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When to Sow: April-May(indoors); May-July (direct seed) Harvest: July to September

Germination: 7-14 days Full sun

Starting Indoors: For best results, sow indoors in modules April-May. Like most beans, Runner beans love a warm location (15-20°C/60-68°F) and full sun. Keep soil moist until plants are clearly well established. Once all threat of frost has passed, harden off plants gradually and plant out in their final locations, 25cm (10") between plants.

Direct Seed: Once the soil has warmed, plants can be sown directly outside (generally May-July in our climate). Plant in well-worked soil that has been well-watered (but not waterlogged!). When direct-seeding, it’s best to sow two seeds together, 30cm (1') between each position with 45cm (18") between rows. Once the seedlings have two true leaves, thin to leave the stronger plant.

Sowing in two-week intervals will ensure a continuous supply and longer growing season (successional sowings will also help out if early plantings get taken out by slugs).


Water regularly throughout the growing season, particularly as they begin to develop flowers. Without enough moisture, runner bean flowers can fail to set pods. A liquid feed applied every 14 days will also help to maximize your crop. Pick beans every 2 or 3 days to ensure that they are tender and prevent them from becoming stringy.

These plants are climbers and will need a bit of staking. For best results, use 8’ canes (though 6’ will work). If desired, connect your poles together and make a “wigwam” for the beans to climb up. If you’re short on space, Butler beans make an attractive flower border.

These beans are especially subject to predation by slugs and other garden pests. If you know you have a slug problem, start the beans in modules first to give them a head start, planting out when they hit 9cm tall.

Pick beans regularly to encourage further cropping.


Pick when young and eat whole for tasty green beans, or allow to fully form for a dry bean. Picking early encourages further pod production.

Once harvested, leave the roots in the ground and/or lightly till in the stems to allow the nitrogen-fixing nodules can fertilize the next crop.

Companion Planting

Butler runner beans are a part of the nitrogen-fixing legume family of plants. Use anywhere you’d like to add nitrogen to the soil. They combine well with corn, squash, radishes, lettuce, kale, spinach, and other greens. They’re not fond of the allium family (garlic, onion, chives, etc.), sunflowers, or beets.