Growing and Saving the Seed Of Lima Beans

Latin name Phaseolus lunatus is an annual member of the legume, or bean, family. The lima, also known as butter bean, is native to Latin America and grows in warm, frost-free conditions, maturing fairly quickly. The pods can be eaten whole or the beans can be harvested fresh and green, or hard for storing and cooking later. Be sure to cook lima beans for at least 10 minutes before eating, as the raw beans contain phytohaemagglutinin, which is toxic to humans. Dried seeds should be pre soaked, with a few water changes, then cooked at least 10 minutes before ingesting.



Native to Peru, the lima bean has been an staple in ancient Andean culture for 9,000 years. Intricate images of this beloved bean were engraved into pottery by the Mochicha peoples of pre-Spanish contact Peru. Named for the capital city of Peru, the conquistadors brought lima beans back to Europe. The beans eventually made their way to Asia and Africa and have become popular worldwide.


  • Culinary uses
  • Lima beans should never be eaten raw!




  • Direct sow two weeks after all chance of frost has passed, or when soil is consistently 65 F or over.
  • Ideal germination temperature is 75-85 F.
  • Sow seeds 1-1.5 inches deep. Space seeds 2-4 inches apart, thinning to 4-6 inches apart in rows 24-36 inches apart.
  • Seeds germinate in 7-21 days.


  • Lima beans are finicky about temperature. Ideally they should grow between 75-85 F. Aim to provide a growing window within this range for best results.
  • There are both bush and pole types. Check the variety description to determine habit. Provide a trellis or teepee for pole varieties, as they reach up to 10 feet tall.
  • Prefers full sun.
  • Provide rich, well-drained soil.
  • Lima beans mature all at once. Can be harvested when fresh and green or when dried. Pluck pods from the vine when just plump for fresh shelled limas or allow to dry on plant for dried beans.


  • Lima beans can experience a few fungal diseases. However, preventative measures, such as avoiding excessively cool temperatures of early spring and not overwatering in cool weather, will go a long way.
  • Limas are a self-pollinating annual, but insects can cause accidental cross pollination between different lima bean varieties. In order to prevent all chance of accidental crossing, separate different varieties for saving by 500 feet.
  • To save seed, allow pods to dry and become brittle. The seeds inside should be very hard, so you cannot dent them with a fingernail.
  • If expecting rain or frost, you can pull mostly dried pods and dry them further indoors.
  • Store in a cool, dark, dry place.