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Growing Christmas Lima Beans

At the end of the LA Garden show earlier this spring, my booth neighbor and fellow Gardenerd, Nysha Dalgren of Ardenwoods Edibles let me choose a plant or two to take home.  I couldn’t resist the opportunity to try something new, and the tiny tendrils of a Christmas Lima Bean plant were calling out to me.

When I got home, I tucked the plant in behind a cluster of popping corn and waited for it to take hold.  This was my attempt at 2 out of 3 of the Three Sisters Garden of native American tradition.  Before long, the bean plant had overtaken the dried corn stalks, so I had to add a trusty trellis for added support.


This is one plant.  Photo taken in September 2010.
At this writing the trellis is completely covered with vines.

Soon the vine began to flower and form pods – broad, flat pods with delicious potential.

Flowers and young pods
Flowers and young pods

Every day I would wander out to see if any pods were dry.  Some pods near the bottom had started to dry out.  The beans inside rattled excitedly.


Christmas Lima Bean pod drying out

As more pods have dried out, the little handful or beans in the kitchen continues to grow.  The plant is still in full swing, but we expect a very good yield from our one little plant.


Christmas Lima Beans are flat fava or lima-sized beans with burgundy spots, a potato texture and a chestnut taste.

So if you feel like trying something different next spring/summer, give Christmas Lima Beans a try. You won’t be disappointed.  We’ll update this post when we get a final count on the harvest later this season.

Got beans?  What do you do with them?  Share your favorite ways with us here.

This Post Has 21 Comments

  1. Leslie

    I really need to know if these beans take a long growing season or not. I live in Idaho, we have shorter hot summers. I really hate growing something and watching it die with a frost when I did not get to harvest anything… So sad! I can’t find anything about the growing season length.

    1. Christy

      Hi Leslie, Great question. When I search seed suppliers they list a range of “days to maturity” anywhere from 55 to 85 days. I found one seed company that may have bred or adapted their seeds to mature in a short growing season, as short as 50 days: Check them out and see if that will work for you in your short summer season. They are considered frost tender, so try these shorter strains and see if they work.

  2. Lilly

    These grow so amazingly for us on the Gold Coast, Australia! low maintenance and always a great harvest.

  3. Robin

    I just discovered your website! And, you are local. I live in the San Fernando Valley so much of the gardening sites don’t apply to me. I planted some Christmas limas 2 years ago and I didn’t take out the vines after the first season. I was lazy and just wanted to see what happened. Well, those plants are still producing. Thanks for your postings.

    1. Christy

      Glad to hear it. And welcome to the Gardenerd Community!

  4. Tony

    Hi from DeKalb Texas. I have blooming vines of Christmas limas but no beans. Any suggestions?

    1. Christy

      First, check for evidence of rats or other critters nibbling on the buds. If you see evidence then focus on protection – netting, cages, etc. Next, add some organic phosphorus and potassium to the soil and water it in well. We like seabird guano and kelp meal. That should help.

  5. Rose

    I started with 5 beans and have shared 100’s of fresh and dried beans. I live in Hawaii and can get two harvests each year. I love them. I cook them and eat them with salt, pepper and butter. I’ll place leftovers in fridge and throw into green salads. These beans are delicious in soups. My friends mom shared this recipe that she cooks often.

    1 lb Christmas Lima beans
    5 cups water
    Bring to boil, turn off heat, let stand 10 min.
    3/4 c white sugar
    1/4 c brown sugar
    1 tsp salt
    Bring back to Simmer until soft
    Eat hot or cold.

    1. Christy

      Sounds delicious, Rose. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Liz Bottman

    Hi Gardenerd,

    I have planted Christmas lima beans, thanks to your blog posts, and now have two vines, each about 14 inches tall. The weather has been warm—low 80s—and I have watered them well, every other day. My question is, what can I do to help the leaves green up? They are quite pale, so I put some organic fertilizer on top of the soil and watered it, but the leaves still are pale. Do you have any other suggestions? The soil is a nice, light mixture.


    Liz Bottman
    Seattle, Washington

    1. Christy

      Hi Liz,

      I would suggest cutting back on water. Yellow or pale leaves can often indicate overwatering. If the roots are sitting in water, they can suffocate. The lack of oxygen contributes to photosynthesis problems. Those leaves may not green up, but fall off instead, but don’t worry, new growth will replace the old if that’s the case.

  7. Christy Wilhelmi

    You might try watering with compost tea, or adding some seabird guano (sparingly) to see if that makes a difference. We’ve seen results with that.

  8. Christy Wilhelmi

    Are your blooms falling off without setting fruit?  If they are setting fruit, but just taking a long time, I wouldn’t worry too much. Around here (Los Angeles), Christmas Limas are perennial crops. It could be that your plant is just taking its sweet time.

    Here is a basic plant profile for Christmas Lima Beans. If you see anything outside of what you’re doing, try adjusting based on this:

    I hope this helps.

  9. Debbie

    just blooming not setting on the pods…..

  10. Debbie Marlow

    This is my first year of growing Christmas lima beans…seed was pricey but wanted to grow..something different..we live in Southern IL.. the vines are doing great and blooms everywhere but no pods…..does it take a long time for the pods to mature? Very disappointed so far…we have been watering faithfully so the drought is not the problem….any suggestions?

  11. Barb

    I have been planting Christmas Lima beans, along with scarlet runner beans, for a few years all around our 20 foot by 20 foot garden. We let them grow up the fence around the complete garden. There are pretty white flowers on the Christmas Lima plants and pretty red flowers on the scarlet runner plants, for part of the summer and then huge pods grow. I collect all kinds of dried beans and have them in a huge decorative jar in my kitchen. My son and I rent a garden spot in a community garden in North Dakota. Fun times and these two beans are a good conversation piece. We get to meet more people as they stop by to ask about our pretty red flowers and white flowers around the garden and again when the huge pods grow. Dried, cooked beans are a real treat along with collecting the dried beans and seeing the beautiful art work of each individual bean!!

  12. Connie at Farm with a View

    Those are the same beans we grew over the summer at OVF. See them here: I called them our mystery lima beans; an OVF gardener gave us a couple of dried pods earlier in the year, to plant. They grow might quick. We sauteed the beans in a little butter (removed the speckled skins) for a delicious side dish, and also made succotash. We still have several pounds of beans stored away!

  13. Christy Wilhelmi

    Thanks for the recipe idea. I’ve only eaten them with the skins on.  Delicious either way! BTW – those are pretty pictures on your blog there.  Thanks for sharing.

  14. suzy

    Ok, I know this is off topic, but I LOVE your granite countertop.

  15. joe

    I’ve been wanting to look into some good fall and winter crops. I always leave my garden dormant until spring planting, but I think it’s time to change that.

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