Can’t afford to replace your unsightly yard fence? Try covering up the eyesore while you’re saving up for an upgrade with purple or white hyacinth bean vine (also called Indian Bean). Seldom does a plant live up to its name like this profuse cover plant that can spread itself upward and outward to 15 feet. From the moment this purple climbing vine sprouts from the ground, its deep purple vines and profuse purple-veined green leaves raise eyebrows. However, the real show starts when the vines bloom in late summer and early fall.
Tall fronds of bonnet-shaped hyacinth blooms emerge and stand above the vine in pink, purple and white and instead of just fading and dropping off like most flowers, something really wonderful happens to these blooms in the fall. The eye-catching flowers produce a purple bean pod that is just as fetching as the blooms themselves. Exercise some caution though, because the raw beans are poisonous but they are edible when cooked. While the purple beans most likely won’t become a favorite on your dinner plate, they are a great gardening choice. The vitamin-packed vines and leaves also make great forage for livestock.
The climbing vine is a great choice for overhead arbors, gate arches or cover for fences. With just minimal coaching, the fast-growing cover plant can wrap itself vertically up a post and provide a spray of very appealing foliage all summer long.
Just plant the beans six inches apart in well-drained, fertile soil at the beginning of the growing season and keep the soil moist until the small plant begins to emerge from the ground. After that, water it regularly and this hearty annual climber won’t stop until the first frost. If you choose to fertilize, apply a high phosphorous formula just prior to the first blooming period in mid summer. The seeds can also be started early indoors on a window sill and then transplanted outdoors after the danger of frost is past.
The heirloom seeds of this very pleasing plant are available in most seed stores and have been a favorite in the gardens of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s renowned home and grounds, for years. The dried pods of beans can be collected in the fall and kept for planting in the spring. The vine remains a favorite because it doesn’t only attract comments, but bees, hummingbirds and butterflies visit the blooming plants as well. Plan now to plant this beautiful climber in a sunny spot in your landscape in the spring.