BY MARY LOU ILER Intern
If you want a plant that adds loads of color and interest to any garden right through until fall here in the Rio Grande Valley, Hyacinth Bean plant is the one for you.
This vine is a species of bean in the family Fabaceae. It is native to the tropical areas in sub-Saharan Africa and is cultivated extensively throughout the tropics for food even though it must be repeatedly washed and cooked to remove its toxins. In our zone, the plant can be grown as a winding climber or as a ground cover, but when you plant be aware that it can become invasive if you do not keep it trimmed.
Hyacinth bean plant (Lablab Purpureus) is a vigorous ornamental that is perennial in the Valley.
From its stem tips above the mass of leaves, the vine will hang loose clusters of fragrant pinkish violet blossoms that have the pleasant scent of hyacinth.
Pollinators are attracted to these blooms. As the season progresses, the ovary of the flower matures into a flat, burgundy seed pod. The vine will grow and climb quickly and the reddish purple pods take on a significant size once the flower dies.
Pruning is often necessary and is used to cut back the plant to limit growth. The spring pruning should include cutting the tops back to encourage lower plant growth.
The twining vine can get out of hand unless you prune the overgrowth, and the pruning can be continued any time during the growth season. As the vine matures, the pods will grow to the same size as Lima beans and contain seeds that are black with a white hilum. These seeds can be used to start new vines but should not be eaten as they are laced with toxins.
Grow your vine from seeds planted 1 ½ “deep and 6 inches apart. The Hyacinth bean vine requires some sun but is not fussy about soil type. It will require a sturdy support 10 to 15 feet high. A trellis or fence works well. Regular watering is necessary but insect and disease problems are infrequent.
Add fertilizer when planting and every month during the growing season.
The best time of year to harvest the bean seed pods is just prior to cold weather.
The seeds can be removed easily from the dried seed pods and can be used the next year in your garden.
Important Note: Raw bean seeds are poisonous. If boiled for a very long time with many water changes they are safe to eat and are a food crop in parts of the world.
Other Name: Tobacco Vine
Tip: For more successful germination soak the seeds overnight prior to planting.