You can plant, grow, and harvest snap beans and other beans in containers. Growing beans in containers are ideal for balconies, decks, patios, rooftops, and other urban gardens. Beans can also be grown indoors under lights.
Many apartment gardeners like to grow bush beans because they can grow three to six plants in a large container. Bush varieties stay compact, have a good yield, and mature over a few weeks, usually earlier than pole beans.
Pole beans are large plants. They produce over a longer time than bush beans. Pole beans need a strong, well-anchored pole or trellis.
Container growing beans fast facts
- Grow as: annual, grow indoors year-round
- Plant size at maturity: bush beans grow 15 to 20 inches tall; pole snap beans grow 5 to 8 feet tall.
- Start from: seeds or transplants
- Minimum soil depth or pot depth: 8 to 12 inches
- Light requirement: Full sun
- Temperature requirement: Beans are a warm-weather crop; plant beans as soon as the soil reaches 65°F
- Days to harvest: 50 to 60 days
- Seed viability: 3 years
Container size for beans
- Plant snap beans in patio or balcony containers.
- Use a 2-gallon container for 3 plants of bush beans.
- Use a 5-gallon container for 3 plants of pole beans.
- Allow a depth of 8 to 12 inches of container soil for beans.
- Pole beans need to be supported by stakes or trellises. Attach a garden trellis to the back of the container or grow beans up strings attached to a tall horizontal support.
Planting beans in containers
- Plant beans directly in the container after nighttime temperatures warm to 60F.
- Beans grow and fruit best at temperatures between 70F and 85F (21-29C).
- Seeds germinate best between 70F and 80F (21-26C).
- Bean seedlings do not transplant well.
- Plant bush snap beans 3 inches apart in containers.
- Plant pole snap beans 9 to 12 inches apart.
- Beans will benefit from a pre-planting treatment with an inoculant powder which helps the plant convert nitrogen from the air into nitrogen in the soil.
- Cover beans seeds with 1½ inches of soil.
- Plant lima beans, soybeans, and fava beans 4 to 6 inches apart; cover lima beans with 2 inches of soil.
- Plant cowpeas 3 to 4 inches apart and cover with 1 inch of soil.
Light requirements for beans
- Grow beans outdoors in full sun, 8 to 10 hours of sunlight per day is best.
- Beans can be difficult to grow under lights indoors. Use bright lights indoors.
- Bean seedlings or transplants can be started in peat pots with two 40-watt fluorescent tubes.
- Growing indoors use cool-spectrum lights for seedlings and switch to warm-spectrum for flowering, or grow under a blend; use HO T5, CFL, LED, MH/CMH, or HPS lamps.
Temperature and humidity for beans
- Sow snap beans outdoors as soon as the soil reaches 65 degrees and warmer.
- Beans grow best between 65F and 85F.
Soil for container-growing beans
- Use a commercial soil mix; you can add one part of organic matter such as bagged compost or ground bark to every three parts of the soil mix.
- Beans are suited to hydroponic, aquaponic, and aeroponic systems.
Watering beans in containers
- Beans grow best with a steady even amount of moisture.
- Beans need 1 inch of water per week that is 0.6 gallons of water per square foot of soil surface space.
- If the weather is hot and dry, check the soil every day for moisture. Never allow the soil to go completely dry.
Feeding beans in containers
- Feed beans with a low nitrogen fertilizer such as 5-10-10.
- Add fertilizer to the soil at planting time. When the plants begin to flower fertilize a second time.
- Use a diluted liquid fertilizer after flowering, but don’t overfertilize or fruit production will be reduced.
Caring for beans
- When growing pole beans, place the stake or trellis in the container at planting time.
Bean problems, pests, and diseases
- Bean mosaic virus caused leaves to be misshapen and plants to become stunted and the pods smaller.
- Bean mosaic virus is spread by aphids and infected seeds. Purchase disease-free seed.
- Aphids can be controlled with insecticidal soap.
- Mexican bean beetles can be a problem in the East and Southwest; exclude bean beetles with row covers.
- Fungus gnats can be a problem when growing indoors.
- Spider mites can attack stressed plants.
- Powdery mildew and fungal leaf spots can be a problem if the water sits on the foliage.
- Bean harvest typically occurs from mid to late summer, and early summer for fava beans.
- Pick beans when the sides are just starting to bulge. Beans that fill out completely can become tough and stringy.
- Pinch the pods off the plant with your fingers.
- The more frequently you pick beans, the more plants will produce.
- Pole beans have strings that can be removed by snapping off one end and pulling the string down to the other end of the bean.
- Avoid harvesting beans when the plants are wet.
- Snap beans left too long on the plant can be harvested as shell beans when the beans in the pod are plump.
Bean varieties to grow in containers
Snap beans (also known as string beans and green beans)
- Bush: Bush Green, Bush Yellow, Dwarf Velour French, Bush Kentucky Wonder, Blue Lake 274, Contender, Masai, Tendercrop, Topcrop, Greencrop, Purple Queen, Gold Mine
- Pole: Kentucky Blue, Romano, Blue Lake, Purple King, Cascade Giant
Purple podded beans
- Purple Queen, Purple Peacock, Royal Burgundy
- Romano, Varoma
- Roc d’Or, Gold Crop
Scarlet runner beans
- Scarlet Runner, Scarlet Emperor, Painted Lady, Dwarf Bees
- Straight ‘n Narrow, Maxibel
- Flagrano, Tongue of Fire
- Kidney beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzos
- Thorogreen, Fordhood 242
- Black-eyed pea, lima bean, cowpea, pigeon pea, soybean, winged bean, yard-long bean can be grown the same way as snap beans.