White flowers and pods of runner bean 'White Lady'

Five of the best runner beans to grow

Discover some of the best runner bean varieties to grow.

Runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) are one of the easiest crops to grow, bearing masses of long, sweet-tasting beans all summer long. While they can reach 2-3m tall, they don’t take up much ground space – grow them on the veg plot or scrambling up a wigwam in a border. You can even grow them a large container.

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Find out all you need to know about growing runner beans in our runner bean Grow Guide.

The pretty red, white or bi-coloured flowers are edible and have a beany flavour – use them as a garnish or to decorate salads.

There’s a wide range of runner bean to choose from – here are five of the best.

Runner beans are one of the easiest crops to grow, bearing masses of long, sweet-tasting beans all summer long.

1

‘Scarlet Emperor’

Runner bean ‘Scarlet Emperor’ is an old favourite – a heritage variety that has been grown in Britain for centuries. It has bright red flowers and produces heavy crops of long, smooth, dark-green pods with an great flavour.

Handful of 'Scarlet Emperor' runner beans
Handful of ‘Scarlet Emperor’ runner beans
2

‘Painted Lady’

Runner bean ‘Painted Lady’ is a Victorian variety that is grown as much for its pretty bicoloured red and white flowers as for its large crops of tender, medium length, well-flavoured beans.

Red and white flowers of runner bean 'Painted Lady'
Red and white flowers of runner bean ‘Painted Lady’
3

‘Red Rum’

Runner bean ‘Red Rum’ is a self-fertile, which means that it doesn’t need cross pollination from other bean plants nearby. So even if you grew one plant, you would enjoy a tasty crop. ‘Red Rum’ starts cropping early in summer and carries on producing heavy crops of medium-length beans throughout the season. Its ability to set beans even in poor weather means it outcrops many other varieties.

Picked 'Red Rum' runner beans, lying on hessian
Picked ‘Red Rum’ runner beans, lying on hessian
4

‘White Lady’

Runner bean ‘White Lady’ bears pretty, pure white flowers and long, mid-green, stringless, tender pods with white seeds. It’s a reliable and heavy cropper, and is more tolerant of dry, hot conditions than some other varieties.

A wooden trug full of 'White Lady' runner beans
A wooden trug full of ‘White Lady’ runner beans
5

‘Polestar’

British bred, ‘Polestar’ is a is a reliable runner bean that bears heavy crops of stringless and smooth, fleshy pods. They have a good flavour. It’s early to flower and the flowers set easily; it crops over a long season.

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'Polestar' runner beans, placed on hessian
‘Polestar’ runner beans, placed on hessian

Try growing sweet peas alongside your runner beans – not only does the combination look pretty, it will help to attract beneficial pollinators, too.

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Harvesting runner beans into a saucepan
Harvesting runner beans into a saucepan

Tips for growing runner beans

  • Sow seeds under cover from mid-April and plant out from late May.
  • Alternatively sow in mid- to late May, outdoors. Sow two per support.
  • Grow in a sheltered, sunny position and dig in plenty of organic matter into the soil before planting.
  • Protect seedlings from slugs and squash blackfly as soon as they appear on shoot tips.
  • Keep plants well-watered.
  • Pick beans regularly, as leaving pods on the plant will stop production and shorten the season.