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Lima Bean Characteristics

By Joshua Duvauchelle ; Updated September 21, 2017
For the best growing results, lima beans need full sun.
Sun image by KPICKS from Fotolia.com

Lima bean pods are plump in shape, buttery in flavor and rich in fiber and protein. Every lima bean plant produces handfuls of these pods and makes for a tasty, bountiful addition to any backyard garden. All lima bean plants, regardless of their variety, have specific growing characteristics and requirements that gardeners must meet to help the plant achieve its maximum size and bean production.


Lima beans require full sunlight to grow to their full potential. Lima bean plants in shady gardens will not perform as well and may suffer from stunted bean pod production. The ideal garden plot for lima beans receives six to seven hours of direct sunlight per day.


Compost can amend the soil and make it more suitable for lima beans.
bêche image by Claudio Calcagno from Fotolia.com

Lima bean plants spread a shallow root system that thrives in loose, well-drained soil. They do best in coarse, sandy soil, according to the University of Minnesota. Gardeners that don't have such soil can opt for the next best thing by amending the dirt heavily with aged compost. This makes the dirt less dense, boosts the soil's nutritional levels, and helps the ground retain moisture for the thirsty bean plants.

Seed Depth and Spacing

Like most beans, lima bean seeds should be planted at a depth of 1 to 2 inches. Gardeners must take into account the lima bean variety when determining spacing needs. Indeterminate (vining) lima beans need more space and should be planted 6 inches apart. Determinate (bush) varieties are more compact in shape and can be planted just 4 inches apart. In a garden with rows of lima beans, separate each row by 2 feet or 3 feet for bush or vining plants, respectively.


Bush lima beans only grow 6 to 8 inches tall and do not need support. The same isn't true for vining varieties, which can grow as tall as 12 feet or higher. Exact height characteristics vary by the specific variety, but all vining varieties need a trellis or support. Such supports can be obtained from most nurseries and garden stores. As the vine grows, gardeners should train it onto the trellis by directing its tendrils onto the structure.

Harvest Times

Depending on the variety, lima beans are ready for harvesting within 80 to 100 days, according to the University of Delaware. The beans are ready to be picked when they're a couple inches long and feel firm and swollen to the touch. Gardeners can double-check the pod's readiness by breaking it open; the beans inside should be cream in color.


About the Author


Joshua Duvauchelle is a certified personal trainer and health journalist, relationships expert and gardening specialist. His articles and advice have appeared in dozens of magazines, including exercise workouts in Shape, relationship guides for Alive and lifestyle tips for Lifehacker. In his spare time, he enjoys yoga and urban patio gardening.