A Guide for Growing Borlotti Beans

Native from Colombia and very popular in Italy and Portugal, borlotti beans (also known as Cranberry beans, roman beans or romano beans) are a close relative to kidney beans. When dried, the pods have some of the most unique colors in the Legume family and seeds similar to pinto beans.

The process of growing borlotti beans is very similar to the one used for other dried beans, such as red beans. The difference with borlotti beans is that the time from seed to harvest is different. But that’s something to see in the article, so let’s start the guide on growing cranberry beans from seed to harvest.

Borlotti beans pods

How to Grow Borlotti Beans

Borlotti beans should be planted when the temperature is between 65-85° F in air and 60° F in soil. Plant the cranberry beans in a place with full sun 1-1.5 inches deep for both bush beans and pole beans. Space the bush beans 3-5 inches apart in rows 2 feet apart. Space pole beans 10 inches apart in rows 3-4 feet apart.

If you are planting pole beans in double rows then plant them 1 foot apart in rows and space them 10 inches from each other. In the Trellis section we see an example on how to space pole beans in double rows. The seeds should sow in 1-2 weeks

Pro Tip: To avoid getting your seeds dug up by rabbits, rodents, or other animals, place a hardware cloth or chicken wire until your seeds sow

Growing Cranberry Beans in Seedling Trays

You can also start the germination process of cranberry beans in seedling trays. For this, fill the seedling trays with some seed starting mix and plant them about 1 inch deep into the soil. If they sprouted outdoors, transplant them right into your garden beds or pots when they get their first set of true leaves.

If they sprouted indoors and you plan on transplanting them outdoors in the garden, it’s important to put them through their respective hardening process.

It’s also important to note that beans are shallow rooted plants, so they prefer to be sown directly into their definitive place. If you transplant them, they might suffer from transplant shock and not settle their roots properly, resulting in many problems such as leaves dropping, leaf curl, and many other problems that may attract pest.

Despite this, sowing them in trays will avoid having your seeds dug up by animals, so if you decide to take this approach, try applying inoculant powder after transplanting the seedlings to help the roots stablish.

I recommend the chicken wire and the inoculant powder if you will be planting beans in a constant basis, but if this is your first time planting beans, I suggest planting them and see if you actually need it after getting your first season results.

Growing Borlotti Beans in Containers

Growing cranberry beans

Beans in general are shallow rooted plants, so they are a very good option to plant in containers, as they won’t need too much space to grow. But for seeds that needs to dry on the plant, such as borlotti beans, it may not be optimal for harvest, as the pods cannot be picked frequently to induce more growth.

To sow borlotti 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 33% of compost, 33% of peat moss or coco coir and 33% of perlite or vermiculite.

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 dislike having “wet feet” and this could lead to root rot.

Soil Requirements

When growing borlotti beans, it’s best to plant them in a clay or loamy soil with a Ph between 6-7. But the most important part is to have them settle in a rich-nutrient soil by giving it a nice touch of compost.

For the best results, they should be located in a spot with full sun. If you are planting pole varieties, make sure to give a good use to the shadow the beans will make in your garden and place crops that grow well in partial-sun.

Beans are popular for being able to fix nitrogen in the soil, so it’s not really necessary to fertilize them thought the season, if anything, it could be counterproductive. Despite this, if you want them to grow faster, apply a mid-season touch of compost or a kelp extract solution.


Before applying mulch, 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 beans.

The mulch it’s great to maintain the weeds away and will help the soil conserve it’s moisture and temperature, which is very useful during hot spells.


Double row bean trellis
Trellis for double row pole beans

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

There are many ways to trellis borlotti pole 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 beans for the first time, this is a good and affordable idea.

Make sure to plant the bamboo poles at least 1 feet deep into the soil if you live in a windy area, if the depth is too superficial, the bamboo could drop by a heavy wind of the weight of the crops. In the case you plant beans regularly, it might be a good idea to get an obelisk trellis.

Beans can also be attached to fences or arches, there is even a bean tower plant support. When it comes to trellis ideas, there are many options.

Common Pest and Diseases

Click on this link to see the common pest and diseases beans suffer from

Harvesting Cranberry Beans

Cranberry beans will be ready to harvest around 75-90 days after they’ve been planted. We want to harvest the plant when the pods have a mix of pink and brownish color. For best flavor, they can also be picked when the green is about to change color in the final part of the pod.

There are a couple ways to collect cranberry beans from the pods.

1- Pick the pods by hand when they are ready and then open them to get the seeds inside.

2- Place the pods into a bag and throw it against the floor multiple times. Most of the seeds will get out of the pods which saves a lot of time.

Despite this, using the second method will make some parts of the pods stay with the cranberry beans so you will need to winnow your beans to “clean them”.

Winnowing Cranberry beans
Winnowing berlotti beans

Harvesting a borlotti bean plant in damp conditions

If you live in an area with damp weather, it’s raining very frequently, or the season’s is about to end and there are still some undried beans in your plants, there are a few actions you can take to finish this process.

A typical thing to do is to pull the plant early and hang it in a basement, barn, or any 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 pink, brownish color take the seeds out and finish drying them in a dry area in your house or in a dehydrator.

And that’s it for the guide on growing borlotti beans! I hope this was useful for you.