Growing Green Beans

Beans are one of America's favorite garden vegetables. They are referred to by many different names - green beans, snap beans, wax beans, string beans - all describe the same vegetable.  Early bean cultivars were stringy, hence the term "string" beans.  Modern cultivars are stringless, tender, and crisp.  Since they snap easily, these new cultivars are referred to as snap beans. 

Green beans may be classified as bush or pole beans.  Bush-type beans are low-growing plants that grow 1 to 2 feet in height.  Pole beans are vining plants which must be supported by a fence or stakes.

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A variety of snap beans
Harvest green beans frequently when the pods are young and firm and the seeds are small.  Photo by Cindy Haynes


Beans are warm-season vegetables and should be planted after the danger of frost has passed.  In central Iowa, it's usually safe to begin planting beans around May 10.  Bean seeds should be planted 1 to 1½ inches deep.  Bush cultivars are planted in rows 2 feet apart with seeds spaced 1 to 2 inches apart.  After the seedlings emerge, thin bush snap beans to 3 to 4 inches between plants. 

For continuous harvest, plant bush cultivars every 2 to 3 weeks.  The last practical date for planting snap beans is August 1. 

Pole beans may be planted in rows spaced 2 to 3 feet apart with the vines supported by rough poles, a fence, or trellis.  The support for pole beans should be approximately 6 to 7 feet tall.  In the row, plant pole bean seeds 3 inches apart, later thin to 4 to 6 inches between plants.  Pole beans may also be planted around poles fashioned into a teepee.  Pole beans require a few more days to mature than bush cultivars.  However, they produce over a longer period. 

Suggested Varieties

Suggested snap bean cultivars for Iowa include:

Bush Green Beans

  • Bronco
  • Bush Blue Lake 274
  • Hialeah
  • Provider
  • Strike
  • Topcrop

Yellow Wax Bush Beans

  • Eureka
  • Gold Mine
  • Gold Rush
  • Kinghorn Wax
  • Rocdor

Pole Beans

  • Blue Lake (stringless)
  • Kentucky Blue (stringless)
  • Kentucky Wonder (contains strings)


Green beans should be harvested frequently and thoroughly.  Leaving mature pods on the plant decreases yields.  The bean plant puts energy into seed development rather than additional crop production.  Harvest snap beans when the pods are young and firm, and the seeds are small.  At this stage the pods are generally the diameter of a pencil and 4 to 6 inches long.


More Information

Last reviewed:
April 2023