The sprout of hyacinth bean vine plant, just days old.
With extremely premature and unbridled enthusiasm for spring and growing things, I started some seeds last week in a temporary, disposable "greenhouse". If you have ever grown a plant from seed, you know the utter thrill of seeing it break through the soil. Of course, the proper thing to do would have been to wait until 6-8 weeks before the last frost of the season before starting any seeds, and that is what I will do for most of the plants I'll grow. But the last frost does not disappear from my part of the world until mid-April, and I had to treat myself to watching something green grow on the typical American schedule of NOW! A package of hyacinth bean vine seeds (Lablab Purpureus, formerly Dolichos Lablab) is what I chose. I first soaked the seeds overnight in a bowl of water, then, with the help of my 3 year-old's tiny fingers, pressed them into potting soil, watered them, topped them with the lid of my miniature "greenhouse" and set them on a table near east and south facing windows. That was a week ago; the photo, above, was taken today. I feel quite rewarded.
Hyacinth bean vine is a perennial in the tropics, but is grown as an annual in areas with frost. It has pretty heart-shaped leaves and small purple flowers that resemble the flowers of sweet peas. It also bears dark purple seed pods on the twining stems of the same color.
photo credit: Missouri State
The flowers of the hyacinth bean vine in shades of lavender/blue and purple resemble those of the sweet pea vine with dark purple stems.
photo credit: Missouri State
Like the veins on the leaves and the stems, the seed pods of the hyacinth bean vine are also a deep, glossy purple and continue after the flowers have gone.
Hyacinth bean vine covering an arbor.
An up-close look at the vigorous, lush growth of hyacinth bean vine. The flowers stand up about 12 inches from the vine and attract butterflies and bees.
The vine is fast growing and will cover a structure in no time. When I bought five seed packets the nurseryman warned me that I would have enough vines to cover the entire neighborhood. That being the case, this is a great plant for covering a less-than-attractive fence, like chain-link, creating a wall of green instead. (You may read a few places that the vine grows 20-30 feet tall. This may be the case in the tropics where it is never cut down by frost, but where it grows as an annual, 10-12 feet is more realistic, and has also been my experience.)
I ran across this photo on one of Loi Thai's gorgeous Pinterest boards. The walls of this small garden are covered in what I'm guessing is wisteria. Growing plants along the fence allows more gardening space and gives the garden a feeling of soft enclosure. Imagine if the vines were not growing along this wall or fence. The garden would feel considerably more bare and slightly smaller. Hyacinth bean vine would be a perfect, quick way to create a look similar to this with very little expense. At the end of the growing season, the seed pods will dry. You can then harvest them and save the seeds in an envelope to use the following spring. You will also have plenty to give away to your friends.
For quick reference:
- hyacinth bean vine will grow in any soil and tolerates drought after its established
- prefers full sun but will grow in partial sun (I have grown it in morning sun only)
- flowers are fragrant and attractive to butterflies and bees
- will grow appx. 10-12 feet tall and 3 ft. wide
- also available in white, but not as commonly available as purple, & reported to be less vigorous and not as easily flowering.
You can find seeds for sale at local nurseries or at large home improvement stores.
Online, seeds are available here or you might check out seeds offered for trade by Dave's Gardening members, here. White hyacinth bean vine is available here.
You can buy seed starting containers at any home improvement store, but lots of containers from around the house can be repurposed for the the job. Check out these ideas here, here, here.
To see more photos of hyacinth bean vine growing in the garden, visit the beautiful blog, En el Jardin here.
Until next time!