How to Grow Lima Bean Plants


Lima bean plants produce an abundance of plump pods filled with baby beans that are shelled and eaten at the immature stage. Also referred to as butter beans, these tender morsels provide a good source of protein (without the associated fats found in meats) and are high in fiber, vitamin C and magnesium. According to Nutrition Data, one serving provides a whopping 72 percent of the recommended daily allowance of fiber and 66 percent of the vitamin C allowance with a glycemic load index of 22, making them a healthy choice for adding protein and fiber to the diet without adding fats.

Step 1

Select a sunny location that receives six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day.

Step 2

Till the soil to a depth of eight to 10 inches, and remove rocks, roots and debris. Rake smooth.

Step 3

Test the soil to determine the pH level and the amount of available nutrients in the soil. Inexpensive soil test kits can be found in your local home improvement center or hardware store. Follow instructions for gathering the soil sample and performing the test.

Step 4

Apply fertilizer as recommended in the information supplied with the test to balance nutrients in your soil. Adjust the pH to 6.0 to 7.0, following the directions included in the kit.

Step 5

Add a two- to three-inch layer of compost or rotted manure to the planting site and work it in well with the top four to six inches of the soil.

Step 6

Plant lima beans after the danger of frost has passed in your area. These warm season plants do not tolerate frost and germinate best after the soil has warmed to above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 7

Sow seeds to a depth of one inch, spaced to the recommended spacing for the specific cultivar. Baby lima beans require spacing of three to four inches, while bush lima beans require six inches between plants. Large pole varieties require 10 inches between plants and must be provided a six-foot pole for climbing.

Step 8

Water to moisten the soil and keep soil moist until seedlings emerge in seven to 10 days, depending on the soil temperature and the weather. Water deeply once a week to saturate the soil to the root level once beans have germinated and plants are established.

Step 9

Cultivate between rows with a hand tiller or garden tiller to keep soil loose and control weeds. Use a hoe to cut weeds between plants. Hand pick weeds that grow close to the base of the plants to prevent damage from garden tools.

Step 10

Side dress with high nitrogen fertilizer when plants bloom and begin to set fruit. One cup of ammonium nitrate (33-0-0) to a 50 food row, applied along the row two to four inches from the base of the beans and worked into the soil, provides the nutrients lima beans need to produce healthy fruit.

Step 11

Harvest the fruit when pods fatten and plump beans are visible through the pod. Pick the pods when they are green and beans are tender. Once the pod begins to yellow or shrivel, the beans become hard and are best left for dried beans.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden tiller/ Spade
  • Garden rake
  • Hoe
  • Soil amendments (compost/well-rotted manure)
  • Ammonium nitrate/ High nitrogen fertilizer (33-0-0)
  • Lima bean seeds


  • Nutrition Data: Nutrition Facts Lima Beans
  • Purdue University Extension: Growing Beans in the Home Vegetable Garden

Who Can Help

  • The Garden Helper: Recommended Soil pH
  • Colorado State University Extension: Choosing Soil Amendment
Keywords: plant lima beans, grow lima beans, bush lima beans, baby lima beans, butter beans

About this Author

Nannette Richford is an avid gardener, teacher and nature enthusiast with 4 years experience in online writing and a lifetime of personal journals. She is published on various sites, including Associated Content. Richford holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from the University of Maine Orono and certifications in 7-12 English, K-8 General Elementary and Birth to age 5.