A Full Guide on Growing Lima Beans

Getting their name from Peru’s capital, lima beans, also known as butter beans, are creamy, mildly flavored beans from the Phaseolus Lunatus species. They come in many different colors and are actually considered to be a type of white bean.

When growing lima beans, we want to plant them 1-1.5 inches deep in a spot with full sun inside a rich nutrient soil with a temperature being 60° F (for soil) and the overall temperature being between 65-85° F. Space Bush beans 3-4 inches apart in rows 2 feet apart, and pole beans 6-8 inches apart in rows 2-3 feet apart.

If you are planting pole beans in double rows, space them 8 inches from each other and 1 foot apart in rows. The seeds will sprout in 7-14 days and will be ready for harvest in 65-90 days depending on the variety.

In the next guide, we will see more details in the process of growing and caring for lima beans, some of the different varieties of lima beans and many tips that may come handy during our growing journey

Lima beans pods

Different Varieties of Lima Beans

Before growing lima beans, it’s important to have a quick look at some of it’s different varieties!

Table of the different varieties of lima beans

Dixie ButterpeaBushRed-speckledSmooth, Creamy80 days
Early ThorogreenBushLight greenButtery65 days
Willow LeafPoleWhiteCreamy90 days
Fordhook 242BushGreen Good flavor75-85 days
CarolinaPoleWhiteGood flavor65-80 days
Henderson BushBushwhiteTender, buttery65 days
Florida Speckled PolePurple-GreenGood, strong flavor75 days
Jackson WonderBushPurple-BrownMild, Nutty65 days

Dixie Butterpea: This is a bush variety of baby lima bean that produces pea-sized, red speckled beans. They posses a smooth, creamy texture and reach maturity in 80 days. They can be acquired by the David’s seeds store via Amazon

Early Thorogreen: Bush variety of baby lima bean that contains small, buttery flavor, light green seeds. They are ready to be harvested in about 65 days and is mildew resistant

Willow leaf: It’s name is due to it’s willow leaves. Pole variety that produces dull white seeds similar to the Carolina variety. It takes 90 days to mature.

Fordhook 242: Bush variety that produces good flavored pale green seeds. Heavy yields and resistant to heat and drought. It matures in 75-85 days.

Carolina: This pole bean contains good flavored white seeds. They take 65-80 days from seed to maturity.

Henderson Bush: One of the earliest and most popular bush varieties of lima beans. Contains tender, buttery, small white seeds in the inside and the plant reaches maturity in about 65 days. It’s also disease resistant. You can purchase a packet of 150 seeds from the seeds needs store via amazon

Florida Speckled Butter Bean: Pole variety, according to some reviews they are of good, strong flavor. Purple-Green color when the pods are fresh and then turn white with black stripes. They take about 75 days to mature.

Jackson Wonder: A bush variety with mild, nutty flavor, small-medium sized purple brown speckled seeds in the inside of the pods. Matures in more or less 65 days.

Growing Lima Beans the Right Way

1- Beans won’t really need fertilizer in the later run, but they do need a rich nutrient soil, so give your garden beds a nice mix of compost before planting.

2- Plant the lima beans 1-1.5 inches deep when the temperature is between 65-85° F in air and 60° F in soil

3- Space bush beans varieties 3-4 inches apart in rows 2 feet apart. Meanwhile, space pole beans 8 inches apart in rows 2-3 feet apart. Pole lima beans planted in double rows should be spaced 8 inches apart and 1 foot in-between rows

4- Water the plants until the soil is moist soil but do not waterlog them. After taking the weeds (manually) place a nice layer of mulch.

5- The seeds will sprout in 1-2 weeks.

How to Grow Butter Beans in Pots

Lima beans in pots

Beans in general are shallow root plants, which makes them a good option to plant in containers, despite this, they don’t have a nice rate of production per plant, so it’s not precisely optimal to plant them individually.

On the other hand, if you are planting pole varieties of lima beans and are planning to harvest fresh pods, the plant will keep on producing the pods, which makes it more efficient than planting late maturity dry beans such as kidney beans for example (take 100-140 days to be harvested).

To sow lima beans in containers, plant them 1 inch deep into the soil. You can use potting mix for the soil or just blend one for yourself by mixing 1/3 of compost, 1/3 of peat moss or coco coir and 1/3 of perlite or vermiculite. Just try to make sure your soil is in that Ph range of 6-7 that beans thrive for!

The pot should be about 12 inches in diameter and 10 inches deep. Here I’ll leave a link to amazon to acquire 5 gallon pots that work well to plant bush and vining beans.

It’s also important to have some draining holes ready in any pot that you use. As beans do not like getting “wet feet” as this could lead to root rot.


When growing lima beans, the soil should have a temperature of at least 60° Fahrenheit and have a Ph between 6-7. They can thrive in any soil but usually do better in clay or loamy soils and it’s very important to give the soil a nice touch of compost before planting them.

For the best results, lima beans should be located in a spot with full sun. If you are planting vining varieties, make sure to give a good use to the shadows produced by the pole beans and place crops that grow well in partial-sun.

Beans are a great crop to grow as their roots will take nitrogen from the air and place them in the soil they are growing, so it’s not really needed to add fertilizer to induce growth. If a nitrogen fertilizer is added, the plant will focus more in growing foliage than in producing blooms.

If you want them to grow faster though, apply a mid-season side dress of compost or use a kelp extract solution.


Mulching plants

As it happens with many other types of beans, mulching your lima beans is a good practice that will make help you have a better success rate and harvest.

Before mulching, make sure remove all the weeds from your garden bed, preferably by hand as the tools could go too deep into the soil and damage the shallow roots of the lima beans.

Mulching it’s a great way to maintain the weeds away and will help the soil conserve it’s moisture and temperature, which will be very useful if you live in an area where they can get overheated during some days in the summer.


When growing pole lima beans, it’s useful to make a trellis for the vining pole beans to grow.

There are different ways to trellis beans. A classic one is to plant some bamboo poles in a circle-shape and connect them at the top with a string in a teepee kind of form. If you are starting to plant lima beans for the first time this is a good, affordable idea.

Make sure to plant the bamboo poles at least 1 feet deep into the soil if you live in a windy area, as both the weight of the plant and the wind could make the bamboo fall in planted in the wrong way. In the case you start planting beans regularly, it might be a good idea to get an obelisk trellis.

Beans can also be attached to fences or arches, there is also a bean tower plant support.

If you plan to grow lima beans (or any type of pole bean) in double rows, you can do a trellis in a X type of form, here is an example:

Trellis for Pole Lima Beans

Pest and Diseases

Click here to see some of the beans common pest and diseases.


Lima Beans will be ready to harvest in 65-85 days after they’ve been planted depending on the cultivar you acquired.

If you harvest lima beans as dry beans, take them pods from the plant when they get dry, in a yellow & leathery form and the seeds rattle a bit.

Make sure to pick up the pods from the plant by holding the string from the plant and then snatching the pod from it. This way you avoid damaging the plant.

There are a couple ways to collect the seeds from dry beans. The pods can be picked up by hand when they are ready and then opened to release the seeds, or you can place the seeds into a bag and, throw it against a surface for a while and the seeds will come out from the pods.

Despite this, in the second method some parts of the pods will be together with the beans so you will need to winnow your beans to “clean them”.


An practice you can try to winnow your lima beans, is to place a basket on the floor and pour the beans into the basket while they pass in front of a fan. Doing this a couple of times should make the work easier.

Harvesting Lima Beans in Damp Conditions

If you live in an area with damp weather or with frequent raining, and you want to harvest some of the lima beans as dry beans, there are a couple actions you can take to make this possible.

Hang the plant and let it dry

A typical thing to do is to pull the plant early and hang it in the basement, a barn, or any other dry environment. Despite this, taking this approach may cause the plant to get moldy.

Another approach you can take is to take the immature pods directly and let them dry near a window ledge. As soon as they get their typical yellow color take the seeds out and finish drying them in a dry spot in your house or in a dehydrator.

Lima beans are a really good vegetable to add in soups and cooked as baked beans in other dishes. If you are interested in growing white beans, click here to see the different types of white beans and some of their characteristics.

And this is it! I hope this article was useful for you. I wish you a good season and a good harvest for you.