The scarlet runner bean vine is a close relative of the common bean, Phaseolus vulgaris, therefore the resemblance. However, the former is less known and underutilized than the latter, despite giving almost the same benefits.
The scarlet runner bean ticks three boxes – functional, aesthetically pleasing, and edible. These characteristics make it an ideal flowering vine to be added to edible landscape designs and any other landscapes.
The perennial vine, scarlet runner bean, is scientifically referred to as Phaseolus coccineus, and that it belongs under the Fabaceae family. The species of this vine, coccineus, is Latin that translates to red or scarlet referring to its flowers.
Moreover, this vine is commonly referred to as multiflora bean, runner bean, scarlet runners, red giant, scarlet emperor, scarlet runner beans, scarlet conqueror, scarlet kidney bean, butter bean, fire bean, and White Dutch runner.
The presence of numerous common names is one of the products of this vine being naturalized and domesticated in various areas.
Originally, the scarlet runner bean plant is native to Central America, South America, and Mexico. It has been trained to be grown in different countries to optimize its edible parts and nitrogen-fixation abilities. Furthermore, the Scarlet Runner will flourish in USDA Zones 7 to 11.
As a robustly growing vine, it extends from 2 to 5 feet wide and up to 15 feet in height. Although, the vine’s height will be determined by the existence of supporting structures where the vine twists in a clockwise direction.
When the vine is established, it will start to produce showy flowers which happen around June to October or during warm seasons. Also, the Scarlet Runner tends to be a perennial in places where frost does not occur.
However, the vine tends to die down and be an annual plant under extremely cold conditions when planted in areas with frost. Along with this vine’s effortless growth are colorful flowers, pods, and seeds that give color wherever it is planted.
The scarlet runner vine gives rise to deep green, broad, and elliptic leaflets in clusters of three or trifoliate. These leaflets extend from 3 to 5 inches in length and have a distinct underside having purple veins.
As one of the main attractions for this vine, the famous scarlet flowers extend from 1 to 2 inches long. What makes it more eye-catching is that these orange flowers are bunched together in sets of 20.
This characteristic aids the self-pollination process by enticing pollinators such as hummingbirds and bees.
Fruit and Seeds
Aside from the flowers, this vine is also planted for its pods and seeds. The scarlet runner bean produces light green pods with a slightly rough texture that may extend up to 1 foot long. ON the other hand, the seeds are uniquely colored and have different color combinations.
Some seeds are black with red splats, dark violet with deep terracotta mottles, violet with black patches, or white. When cooking the seeds, they turn gray and make it unappetizing for some.
Grow and Care Tips
Uninterrupted exposure to full sunlight for more than or equal to 6 hours a day should be given to allow the plant to flourish. Remember to choose the right site to plant when incorporating this vine into a landscape.
It is recommended to give the scarlet runner bean moderate amounts of water frequently.
Temperature and Humidity
When the Scarlet Runner Vine is already established, it prefers to grow in a warm area with enough ventilation.
In terms of the growing media, the vine thrives in damp, fertile, rich in organic matter, and has good drainage. One can use most soils from sandy, loamy, and clay soils as long as the former characteristics are met.
Moreover, this vine grows best in soil pH levels that are more neutral and basic.
Application of fertilizers is not necessary since this vine is leguminous and has the ability to convert nitrogen in the air into the soil, making it available for the plants.
Regular light pruning and removal of damaged and dry plant parts are one of the few maintenance activities to be done. Also, regularly checking the stability of the vine’s supporting structures should be performed, as it may affect the growth of the vine.
A non-compulsory activity, such as removing young pods, may be enforced to favor the growth of new flowers rather than the production of pods. This activity will depend on the grower’s preference.
There are two common plant materials used to grow scarlet runner bean vine – seeds and tuberous roots. However, the growing media, location, and time of planting should be planned before harvesting the said materials.
Use a media that has a good water holding capacity and porous enough to provide good drainage. It should also be rich in nutrients. Choose a spot where full sunlight is available and time the planting during spring.
When seeds are used for propagation, the planting distance should be 4 to 6 inches and buried 2 to 3 inches below ground. Cover the seed with slightly loose soil. Germination is expected 7 to 14 days after sowing, while flowering is at 28 to 35 days after sowing. Moreover, the initial harvest may be done 60 to 75 days after sowing.
On the other hand, the tuberous roots of the Scarlet Runner can be used by separating them carefully. Using moist sand as a growing medium and keeping it in a cool place will favor the plant regrowth.
Common Cultivars of Scarlet Runner Bean Plants
This cultivar stands out by having faint yellow-green leaves.
The Sunset cultivar showcases clusters of beautiful pink flowers.
Having white flowers and the absence of strings on its pods is what this cultivar is known for.
This cultivar produces two-colored flowers with a mixture of pink and red. Although, sometimes it also bears white flowers. Furthermore, its beans are dirty white with thin dark brown strips.
‘White Dutch Runner’
This cultivar adds white color to the landscape with its flowers and beans.
The identifying characteristics of this cultivar are its saturated rouge flowers and black beans.
This cultivar is identified by deep reddish-brown beans with black speckles.
This cultivar yields more elongated and heavier pods with purple and black speckled beans.
This cultivar has fewer strings on its pods.
The Polestar cultivar grows a pod with no strings that elongate up to 12 inches. However, it is optimal to harvest at 6 to 8 inches in length.
Uses of Runner Beans
Utilizing the beauty of the scarlet runner bean vine will be achieved by giving it the right supporting materials such as stakes, trellises, and tripods.
In some landscapes, this vine is used as a screen or foundation plant. It softens the existing man-made structures and adds a pop of color during summer. In addition, hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, and other wildlife will visit the landscape because of this vine’s attention-grabbing qualities.
Moreover, this vine is multi-faceted and could bring flavor fresh from the garden to the table. In Britain, it is cooked as a side dish but the Greeks and Spaniards give this vine the spotlight as a signature dish.
Some of the plant parts that give a culinary function are its flowers, pods, seeds, and roots. The flowers of runner beans are often incorporated into salads or as garnishes to some dishes. Then, immature pods are prepared like other bean cuisines wherein they usually steam and season to taste.
Moreover, immature seeds serve as an alternative to lima beans, since they can be cooked using the same recipe. Mature seeds, on the other hand, are left inside the pod to dry for it to have a longer shelf life and preserve the protein content. Lastly, the roots are often boiled, soaked, or peeled before cooking to lessen the possibility of toxicity.
Ingesting mature seeds and tubers fresh from a harvest without cooking may cause gastric problems. A lectin, phytohaemagglutinin, shows some amount in the said plant parts wherein if ingested numerous amounts may induce diarrhea and other stomach issues.
For more vines to grow, see our list of different vines.
*image by walldi/depositphotos