If you’re looking for a quick-growing annual vine that will cover a fence or garden trellis you would be hard-pressed to find a better one than the hyacinth bean vine. Purple hyacinth bean vine leaves are attractive and heart-shaped, pink-purple blooms and produce leathery purple seed pods that provide interest long after the blooms have faded. A member of the Fabaceae family this ornamental vine is a relative of beans and peas and makes an attractive addition to vegetable and ornamental gardens. Easy to start from seed, hyacinth bean vine seeds are easy to collect at the end of the growing season.
Unlike with some other vines, hyacinth bean plants produce clusters of blooms that grow up and away from the foliage. This allows you to enjoy the flowers that attract pollinators like bees to garden.
Hyacinth bean vine picture of a single bloom. See the resemblance of hyacinth bean vine to the blooms of peas and beans?
After the blooms have been pollinated the hyacinth bean plants produce wonderful shiny seed pods that look like they’re made from patent leather. The 3-5 inch long pods bounce in the wind resembling wind chimes and baby mobiles. During the growing season make sure to water generously to produce seeds and pods. My vines that received less water produce small pods with about one seed per pod.
Several parts of the hyacinth bean vine are edible, although I’ve read they aren’t very tasty. The blooms can be eaten at any time, but the hyacinth bean pods are tough when they mature andare eaten when young and tender. Mature hyacinth bean vine seeds are supposedly poisonous once they’re old enough to have dark coloring. The green seeds indicate this pod was not yet mature when I split it open for this picture.
To assure that collected hyacinth bean seeds are mature and ready to be saved for next year wait until the pods dry out and begin to shrivel. This particular pod would have benefited from being left on the vine a few more days, but the seeds look like they matured enough that I can safely save them for next year. The sprays of blooms were very tempting to people walking past the fence I grew my hyacinth bean vine on, the quirky seed pods even more. Out of dozens of seed pods that were growing along my fence only a few managed to make it to maturity. Most fell victim to kids who couldn’t help but reach out and yank a pod or two that was dangling over head as they walked along the sidewalk.
Two years ago I spotted clusters of hyacinth bean vine pods hanging from the edges of containers at the end of the growing season at a garden center. Inspired I grew some the same way, but quickly learned that the vines would climb over the plants they were planted alongside. I added bamboo stakes to the containers to allow the hyacinth bean vines to grow to their potential of 8-10 feet tall. Vines that were watered the most produced more (and longer) seed pods and developed more seeds per pod. All of the hyacinth bean vine seeds I grew were grown in full sun and they tolerated it well, showing minimal wilting on days they dried out. If you grow hyacinth bean vines it’s a good idea to start them early indoors and let the seedlings mature into plants before setting them out in the garden. Small hyacinth bean seedlings quickly become lunch for snails, slugs or earwigs. This year’s batch of hyacinth bean seeds came from Renee’s Garden.