From its bush or vine-growing plant emerges the tender, buttery, creamy lima bean. The lima bean (Phaseolus lunatus) belongs to the Fabaceae/Leguminosae, or bean, family and it originated in either Guatemala or Brazil, according to Texas A&M University. Also known as sieva bean, butterbean and butterpea, lima beans are now grown in Africa, India, the Philippines and Southern Europe. Take a journey through the life cycle of a lima bean--from bean to plant and back to the bean.
Planting the Beans
Lima beans have been cultivated abundantly throughout the Central and the Southern regions of North America where the climate is warm. Locate your lima beans in a very sunny location in your garden after the danger of frost, when the temperature is between 60 and 85 degrees F.
Plant the beans in well-drained loamy soil that is enriched with organic matter and has a minimum pH level of 6.5. Space your rows 1 1/2 to 3 feet apart. Space the seeds in each row 3 to 6 inches apart, and sow them into the soil to a 1-inch depth.
After keeping the soil moist, the lima beans will start to germinate in six to 18 days. The moist soil conditions will soften the seed coat and the roots will grow down into the soil. The embryo inside of the seed will then grow out as a shoot and then emerge from the soil as a sprout.
The Sprout Emerges
The lima bean seedling will emerge from the soil and will form its first set of leaves, which will use photosynthesis to produce its own food. The seedlings are very delicate, and it is important to keep the soil moist without over-watering the plants. While the plants are small, set up trellises for your vine-growing lima beans.
The Lima Beans Grow
The lima bean seedlings will continue to grow into vines or bush plants, depending on the lima bean variety. The plants form numerous leaves and eventually flowering buds develop on the plant. The bean pods then form on the plant following the flowers. Continue to water the plants as the lima bean pods develop and grow.
After 60 to 100 days of growth and production, the lima beans are ready for harvest, usually in August through September. Pick the pods while they are fresh, or leave them on the plant to dry. Remove the lima beans from the pods and prepare them in a meal. A mainstay of the Native American diet, the lima bean is a storehouse of nutrition. They are an excellent dietary source of iron, riboflavin, protein and thiamine, according to Iowa State University.
Dried lima beans are stored for food and for planting a future crop. Planting the new beans continues the life cycle of a lima bean.