Beans: Lima & Snap


Lima (Phaseolous lunatus) and snap beans (P. vulgaris) are vegetable legumes (not lentils), comprised of a seamed pod with a row of internal seeds. Both types produce flat, oval or kidney-shaped seeds, which can be either smooth or textured depending on variety. The primary difference between the two is the pod—lima beans are called shell beans and removed from the fibrous and inedible pod, while snap beans are eaten whole (both the pods and internal seeds).

Both beans are known by a number of other names from bush or pole/vine/runner depending on plant type to the nondescript and all-encompassing ‘green’ beans for snap varieties, to the more flavor-influenced monikers like ‘butter beans’ for smaller limas (though ‘baby lima beans’ refer to a variety not size), and ‘potato beans’ for larger limas.

Lima beans are cream/beige or green in color, though newer varieties and hybrids can come in reddish-brown, purple, or speckled. Green or snap beans come in the requisite green, yellow or wax, red/purple, and streaked.

Snap beans may be string or stringless (though today’s varieties are almost all stringless). Some varieties are flat while others are round; they are called snap beans due to the most common test for quality: to be crispy enough to easily “snap” in half.

Among the fresh market varieties for snap beans are Bronco, Derby, Gator Green, Mustand, Opus, Podsquad, Provider, Roma II, and Strike. A few yellow (wax) pod varieties for the fresh market are Eureka, Golden Rod, Goldkist, Gold Mine, and Goldrush.

Two popular processing varieties of lima beans are Bridgeton and Fordhook; home garden and fresh market varieties include Dixie or Florida Speckled, Henderson Bush, and King of the Garden.

References: PennState Extension, University of Arizona College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, University of Georgia Extension.


Tarnished plant or lygus bugs commonly feed on young bean pods causing bud and flower loss, pitting, and blemishes. Some beans, like vine varieties, are more susceptible to the bugs which will produce multiple generations each year. Controlling weeds and insecticide applications can help control this pest.

Wireworms or click beetles typically feed on roots and seeds. While eggs are laid in early spring, the larvae hatch within a week and can live for several years in the soil. Due to this long lifecycle, wireworms can be present at any time of year and attack plants in various stages of growth.

Other common pests include aphids, armyworms, bean weevils, earworms, borers, grasshoppers, leafhoppers, leafminers, maggots, nematodes, snails, slugs, and whiteflies.

Common bean mosaic virus often causes stunted growth, mottling, and malformed leaves that can be afflicted with yellowish or green patches. The virus is often spread by aphids, through direct contact or seeds. Some seed varieties are now resistant to the disease.

White mold is a bacterium that leads to white fluffy growths on blossoms, stems, branches, and pods. The fungus spreads via spores and settles into watery areas on plants. While considered a fungal disease, white mold often emerges in cool, moist conditions. Crop rotation, less crowded rows for good air flow, careful irrigation, and fungicides can help with prevention.

Beans can also be affected by Alternaria leaf and pod spot, blight, curly top, downy mildew, various types of rust, curly top, damping off, bacterial spot, a variety of rots, anthracnose, and seed spotting.

References: University of California Statewide Pest Management Program, University of Georgia Extension, University of Illinois Extension.


Beans: Lima & Snap Seasonal Availability Chart

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