While flowers, grass, trees and shrubs are the bones of any landscape, vines can add flash and flair, as many feature a dramatic growth habit and stunning flower displays. Some also have showy fruits that follow the flowers, such as several types of purple-podded annual vines.
About Annual Vines
Some gardeners may be understandably timid about adding a vine to the landscape, fearing their garden will be overtaken with a plant as vigorous as vines tend to be. Annual vines are one solution. Planted anew from year to year and killed off by winter’s frosts, these vines provide similar lush growth and interest in the landscape as perennial vines but without the commitment. Like other vines, they require a structure on which to climb, whether a fence or trellis, or they risk trampling as they creep along the ground.
Scarlet Runner Bean
Long a popular plant in Great Britain where it is grown both as an ornamental and for food, the scarlet runner bean (Phaseolus coccineus) is named for the bright-red to orange pea-like flowers that bloom from mid-summer through frost. Flowers attract hummingbirds. For a different flower color, choose a cultivar, such as “Albus,” with white flowers, or “Painted Lady” with pink-and-white blooms. The plant’s foliage is identical to garden pole and bush beans, broad and heart-shaped coming to a point. The vine will grow from 12 to 15 feet on moist, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade, and can be grown up a trellis or bean poles as well as along a fence. The bean pods are best picked to be cooked for eating when green and small, though left on the vine they will turn dark purple. The mature beans inside the shell are black speckled with red.
Purple Hyacinth Bean
Also edible but only when picked young and cooked, the purple hyacinth bean (Lablab purpureus) is grown for food in Asia and Africa but is almost strictly ornamental in the West. It grows 15 feet or more in a single season. While most people grow the bean for the shiny, royal purple pods that are borne in profusion from late summer onward, every part of the purple hyacinth bean is ornamental, from its bright pink or white flowers, reddish-purple stems and broad, bronze-green leaves. In warmer climates, purple hyacinth bean may survive from year to year as a perennial, though any temperatures approaching freezing will cause the vine to go dormant. Otherwise, the vine sets seed easily, if allowed, and will return from year to year from seed.
Pole Beans and Snap Peas
Though most of us think of beans and peas as being green, some selections of these favorite garden vegetables have purple pods. “Shiraz” and “Sugar Magnolia” are two types of purple-podded garden peas (Pisum sativum), though the color of the pod also fades somewhat upon cooking. Like other peas, they are best grown in the cool temperatures of spring. For summer, look for a purple type of pole bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), dubbed simply “Purple Podded,” an heirloom strain from the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas with abundant yields on 6-foot vines. “Royalty Purple” is a bush type of bean with purple pods, though they turn green when cooked. Another hot-weather garden vegetable, the black-eyed pea or cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) is very popular in the South. The “Pinkeye Purplehull” is a short, bushy variety that produces purple pods approaching a foot in length. Seeds dry and store well.
- North Carolina State University: Phaseolus Coccineus
- Oregon State University Extension Service: Runner Beans are Beautiful and Edible
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Hyacinth Bean
- University of Tennessee Plant of the Month: Purple Hyacinth Bean
- Rareseeds: Purple Podded Pole Beans
- Rareseeds: Royalty Purple Pod Bush Bean
- Thompson & Morgan: Pea "Shiraz"
- Smart Gardener: Sugar Magnolia Purple Pea
- Purdue University Alternative Field Crops Manual: Cowpea
- University of Arkansas: Southern Peas