Also called butter beans, lima beans are an important staple crop of the Southern United States. Limas need to be shucked, since the pod is not edible. Once harvested, limas can be eaten fresh or they can be dried. Lima beans are a summer crop. Gardeners can find varieties for hardiness zones 3 to 10.
Lima beans come in bush and pole varieties. Bush varieties are freestanding, whereas pole varieties require the support of a trellis. Green-colored bush varieties include Bridgeton, Cangreen and Kingston. Pole beans like Carolina Sieve and Florida Butter Speckled produce a white or cream-colored bean.
Planting depth varies by the size of the lima bean. Large beans should be buried 1-1/2 inches in the soil; small and medium varieties are planted at a depth of 3/4 inch to 1 inch. Leave 3 to 4 inches of space between bush beans.
Plant lima beans after frost danger has passed and the soil temperatures are 65 F or higher. Planting before then may result in less seed germination.
Bush lima beans mature in 70 to 80 days, according to the National Garden Bureau. The pole varieties are ready to harvest in 80 to 95 days.
Lima beans originated in Guatemala, according to the Essential Garden Guide. From there, the beans made their way to North America and became a staple crop of Native Americans in the Southwest and Eastern United States.
Lima bean plants can be affected by two pests: the aphid and the Mexican bean beetle. Symptoms of an aphid infestation include yellowing of the plant leaves and a sticky substance called honeydew that coats the plant leaves. Use insecticidal soap to treat aphids.
Mexican bean beetles grow to 1/3-inch and are yellow and black in color. These beetles eat the plant leaves. Hand pick and crush the beetles or treat lima beans with an insecticide.