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Hyacinth Bean Vine

A couple of weeks ago I saw one of your shows on TV and you were standing in front of some beans on a trellis that had purple-red hulls. I would love to find out what kind of bean they are and where I can get them. I hope that you can answer this for me.

The plant you saw is a hyacinth bean vine. It is originally from the tropics and was introduced to American gardens around 1800. Sometimes in old seed catalogs it’s called the Thomas Jefferson vine because it is believed he grew this vine at his home, Monticello. While the “beans” are edible, this vine is mainly grown for its attractive pea-like blooms and purple pods.

Hyacinth bean vine is easy to grow and most garden centers offer it in the spring as seed, although I have sometimes seen young seedlings available as well. You can direct sow the seeds in the garden once the soil temperature has warmed up. I recommend that you soak them in water overnight before planting them. This will improve the rate of germination.

What is amazing about this vine is that it can reach incredible heights with unbridled growth from a single seed in a single season.

In late summer it sets robust seedpods that hang in clusters. This fruit-of-the-vine is as striking to me as the blooms and wonderful in flower arrangements. The pods are the same claret color of the stems and stalks and so polished they glisten in the sunlight.

The seeds ripen in the pods and should be collected in late fall, before the first hard freeze. This allows them to dry completely before storing and will keep them free of mold. Then next spring you will have plenty to plant in your garden and share with friends.