The scientific name for lima beans is Phaseolus limensis. They are not cold-hardy, and they grow in warm climates. Native to Central America, lima beans are a bush bean plant. They are similar to other bush beans, but lima beans have different growing needs. The lima bean is rich in iron, riboflavin, thiamine and protein.
Lima beans begin as seeds which are themselves, lima beans. Planting should not begin until well after the danger of frost, generally after mid-May or when temperatures maintain a fairly constant 65 degrees F. The seeds should be planted 1 to 1.5 inches deep and 2 to 46 inches apart in the row. Sprouts will emerge in about 10 days if temperatures remain above 70 degrees F.
Seedlings emerge and grow into thick, dense plants. Once the seedlings have emerged and established themselves, they should be thinned to 4 to 6 inches apart. Lima beans grow best when temperatures remain between 70 and 80 degrees F. Plants reach maturity quickly, in roughly 6 weeks, depending on the temperatures. Blossoms form and await pollination. After being pollinated, the blossoms drop off and little pods form.
From sowing to harvesting will take between 60 and 75 days. The mature size of a lima bean plant is about 36 inches tall and width is about 24 inches. The plants require at least 1 inch of water each week during the blossom and pod production phases. As long as temperatures remain consistently warm, bean pods should develop and ripen shortly after flowers fall.
Somewhere between 45 and 60 days, the pods appear and fatten. Sizes will vary depending on conditions such as the temperature during growth, the amount of rainfall or water received and the nutritional content of the soil. Pods are ready to harvest when they are bright green and appear swollen.
Lima beans can remain in the pods for up to 14 days so long as they are kept at 90 percent humidity and remain at 32 degrees F. Otherwise, they can be shelled and cooked immediately or prepared for long-term storage using such methods as freezing or canning. Some pods can be left on the plants until they completely dry out, turning brown and brittle. The beans can be shelled from these pods, allowed to dry out until they are brittle and stored to be used as next year's seed supply.