, purple-tinted leaves of the hyacinth bean vine provide shade as well as beauty as they hang from sturdy, burgundy stems that twine and twirl along fences and walls and over arbors and trellises, extending up to 17 feet in a single growing season.

Immature hyacinth bean pods are edible.

Immature hyacinth bean pods are edible.

Hyacinth bean vines grow over our back garden gate. Shasta daisies and zinnia bloom in the foreground. In the background is a flowering butterfly bush.

Hyacinth bean vines grow over our back garden gate. Shasta daisies and zinnia bloom in the foreground. In the background is a flowering butterfly bush.

Easy to Save and Store

I enjoy growing hyacinth bean in part because my mother and my grandmother grew it. In fact, my first hyacinth bean vine seeds were given to me by my mother from her vines, which she started from seeds her mother had given to her.

When I see the purple stems of our hyacinth bean vine twine and climb our backyard fence, I recall how it looked on the trellis next to my grandmother’s back door and how it provided shade from the setting sun on my mother’s patio.

For me, growing hyacinth bean vine is a garden tradition—one I’m happy to keep.

As my mother and my grandmother did, I allow most of the pods to dry thoroughly on the vine in the fall and then collect them in paper bags.

I store the bags in a dry place over the winter (our garage) and break them open in spring, planting the seeds and discarding the shells.

Because they're so easy to save and grow, hyacinth bean vine is a perfect plant to pass along to family and friends.

Allow hyacinth bean pods to dry on the vine before collecting them in the fall.

Allow hyacinth bean pods to dry on the vine before collecting them in the fall.

Edible Pods and Seeds

Although they are delicious, hyacinth beans and hyacinth bean pods contain small amounts of cyanide.

To enjoy the pods without getting sick, don't eat large amounts of them at one time. Also, be sure to select immature pods only, which are crunchy and sweet and delicious with vegetable dip or in a chopped salad.

To enjoy dried hyacinth beans themselves without harm, you must first separate them from the pod, soak them in water, and rinse them well multiple times before cooking them.

I have never tried this, but people in tropical parts of Africa and throughout Asia commonly grow hyacinth bean as a food crop. Sometimes it's called Indian bean or Egyptian bean.

Easy to Maintain

hyacinth-bean-vine
Our hyacinth bean vine in late spring.

Our hyacinth bean vine in late spring.

In temperature climates, hyacinth bean vines can cover a fence, trellis or arbor in a single growing season.

For best results, plant the seeds in a full sun location. Hyacinth bean vine likes rich, loamy soil best but will tolerate other soil types, too. Feeding it every two weeks with a liquid fertilizer like fish fertilizer will also help it develop lush growth.

We plant hyacinth bean vine in our Zone 7 garden from seed in spring after the chance of frost has passed. By mid-summer, the vines are big and beautiful with large shady leaves, sturdy stems, and dangling pods and flowers that look lovely along our white picket fence.

In fall, after the first hard frost, we collect the last of the dried seed pods and compost the spent vines.

hyacinth-bean-vine

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Would these beautiful plants grow from containers up a trellis instead of the ground?

Answer: Yes! Since they will be in pots, be sure to water them.

Question: How long do bean vines take to flower?

Answer: It starts blooming in the spring.

Question: I ordered seed from Monticello, two packs. I opened one which contained 7 seeds and have them soaking in water until tomorrow. I am planting it next to an arbor like in your picture, to grow up one side and over to other side. Will I need both packs of seed?

Answer: I haven't had much luck with seeds from Monticello, so if I were you, I'd plant both packs just in case your germination rate is low. If they do grow, you can always save lots of your own seed for next year. Nothing against Monticello! We've gone to the Heritage Festival for years now. I have just been disappointed in the seeds that are sold under the Monticello brand.

Question: Hello they are beautiful. If I grow them up a trellis when they reach the top will they then start growing downwards and fill in the trellis? Thank you.

Answer: It’s a vine so it will grow on a trellis. Shoots grow toward the light so you’ll have to tuck and move them so they grow the way you want them to.

Question: Does the vine stick to surfaces? I have some seeds to grow up our barn awning. Once up the pole, can I grow it across?

Answer: Yes, you can grow it across. It isn't sticky at all, but the vines will twine around fence posts and poles as they grow. You may need to tie the vine in place, however, to get it to go in the direction you want it to grow in.

Question: Do these beautiful Hyacinth bean vines grow in other colors?

Answer: Yes! A less common type blooms white.

Question: Is the hyacinth bean vine also known as Jack's beanstalk?

Answer: No, it is not the same plant. The hyacinth bean is not invasive.

Question: Can you plant them with your butternut or spaghetti squash plants?

Answer: You could grow hyacinth bean in place of pole beans as part of the "three sisters," beans, corn, and squash, as it is a nitrogen fixer, but it grows so rapidly and fully that I think it would overwhelm a cornstalk.

© 2013 Jill Spencer

Comments

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on May 17, 2020:

Thanks for commenting. If you read the article, you’ll see that I did.

Bas on May 17, 2020:

The entire plant is edible. Do some research you will see the leaves, beans and flowers are edible.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on April 29, 2014:

Hi Peggy! Hyacinth bean sure would grow beautifully down in Houston. Ours are coming up now and are about four inches tall. I don't have to worry about the deer munching them down. This year I planted the beans in a different spot for a big splash of color on a trellis in a landscaping island. Maybe sometime you'll give hyacinth bean vine a try. It's a pretty plant. Have a good one! --Jill

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 28, 2014:

That is a really pretty vine plant which should do well down here in Houston. Most of our fence is covered with star jasmine or shrubs so I wound not have the room to grow these but found it interesting none-the-less. Thanks!

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on December 09, 2013:

Hi Dolores & Rebecca! Thanks so much for commenting. The hyacinth bean vine is a great annual plant--so pretty and such a fast grower. Can't wait to plant it again this spring. Keep warm! --Jill

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on December 09, 2013:

I love it! It's always good to learn about good gardening and ladscaping plants. I definitely want to try hyacinth bean vime. Thanks!

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on December 09, 2013:

Jill, the hyacinth beans are so pretty! What a lovely color. And your pictures are great, especially the one with the vines growing over the garden gate.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on December 07, 2013:

Hi Patricia & Marie! Thanks for commenting on this hub. The hyacinth bean vine is a tropical plant, so I'm sure it would grow like gangbusters in FLA. Wish you guys lived close by so I could give you some. They really produce lots of pods! All the best, Jill

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on December 06, 2013:

This ornamental bean reminds me a little of wisteria. I may just decide to try this at the trellis in the front yard. I planted morning glories there, and they bloomed, but they weren't as lush as I would like. The hired gardener accidentally cut some of the plants, too. This hyacinth bean, I think, will cover that trellis nicely. I love gardening, too. Thank you for sharing. Voted Useful and Beautiful.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on December 06, 2013:

Hi Jill

This will look so gorgeous on my fence ...as soon as we are through winter I will be adding this to my yard. I have lots and lots of fence line that will be a great place for this lovely to drape herself.

thanks for sharing....I hope all is good with you and yours and that you are enjoying this most wonderful time of the year.

Angels are on the way to you....ps Shared and pinned

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on October 16, 2013:

Thanks, Glimmer Twin Fan! The vine will attach itself to anything really--a fence, a wall, even other plants. I'm sure it would take to your lamp post! Nice to hear from you as always, Jill

Claudia Mitchell on October 15, 2013:

I just love your hubs. This is so beautiful and would really be a lovely addition to any garden. Unfortunately I don't have a place for the height, unless I put it around my lightpost. I love the color and the interest of the pods.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on September 23, 2013:

Hi Roberta! Already planning next year's garden, huh? Me, too! Nice to hear from you. --Jill

RTalloni on September 23, 2013:

How pretty every part of this plant is! Thanks for highlighting it for us. Now I need to find a sunny spot and plan for spring… :)

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on September 23, 2013:

Hi Deb! Thanks for your comments. Hope you're gathering up seed this fall, too. I bet you run across lots of wildflower seed as you're out taking photos.

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on September 18, 2013:

Truly, the best things in life are free. Where else can one see things as lush and beautiful as this? So glad that your grandmother started this tradition, and I know that you have passed it on to your immediate family, too. Great work, and keep nature natural.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on September 17, 2013:

Sometimes I rent him out on weekends, but he doesn't come cheap. lol

Connie Smith from Southern Tier New York State on September 17, 2013:

Wow, Jill! If that's not your husband's regular job, he's got a whole new career! Love the design and look of your gate--does he ever come to New York State?!

;) Pearl

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on September 17, 2013:

Sounds wonderful, Eddy! Thanks so much.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on September 17, 2013:

Hi Pearl! Even though it's tropical, you should be able to grow hyacinth in Zone 5 as an annual--and then pass the pods on to your friends. The first hard frost will kill it. Butterflies and moths like it, but I've never noticed many bees. I'll pass along your compliment about the gate to my husband. He designed & built it himself. (Aren't I lucky?) Take care! Always good to hear from you. --Jill

Eiddwen from Wales on September 17, 2013:

A beautiful and so interesting hub Jill.

Voted up and shared onto my FB A Brand New Dawn.

Eddy.

Connie Smith from Southern Tier New York State on September 17, 2013:

Lovely article, Jill! Now this is one I've never tried, but after reading your excellent hub, I definitely will. Two questions, do birds or butterflies enjoy this vine? Since it is a native of Africa, I was just wondering how it would do in my Zone 5 yard?

I love that you are continuing the tradition from your grandmother and mother. Oh, by the way, if you should find your garden gate missing--I borrowed it for awhile! What a beautiful garden entrance ;) Pearl

Voted Up++++ and pinned

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on September 16, 2013:

Hi Ginger! Thanks & yes, they're edible. They really pretty up a salad. Just don't eat too many! (You'd get a tummy ache.) Glad you stopped by. All the best, Jill

ExpectGreatThings from Illinois on September 16, 2013:

Your photos are stunning! I love hyacinths. I never realized they were easy to grow. And I certainly didn't know they were edible! Thanks for writing. - Ginger

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on September 16, 2013:

Hi purl3agony! They really are gorgeous, aren't they? They look like they'd be a lot of trouble to take care, too, but they're absolutely super easy to grow. Hope you can try them in your yard someday. Always good to hear from you. Take care, Jill

Donna Herron from USA on September 16, 2013:

Gosh, these plants are beautiful! I don't think I've ever seen this flower or the pods before. You always post great information about so many wonderful things to add to our garden. Thanks!