Lima beans (Phaseolus lunatus) have many names, including Carolina beans, Madagascar beans, Burma beans, baby limas, sieva beans and butter beans. These warm-season annual plants produce pods that are harvested for their crescent-shaped seeds, which are rich in protein, iron, riboflavin and thiamine. Like all plants, lima beans need certain conditions to grow their best.
Sun and Soil
Lima beans are a full-sun plant, so choose a spot that gets direct sun for most of the day. Plants in partial or full shade have trouble producing pods and seeds. Moist, rich, well-draining soil is also essential for healthy lima bean growth. Before planting your beans, till and turn the planting bed so the soil is loose. This improves drainage and makes sure your plants have no trouble springing up through the soil. Add aged compost to your soil a week before planting to increase the fertility of your soil. Lima beans prefer slightly acidic soils, with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8.
Lima beans are a sensitive warm-season crop. Lima beans require a minimum nighttime temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit and a maximum daytime temperature of 80 F. They do best between 70 and 79 F. It is important to wait to sow your lima bean seeds between two and four weeks after the threat of frost has passed, and the soil temperature is a steady 65 F. If you prefer to start your plants indoors, wait until two to three weeks before the last frost date. This ensures it is warm enough when it comes time to transplant the seedlings outdoors.
The soil around lima bean plants should be moist, but not overly wet or soggy. Problems with seed germination, pests and diseases occur when the soil is too wet. Lima beans require the largest amount of water when they begin to produce flowers and seed pods. During this time, ensure your lima bean plants receive 1 inch of water per week, either through rainfall or supplemental watering. If your plants do not get enough water during this time, the flowers fall from the plant and it will not produce seed pods.
Spacing and Planting
Plant lima bean seeds in the ground or in peat pots at a depth of 1 to 1 1/2 inches. To prevent your seeds from cracking, do not soak them overnight. If you are planting seeds directly in the ground, plant them in rows. Plant seeds 2 to 4 inches apart with 2 feet between rows. Once the lima beans germinate, transfer indoor seeds to an outdoor planting space in rows with 4 to 6 inches between each plant. Thin out your rows, keeping only the strongest, healthiest plants if you started your seeds outdoors. Pole lima beans, also called vine lima beans, need a support structure, such as a trellis, to grow.