How to Grow Large Butter Beans


Butter beans is the southern term for lima beans. They are a warm-weather crop, and grow more slowly than their snap pea brethren. Butter beans come in small, medium and large varieties and either in bush or pole form. Planting large butter beans is not much more difficult than planting smaller butter beans, as you simply plant them at a different depth. Creating the right environment for your plant will help you produce a healthy bean crop.

Step 1

Plant your lima beans two weeks after the last frost date in well-drained fertile soil and full sun. Plan your rows, taking into account how many seeds in your packet and noting that you need to leave 3 inches between seeds and at least 24 inches between rows for large bean varieties.

Step 2

Sprinkle a layer of organic compost over your planned rows. Mix the compost into the ground using a shovel. Break up any large clumps of soil and take out large stones. Water the soil deeply.

Step 3

Push the large lima bean seeds 1 1/2 inches into the soil. Cover the beans with a layer of soil and tamp down with your shovel or a garden rake. This will provide the support needed for the beans to sprout.

Step 4

Do not water your lima beans until they begin to sprout. The moisture in the soil will be enough to sustain the bean until this point. A high amount of water before sprouting may promote excessive vegetation and a decreased bean crop. After the bean plants pop out of the ground, they will need about 1 inch of water per week whether that comes as rainfall or from you.

Step 5

Place a sample of dirt from around your lima bean plants in a tupperware container. Bring the tupperware to your local extension office and the staff there will tell you what kind of fertilizer you need for the beans as well as how much to spread. Follow their directions to create a strong crop of beans.

Step 6

Thin out the seeds leaving 4 to 6 inches between the plants when they sprout. Try to pluck out the weaker plants, leaving the stronger ones to grow and thrive.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not eat raw lima beans--the chemicals in the bean are basically poison, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Cooking the beans in an oven or microwave changes these chemicals, so the beans are not harmful if you cook them.

Things You'll Need

  • Organic compost
  • Shovel
  • Water
  • Large butter bean seeds
  • Garden rake (optional)
  • Fertilizer


  • Fort Valley State University College of Agriculture: Butter Beans
  • Iowa State University Extension: Growing Lima Beans

Who Can Help

  • Center for Disease Control & Prevention: Fresh Beans
Keywords: growing lima beans, growing large butter beans, planting large butter beans

About this Author

Sarah Morse recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English language and literature. She has been freelancing for three months and got her start writing for an environmental website.