The Vegetable Garden

Bean, Lima

    Lima beans grow best on medium to light, loamy soils that are well drained and well supplied with organic matter. Lima beans can develop vigorous, extensive root systems.

    Spacing & Depth

    For best growth, lima beans need a sunny location. The crop can be injured by excessively cool or rainy weather as lima beans are not as hardy as green beans. Lima beans grow in most soils if the pH is above 5. Plant seed in late May, 1 to 2 inches deep and 3 to 4 inches apart. Soil temperatures should be around 60 degrees. If cooler than 60 degrees, the seed may rot rather than germinate.


    Bush type lima beans can be grown in rows spaced 18 to 24 inches apart. Pole type lima beans are grown in hills with 5 to 6 seeds per hill. The poles can be arranged various ways. Three poles can be arranged in a teepee. Plant one hill at the base of each pole. Thin seedlings to 3 to 4 per hill when they come up. Four poles may be used with one pole at each corner of a 2 foot square. Space teepee's 3 to 4 feet apart. Anchor the poles until the beans get large enough to hold them down.


    If the garden was not fertilized, use 1 cup of 5- 10-10 per 50 feet of row, 2 weeks prior to planting. If the plants get yellow and grow poorly, use the same amount of fertilizer as a sidedress. If plants are not watered adequately the pods will not fill out. Bush limas mature earlier than pole limas. Lima beans are harvested while the pods are still green. They may also be left on the bush to mature for use as dry beans.


    Pick Lima beans when the pods are well-filled but before they turn yellow – the pod end should feel spongy. Keep the beans in a cold and humid environment and put them to use as soon as possible. Lima beans can be shelled by pressing on the edges of the pod to pop it open.

    Common Problems

    Blossom drop may be caused by deep cultivation, excessive nitrogen, hot dry weather, or cloudy wet weather.  Pods may fall off due to deep cultivation or over fertilization, during flowering and up until the pods form.