Boy, if you are looking for something a little different to fill a vertical space then look no more. The Hyacinth bean is the plant you want. It is a vigorous in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 10 and above. In these zones, the Hyacinth bean is grown as a perennial. Other areas can still enjoy this plant but it is grown strictly as an annual.
The positive aspects of this are numerous. First, the foliage is a vibrant green that is highlighted with purple along the stem and on the underside of the leaves. The second aspect is the flower. It looks like a sweet pea bloom but without the smell. They come in white and purple. Once the flowers are spent, pollinated blooms will produce a bright purple seedpod, which is the real star of this plant.
As colorful as this plant is, there is another unique trait to this plant and that is it is not only ornamental but is also edible. The leaves, flowers, and immature pods are edible. While many sources say that you can eat the beans fresh, I would still cook them. They do contain a harmful chemical when dried but to just play it safe, cook the beans prior to eating.
When shopping for this plant, do not just look for it under the Hyacinth Bean name. Other common names for this plant include Indian Bean, Egyptian Bean, LabLab, and Tonga Bean.
The Hyacinth Bean does require some room to grow, which means at least 10 to 15 feet vertically and 6 to 8 inches horizontally.
If you want to optimize the beauty of this plant, make sure to plant the seed in a location that receives full sun. In this environment, the plant will produce the maximum number of blooms possible, which is what you want. On the other hand, if you do not have a garden space that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight then choose a location that receives partial shade. The plant will still grow here but it will not flower as much.
The other factor that one needs to consider is soil moisture. The Hyacinth Bean likes a well draining soil. If your soil is just right or less than perfect, add a 4 inch layer of well seasoned compost and mix in to the 12 inch depth. Once that is done, smooth the soil surface over.
Next, pull out the ruler and mark off every 6 to 8 inches. This is the spacing that is required by this plant. After you have marked the spacing, dig a hole that is 1 ½ and plant the “bean.” Repeat until all the “beans” have been planted. To keep your Hyacinth Bean feed, sprinkle a slow release fertilizer that is high in phosphorus on the soil surface and water in. To control weeds and cut down on water evaporation, add a 2 ½ inch layer of mulch.
You will begin to see signs of seed germination in two to three weeks.
While the Hyacinth Bean is considered a day neutral plant, there are types that are triggered to bloom once the days begin to shorten. In doing so, do not worry if your plant does not bloom during the early days of the summer.
Yes, this plant is a wonderful addition to your garden space to hide something that you view unattractive, such as a fence or air conditioning unit but what do you do if you do not have the space for this plant? Well, the answer is simple. You plant it in a container but…………due to its growth habit do not just plant it in a pot. Consider planting it in a hanging basket.
Planting a hanging basket with hyacinth beans is simple and starts with cleaning and sterilizing the basket. Here is a tip when it comes to cleaning this type of container. Make sure to remove the wire hanger before cleaning. This will keep you safe and prevent the wire from getting all bent up.
Once the hanger has been removed, fill a basin with warm water with a capful of bleach. Place the hanging basket in the basin and soak for 5 to 10 minutes. Scrub to remove and soil or debris and rinse in clear water. Set the hanging basket out to dry.
After the hanging basket has dried, place drainage material in the bottom of the pot. Take a good amount of well draining potting soil and place it in a bucket. Mix in a 5-10-5 formula of a slow release fertilizer according to the directions on the package. Once that is done, plant 3 beans 1 ½ deep and cover with soil. Put the wire hanger back on the container and water in. Place in a sunny location in your home if your local frost free date has not passed. If frost is not going to be a problem in your area, go ahead and hang outside.
Continue to monitor soil moisture and water when needed.
While you need vertical support of some type when you grow Hyacinth Bean in the ground, this is not true when you are growing them in a hanging basket. The key with the latter is to let the plant just cascade down the container. If you would like, you can also train it to grow up the wire hanger.
If you do not live in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 10 or higher, consider collecting the seedpods prior to the end of your local growing season. Yes, some of the pods will fall off and “reseed” the area; it is a good idea to gather your own seed for next year but do not place them in a plastic bag. To keep your seeds viable, make sure they are dry and place them in a paper bag or envelop. Once you have collected all the seeds you want, store them in their container in the fridge until you are ready to plant.
One caution I would give when it comes to planting the Hyacinth Bean. Since the dried beans are poisonous, make sure it is planted in an area away from kids and pets.