Runner Bean (P coccineus) grow notes

Hi all!

Something like 40 of you ordered runner beans from Going to Seed since they sold out!

I have snow on the ground still and I’ll probably sow in 4-6 weeks. But most of y’all live somewhere a little warmer than I do. Have you planted beans already? How was germination?

We should share how they’re doing, especially with photos, here.

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I am interested in runners perennial to my zone 6 conditions that I can also plant without concern in winter or even fall. Because of this, and with confidence in the mixes provided by this community, I planted half my runners in late January under our Nanking cherry.

A full discussion of my plan and motivation might be outside the scope of the thread, but I had it clear in my mind before planting that it was entirely possible that not one would survive the winter and germinate.

If I somehow had some guarantee that at least one plant from each different variety would make seeds I would probably have planted all of them :joy:

I am watching closely to see what they do. One of my winter-planted pole beans shot out of the ground last week so my guess is we’re approaching the time where survivors start to surface.

If nobody’s up by July, my first batch of runners is probably a bust. If I get one or more I can decide whether to give them some friends or plant the others in a different location.

Come on, runners! You can do it!!!


Neat! I’ll look forward to hearing whether anything comes up.

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Handling these beautiful seeds is reminding me of the grade-school growing beans in a cup that everyone seems to do, and of my first scarlet runner bean seeds ordered when I was a kid (and coated with pink powder, maybe I shouldn’t have been handling them do much).

I’m tempted to start some indoors just to enjoy them up close, I have about a month before plant out.

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I like that idea. If you’d enjoy having them indoors, why not? :smiley:

Commitment. :laughing:

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I took this picture yesterday morning. You can see what look to be at least three of the eleven January-planted runners that have survived the winter in 6b and germinated in deep (I mean deep) shade underneath our Nanking cherry. The furthest along emerged near the beginning of May. The others came later. I don’t know when exactly as we were traveling. The top one I noticed two days ago.

(The wood to the right of the top runner is one of three unhappy exotic rhododendrons that the previous property owner planted. The two surviving(?) are not any happier now that they’ve been engulfed by a giant bush cherry :sweat_smile:. We decided not to clone or move them but would consider growing one of the native American rhododendrons elsewhere.

The irony of the introduction of a more aggressive non-native species providing an opportunity to make our landscape more native is not lost on me. We likely would have made different decisions if we could go back in time five years. As a mixed blessing, the bush has never borne fruit.)

The runners are all planted to the right hand side of the Nanking as pictured below, close enough to the shrub itself that I thought they would get some protection and maybe some lessons in cold hardiness.

I haven’t measured the Nanking but would guess it’s close to ten feet tall and wider still.

What these tough little runners have to do now is slowly make their way from the understory to the canopy. Once they make it there they should have it made in the shade :sunglasses:

Come on runners!! You can do it!


This is awesome! I’m so glad they’re growing for you!

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So how did they fare over the 2023 growing season?

Thanks for the opportunity to close the loop here! I think I mentioned this somewhere else and maybe this was already the case with my last update, but most died from those that germinated from the winter planting. One flowered but never set.

Runners from later plantings also never produced pods.

I’m inclined to think voles or other tunneling rodents played a role, as healthy plants would suddenly falter and die without any sign of disease obvious.

I won’t be doing this again with seeds that I only have in short supply and that haven’t proven themselves in my conditions yet. I’ll be growing the GTS runners this year along with what I have left of the British Pop mix from Adaptive. And anything that may have managed to overwinter.

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Do you think something like gopher baskets would be a good idea, in your climate? It may be a useful way to keep tunneling rodents away from your plants’ roots without hurting the creatures.

Yes, that’s a good idea and I think they’d be a good fit for fulfilling their intended purpose here.

Our north star here is ahimsa first and minimal intervention falling close behind. I’m not sure how well gopher baskets would square with the effort piece and I always get nervous about introducing more plastic, metal, and the like to the landscape.

Though I suppose it also doesn’t mean that we have to buy a whole bunch of them to try out how they work in the system :thinking:

What about a woven basket, like from locally grown willow branches? That would rot away over time, but it may last at least a growing season, it may keep gophers out, and it would eventually biodegrade into compost. Might that be in keeping with minimal intervention?

Come to think of it, a bunch of wooden boards may work even better. You could make a crate using Japanese wood joinery techniques that don’t need glue or nails.

Anyway, I think you could probably make some kind of gopher basket using nothing but locally grown wood.

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Now this is something we might seriously consider if we can find the time to skill up :seedling:. That’d certainly be a better match. I’m not crafty enough right now to make a biodegradable gopher basket quickly :slightly_smiling_face:

Cool! I’m glad I came up with an idea that may be a good fit for you! :blush:

So far so good on the most precocious and vigorous of the GTS runners planted under the nanking cherry in January '23

Tuber is firm and vital-seeming. Frosts have been down to - 4F/-18C this year. Not sure how much tuber is underground but overwintering perennials frequently get pushed up by frost heave. I plan to leave it alone for now and keep tabs on it. If it produces seed, and if it starts flowering and seeding early and abundantly enough, I may see about thoughts and feelings on sending some in for growers to try for fall seeds. Though since this might mainly be off interest to growers in zone 7 and lower (I’m in 6), that’s a lot of ifs. Always next year’s mix though :heart_eyes:

Assuming it’s indeed still alive I credit at least these following things:

  • vitality of the original seed (genetics factor in here)
  • embryonic exposure to freezing temperatures while in conditions of the final planting site
  • a sheltered location
  • shelter provided by an extremely cold hardy perennial that had been there several seasons