Hyacinth Bean Vines Grow Like Magic!
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.
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.
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.
Have you ever eaten hyacinth bean?
Easy to Maintain
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.
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
Would these beautiful plants grow from containers up a trellis instead of the ground?
Yes! Since they will be in pots, be sure to water them.Helpful 11
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?
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.Helpful 6
How long do bean vines take to flower?
It starts blooming in the spring.Helpful 9
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.
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.Helpful 5
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?
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.Helpful 4
© 2013 Jill Spencer