Bush bean plants are one of the best crops for any beginner gardener to grow, and starting them from seed is very easy. They also don’t require trellises for support, and you get a nice return on your investment when they start to grow and produce the beans. There’s also nothing quite like watching the bean sprouts push up from the soil.
While the smaller seeds some other garden plants possess can leave you guessing as to whether or not each sprout is a weed or not, there is no doubt what these seedlings are. They are very easy to recognize. We’re going to go over everything you need to know about growing and caring for the bush bean plant below.
There are many bush bean plant cultivars available, and most of them produce larger amounts of vegetables at one time, making harvesting easy.
Defining the Bush Bean Plant
Both the bush bean plant and pole beans are members of the same species called Phaseolus vulgaris or common beans. What sets these two types of plants apart is their growth patterns. They both have a general tendency toward indeterminate and determinate growth, just like many tomato cultivars.
Determinate plants tend to grow into bushy, smaller shapes, and all of the fruits will mature at the same time. On the other end of the spectrum, indeterminate plants just keep growing and require cages or trellises, and they produce until the cold weather wipes them out. Common beans, which most people grow as annuals, have this growth pattern as well.
Instead of climbing and vining like pole beans, the bush bean plant grows into a bushy, small shape that tops out at two feet or less. They are way more practical for beginners who are just learning about different vegetables and growth conditions, and they’re also nice for people who don’t want to have to set up support like cages in their garden.
Bush Bean Plant History and Cultivation
Common beans were originally domesticated as cultivars of a wild plant species called P. vulgaris, and this plant is native to a big portion of Latin America that ranges from Northern Mexico into northern Argentina through the Andes Mountains. In the native range, wild bush bean plants grow in subtropical or temperate climates as short-lived perennials or annuals, and they are vulnerable to damage from frost.
Today’s commonly cultivated beans, including bush and pole cultivars, are descendants of this wild plant. When you grow these beans in your garden plot, you are following ancient traditions. According to Cornell University’s growing guide, beans have been cultivated by humans for over 7,000 years.
Difference Between the Bush Bean Plant and Pole Beans
There are two main bean types you can grow, and they are bush beans or pole beans. Bush beans grow on much shorter and bushier plants, and pole beans grow in trailing, long vines. So, pole beans will require some support structure or tall trellis to climb as they grow. On the other hand, bush beans will stay upright by themselves, and they usually don’t need additional support. There are benefits and drawbacks to both types, depending on the garden space you have and your personal preferences. You can grow both types too!
Bush beans mature and grow quicker than pole beans. So, you’ll be harvesting your bush bean plant much sooner, and this can be a huge bonus for those people who live in short growing seasons, or for use as a fast filler crop. However, keep in mind that most bush beans are determinate in nature. So, instead of producing over and over, they put most of their fruit out at a shorter time. Once they do, the plant will start a steady decline in the productivity levels, and you should remove it. Bush beans are also very compact, so it’s easy to fit several in one garden bed or container, but they do take up more soil space than vining cultivars.
Pole beans take longer to mature than the other variety. However, once they do start producing beans, most cultivars are indeterminate. This means that they keep on producing new beans right up until they get hit with frost in the fall. You can train them to grow up trellises, and they’re great for smaller garden spaces. For example, you could plant a single skinny row of them along the backside of your garden on a trellis. The bed and soil space they take up is minimal, but you’ll get dozens of beans for months.
The growth habit is the biggest thing that sets bush and pole beans apart, and pole beans take up more space to grow.
How to Grow the Bush Bean Plant
When you’re ready to grow your bush bean plant, you’ll need more practical information. It’s best to sow bush beans or any other types of beans you grow directly into the soil as they don’t do well when you transplant them. You can successfully grow them in containers with a minimum depth of eight inches if you don’t want to plant them in the ground. The diameter or width of the container will determine how many plants you can fit.
Bush bean plants thrive when you have them in a space where the ambient air temperature is between 65°F and 85°F. The soil temperature should be between 70°F and 80°F to encourage gemination. If the soil temperature falls below 60°F when you sow, your seeds will rot in the ground before they have a chance to sprout. If you are going through a cooler spring weather snap, be patient. It’s always better to wait and sow your seeds once the temperatures warm up. You can also succession sow more bush bean plants every two weeks to get a continuous harvest period throughout the summer months.
You just have to make sure that you sow your final crop between 60 and 70 days before the first frost date of the season, depending on the variety you picked out and the average days to maturity.
As legumes, bush bean plants work to fix the nitrogen content in the soil, so you want to avoid using a high-nitrogen fertilizer. Instead, get a 10-20-10 fertilizer and use it to feed your plants throughout the spring and summer months, following the manufacturer’s directions. Beans can produce over such a long period that they will also do well if you add a side dressing of compost halfway through the growing season, especially if you’re doing successive growing.
For the best yield, your bush bean plants require full sunlight. Full sun will also help the plant stay dry when you water them and less likely to have problems with certain pests or fungal diseases.
Most beans like a very loamy, organically-rich soil that has slightly acidic pH levels. Good drainage is also key for these plants, and you want to remove any weeds before you plant your seeds to prevent competitions for the moisture and soil nutrients. As your bush bean plants grow, you want to weed carefully around the plants because it’s easy to damage their shallow root system.
When you’re ready to plant, you want to sow your seeds three inches apart and one inch deep. Your rows should be between 18 and 24 inches apart. If you plant on sowing them in containers, the seeds should be two inches from the side of the pot and three inches apart. You can use your finger to poke inch-deep holes in the soil, put one seed in each hole, and fill the holes in with soil. Next, you want to gently water your newly sown bush bean plant seeds using a sprinkler setting on your hose attachment or watering wand.
Ideally, you’ll have a light and loamy soil that you amend with compost to boost the nutrient content before you plant your beans.
Temperature and Humidity
Beans will germinate when the soil is between 70°F and 80°F. If the soil temperature is at or around 60°F, the seeds will germinate much slower and be more prone to rot. The plants grow best when the air temperature is between 65°F and 85°F. Beans will usually stop flowering during the heat of the summer months. However, if you keep them watered very well, they’ll start flowering again when the temperatures cool down. Also, these beans will grow well in all humidity conditions if you water them properly.
Ideally, your bush bean plants need an inch of water a week. You can use a drip irrigation system to get supplemental water to avoid splashing your garden soil onto the plant leaves, as this can lead to soil-borne diseases. To figure out whether or not it’s time to water your bush bean plants, stick your finger an inch into the soil near the plant’s base. If the soil is dry to the touch, water it. Plants that are under water will quit flowering. Beans also have shallow roots, so mulching them can keep them cool and help retain moisture.
Bush Bean Plant Heights & Widths
Generally speaking, bush bean plants end up being between 18 and 24 inches tall at full maturity. This is why you want to grow each row of plants spaced out at 18 to 24 inches to allow the plant to bush out as they mature and grow without getting crowded. This also improves air circulation.
Bush Bean Plant Descriptions and Colors
If you add bean inoculants and nutrients to the soil your bush bean plants will get much larger as these things pack in the nutrients. The bean shape can vary based on the type of plant you picked out, but they can be short, long, thin, round, or broad. There is no “one shape fits all” for bush bean plants. This allows you to make the most out of any kind of bean you plan to grow. The average bush bean will end up being roughly three inches long at a maximum and they’re a leaf-green color. You can also find cultivars that are wax-yellow.
Bush bean plants come with growth habits that are easy to adjust to as they won’t need any specialized attention or unique growing conditions to thrive other than warmer air and soil temperatures.
To flourish to their full potential, the temperatures in your growing location will have to stay over 60°F, and they require a regular water supply, especially during the germination and growing phase from seedlings to plants. So, you want to give them water on a daily or every other day basis. When you water them, do so so that they are thoroughly saturated, but not so much that the leaves will have trouble drying out on sunny days. You do this to help avoid the wet, cold environment where over saturation with water can lead to fungi growth and other molds that will kill your whole bush bean plant.
Also, you want to be sure you soak your seeds for 30 minutes before you plant them to ensure that they can germinate quicker. Ideally, you’ll soak them overnight.
Bean sprouts are one of the most recognizable seedlings you can have in your garden.
Bush Bean Plant Growing Tips
There are several things you can do to encourage your bush bean plants, or any vegetables you plant, to thrive. They include but are not limited to:
- Dense plantings help to prevent weeds from growing and competing for water and nutrients
- If the temperatures are cooler, don’t be in a hurry to get the bean seeds in the soil
- Frequently harvesting the beans will encourage the plant to produce more
- Inoculate the seeds with the Rhizobium bacteria before you sow them to encourage faster germination
- Spread mulch three to four inches deep below the plants to keep the moisture in and block weed growth
- Consider growing them in containers
- Traditional companion planting tells you to avoid growing the bush bean plant with alliums
Uses for the Bush Bean Plants
Generally, your bush bean plants will have a crop ready to go every 10 to 14 days once they start producing. The harvest usually lasts two week per bush, and it’s best to plant these bushes in succession every two weeks if you want to have a consistent, fresh supply of beans throughout the growing season. You can grow beans until frost hits and kills off the plants in late fall.
Bush beans make a nice side dish to a starch and meat mea, or you can incorporate them into everything from soups and salads to bakes. Bush beans are a fantastic fresh produce item to have in your daily diet to help you get in your green vegetables. They are also relatively easy to can and preserve for months so you can enjoy the benefits and flavors of them all year-round without them going bad.
Bush bean plants have a juicy flavor and come packed full of minerals, vitamins, and nutrients that you need to stay healthy. They have a crunchy texture and flavor, and they’ll give a small “crack” noise when you bite into them. Most plants need 54 days from the time you plant them to the time they’re ready to harvest. Depending on the growth conditions, they will produce a new batch of beans every 10 to 14 days.
These are stringless beans that taste great, and this makes them a first choice among chefs as they build up a nice resistance to both brown and white molds. Bush bean are a great vegetable to add to many cuisines from around the world, and they’re very popular. You’ll get vital nutrients from your bush bean plants, including chromium, B1 vitamins, copper, potassium, calcium, choline, phosphorus, niacin, vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein. They’re also low in calories and right on-par with may other so-called “superfoods” on the market.
Bush beans have dozens of uses as they’re a very nutritious vegetable to add as a side dish to many meals.
Harvesting and Storing the Bush Bean Plant
You want to harvest your bush bean plants at the immature stage of the growth cycle when the seeds haven’t had the chance to develop fully. Pods should be firm to the touch and roughly three-inches long when you harvest them. Snap them off from the plant at the root, making sure to never rip or tear them as this can cause damage to the rest of the bean plant and anything it produces later.
You want to store your beans in a moisture-proof container inside of the refrigerator. The beans will toughen up as they continue to mature, and they’ll stay fresh for four days. If you won’t use the entire harvest up in four days, you can freeze them as soon as you harvest them. Beans can also get picked and canned for longer-term storage to use throughout the winter.
Pests and Diseases
Bush beans are some of the easiest and fastest-growing veggies to feature in your garden, as long as you keep the pests out and protect them from disease.
Rabbits, deer, and voles can nibble on the buds as your bush bean plant sprouts. Other culprits who can wreak havoc on your crop include skunks, racoons, and groundhogs. If groundhogs get into your bean patch, the plants can get trampled and look like they were mowed down. The best way to keep these pests out of the garden is to install fencing that is a minimum of six feet tall to keep the deer out and sunk six inches into the ground to keep the rodents out.
Insect damage can make it seem like all of your gardening efforts are wasted. When the bugs start to chew on your plants, they can double the damage as they can quickly spread diseases in the garden. You want to check the plants regularly for any insect damage, including holes chewed in the foliage. But, before you spot an insect on your bush bean plant and decide it’s bad, take steps to identify it first. There are beneficial predatory insects out there like ladybugs that help keep pests in check. Planting herbs like cilantro or dill can also ward bad insects away while attracting predatory insects. A few common insects that both bush bean plants include:
Aphids are a smaller pest that can target your bean crop, and you’re much more likely to spot them when the weather is dry and cool. There are hundreds of aphid species that can impact your crops, and they can be yellow, green, brown, pink, white, or black. When they attack your bush bean plants, they’ll suck the juice out of the leaves and stunt the growth. You can control aphid infestations by washing your plants with soapy water or spraying the leaves with strong jets of water.
Bean Leaf Beetle
If you see tiny holes in the leaves of your bush bean plants, the bean leaf beetle can be behind the damage. This pest usually feeds on the undersides of the plant’s leaves, but they can also chew on the pods. They’re an oval-shaped bug that can be orange, yellow, or red with black markings, and mature adults will develop a black triangle on the wing covers. Bean leaf beetles are very common in the Midwest, and they like to be in spots with poorly drained soil. You can pick them off the pods by hand and drop them into a soapy jar of water.
Mexican Bean Beetle
If the foliage looks skeletonized on your plants, the Mexican bean beetle could be behind it. These beetles look very similar to traditional ladybugs, and they are actually a related species. However, instead of being red, they’re orange or yellow. The larval form of this bug is yellow with spikes on it that eventually turns black.
Since mature insects have coloring that can vary, another way to tell the difference between this beetle and ladybugs is to note that this pest’s head is the same color as the rest of the body while a ladybug has a black head with white patches. In some planting zones, you can start your bush bean plants early since the beetles don’t come out until later in the summer. It’s also possible to hand pick them as you see them and drop them in soapy water.
Insects can wreak havoc on your plants if you don’t catch them early, but most of them are easy to get rid of.
Here are a few quick tips you can use to help prevent diseases from spreading through your bush bean plants, and how to manage it if they do appear:
- Don’t harvest your bush bean plant crop when it’s wet as this is a prime time to spread bean bacterial blight.
- Plant resistant cultivars. Some cultivars are specially bred to have a higher resistance to specific diseases, like mosaic virus.
- Practice crop rotation with any legumes and other crop types to avoid diseases.
- Pull any plants right away that have strange coloration and puckered leaves. Remove the entire infected plant and get rid of it in the trash. Wash your hands and sanitize any tools you use before you handle other plants.
- Water close to the soil and don’t use overhead irrigation.
A few common diseases bush bean plants are prone to and how to fix them include:
Anthracnose is caused by a fungus, and it’s very problematic for gardeners when the conditions are moist and cool. Infection symptoms include purple, red, or black leaf veins, black or reddish brown streaks on the plant stem, leaves, and petioles, and oval lesions forming on the stems, seed leaves, seeds, and pods. Since it’s possible for the fungus to stay in the soil over the winter, crop rotation is key. There are some resistant cultivars you can get, but none are 100% immune to all fungi strains that can cause this disease. Remove and destroy any infected plant as soon as you notice it, and don’t put them in the compost pile. Disinfect your gardening equipment and pruners to prevent it from spreading.
Bean Common Mosaic Virus (BCMV)
This virus has several symptoms that include mottled patterns on the plant foliage in light and dark green, yellow spotting, distorted leaves, and stunted growth. This virus is usually seed-born, so you want to plant a resistant bush bean plant cultivar. Aphids can also spread it. Remove and get rid of any and all infected plant debris, including the roots and burn it. Cultivars that are resistant to this disease that you can consider include:
- Golden Butter Wax
- Improved Tendergreen
- Royal Burgundy
Bean rust is also a disease caused by a fungus, and it can impact your crop. It will cause the leaves to drop from the plant if it’s severe enough. This fungus thrives in humid, overcast conditions when the temperatures are between 60°F and 75°F with limited exposure to sunlight.
Symptoms of Bean Rust include small white or yellow spots on the leaves that will turn rust-colored pustules with yellow halos as the disease progresses. Spores can easily overwinter in the soil, so you want to rotate your crops. Prune away any diseased sections of the plant and get rid of them before applying a fungicide according to the directions on the package.
Also, make sure there is adequate airflow between each bush bean plant and water at the soil level to prevent splashing to stop the fungal spores from spreading. If you have a bad infection, remove all of the plants and destroy them. Don’t put any infected debris in the compost pile, and consider planting the following resistant cultivars if you have a problem with rust in your location:
- Sea Biscuit
Bush bean plants are relatively easy to grow, and there is a large payoff when a few plants. We recommend trying them this season and seeing how well you do. They grow well in the soil or in containers, and they only need a small amount of room to thrive.