Lima beans (Phaseolus lunatus) have been cultivated for over 7,000 years, according to the University of Delaware. These legumes, which are native to Central America, are sometimes called "butter beans" and are known for their bright green color and waxy texture. They are known as "immature" beans, which means they are grown for the beans, which are taken out of their pod before they reach maturity.
Lima beans grow from seed. The seeds must be planted a little later than other types of beans, according to Purdue University. Plant when all danger of a late spring frost is past. In some climates, this will not be until mid-to-late May. Baby lima varieties should be planted 3 or 4 inches apart, while bush varieties need 6 inches of space between them. Pole lima beans need the most space, at 10 inches. Press the seeds 1/2 inch to 1 inch deep into rich, moist soil. The lighter the soil, the deeper the seed should be planted.
Light and Water
Lima beans, like most vegetables, need full sun exposure to grow and thrive well. Water enough so that the soil is continually moist, but not overly saturated. One inch of water per week is a good rule to follow, according to Purdue University. Water in the morning at the soil level, so water does not sit on the foliage (which can cause fungal diseases to develop), and water in the morning so that the sun can dry any foliage that does get wet.
Lima beans are either of the bush or pole variety. Bush varieties do not need support, but pole varieties, which can grow to over 6 feet tall, should have a trellis or string fence to grow along.
Weeds can hinder the early growth of lima bean plants, according to the University of Minnesota. Weeds should be carefully removed with shallow hoes or rakes so as not to damage the nearby roots of the bean plants. A 3-inch layer of organic mulch can help stifle weed growth and retain moisture in the soil.
Pole (or standard) lima bean varieties can be harvested in 3 to 4 months, according to Purdue University, but baby and bush varieties harvest earlier. Watch the pods and pick them when they are plump and firm to the touch but still bright green. Lima beans must be cooked before being consumed, according to the University of Minnesota, or they can make you sick.