Five types of beans exist: broad, dry, lima, scarlet runner and snap. The broad bean is Mediterranean in origin while all others are are considered "New World" plants. The most common bean is the snap, which is available in yellow, green or purple, and at most grocery stores as green or string beans. Bean plants may grow as vines or bushes and are frost-hardy. Beans are part of the Fabaceae family.
Also known as the fava bean, the broad bean was recorded as being present in Israel as early as 6,500 B.C. This large, annual bean grows on a bushy stalk that can reach four feet. Best grown in cool weather, the broad bean takes 120-150 days to mature and may be planted in any kind of soil. The plants prefer well-draining soil and plenty of sun.
A bushy plant, the dry bean is an annual that grows in all zones, prefers full sun and and takes regular watering, according to the 1997 Sunset National Gardening Book. Pinto, kidney and white marrowfat are all dry beans, which should be left on the stalk until the pods dry out. The beans can then be removed from the pods and stored dry for use in the future.
Lima beans can grow as either bushes or vines, are hardy in all zones and take anywhere from 65-95 days to mature. The annual plants thrive in full sun and well-drained and nutrient-rich soil. Regular watering is critical as plants that do not get enough water will not produce beans. GrowQuest.com recommends inoculating limas before plants and calls for planting in areas that limas have not been grown before.
Scarlet Runner Bean
Used more as an ornamental plant than a garden staple, the Scarlet Runner is a perennial vine that can grow in any zone with full sun and proper watering. According to the 1997 Sunset National Garden Book, the plant has bright scarlet clusters above deep green leaves and is often used to cover fences or pergolas. The plant produces beans similar to limas that are best harvested when young.
The most popular bean, the snap is found in grocery stores across the U.S. and is known as the string bean. This annual bean may be grown as a bush or vine and, in either case, is happiest with full sun, regular watering and well-draining soil. The snap bean matures in 50-70 days and, according to the 1997 Sunset National Gardening Book, pods should be harvested every five to seven days or the plant will stop producing.