Article by David Marks
Our main runner beans article can be found here. But sometimes our readers ask specific questions which are not covered in the main article. This page lists their comments, questions and answers. We are temporarily suspending further comments / questions.


Date: 03 May 2021 From: Gill
QUESTION: My runner bean seeds seem to be coming to the surface the next day after planting.they have to be pushed down again.

This has happened several times in my raised bed and also in separate pots, what is going on?

ANSWER: What’s happening is that as the roots begin to sprout they are unable initially to
push down through the compost. They therefore push the seed upwards.

You can try three things. First plant the seeds slightly deeper. Also, when you fill the pot with compost
don’t firm it down. Simply tap the base of the pot on a table to settle the compost slightly. The final thing
you can try is to only half or third fill the pot with compost, then place the seed on the compost. Place more
compost over the seed to the correct depth.

Date: 27 August 2020 From: Jo
QUESTION: I have some pink beans (from larger runner beans), can I plant in greenhouse or is it too early? Also do I need to dry them out?

ANSWER: It’s far too early to sow runner beans for next year. Think more along the lines of April next year.

Store the seeds in a paper envelope in dark, dry and cool conditions until then.

Date: 7 May 2020 From: Jay
QUESTION: I planted some scarlet emperor seeds in compost which I bought from a garden centre. I planted them nearly a month ago but they are not germinating, in fact, when I opened the soil to take a look at the seeds I noticed each one is covered in a white layer.. is this mould and they’re beyond saving?

ANSWER: If the seeds haven’t germinated in a month and they have what looks like mould then almost certainly
I would throw them away and start again. Make sure the new ones are kept warm and slightly damp but not

Date: 20 April 2018 From: Jane G
QUESTION: My runner beans have tiny black beetles buried in the flowers. Are they doing any harm how can I get rid if them?

ANSWER: What you describe are pollen beetles, they are common on many veg and plants. You often notice them when you hang out washing in your garden – they appear from nowhere. They feed on the pollen from the flowers and do no damage at all, just ignore them.

Date: 20 April 2018 From: Jane G
QUESTION: My mistake but this second year I have gone and planted runner beans
too early, inside in toilet rolls, somehow I got the timings mixed up and went into overdrive early this month.

They now range between 12 and 24 inches, but it is a still a way off last predicted frost date, I now realise, last week of April for this area, south east. Is there anything I can do to slow them down, e.g. water them less, keep them in the shade, add more compost to containers, or should I re pot them? There are 17 of them in this batch. I also pushed the toilet rolls well into the containers, so not masses of compost below them for roots to grow, though not that many roots showing yet.

And, this morning there was some white looking mould on the top of the compost (basic stuff from garden centre)/on the toilet rolls…..could this be:

over watering,
or some kind of infection,
or because I’ve moved them off the sunny windowsill and missing direct sun…

The bean leaves look healthy as far as I can tell, I have attached photo which hopefully shows this white stuff!

With thanks for any steer you can offer.

ANSWER: Unfortunately there is very little you can do now to slow them down without damaging

My advice would be to plant them when the roots start to show at the base of the toilet rolls, who knows, this
year there may not be a late frost in which case you will be ahead of schedule at no cost. I would also sow a few
more seeds now just to be sure. Alternatively you can repot them to extend their life in pots by 10 days or so.

The white mould is just that, mould. It’s caused by a combination of lack of air flow and high moisture. In all
likelihood it won’t cause problems. You might want to place the plants outside when the temperatures are +10.
This will give some air circulation and at the same time harden them off slightly.

Date: 16 April 2018 From: Steve W
QUESTION: When the beans have reached the top of the canes do you nip then out or leave them?

ANSWER: Nip them out 15cm from the top. If you leave them to continue growing you will end up with a congested mass of foliage at the top which produces very few beans.

Date: 29 July 2017 From: Donald
QUESTION: We are harvesting the runner beans now and wondered if I just leave the plant in the same position until next year?

ANSWER: Normally runner beans continue to crop well into September, depending on where you live in the UK.
I take mine down when they stop cropping and put them on the compost heap. As far as I can see there is no advantage to leaving them in the ground over winter.
On a practical note, their tendrils quickly become very hard to remove from netting (or whatever you use to support them) if they remain after they stop cropping.
But there is probably no other good reason to remove them before next year.

Date: 12 July 2017 From: Cliff M
I find that St George produces a number of beans at the end of a long stalk which will often bend
and the pods fail to develop. Anyone else had this problem?

Date: 02 July 2017 From: Richard
COMMENT: We have several runner bean roots that have sprouted from last year, one of them had about 10 shoots come up from it. In terms of the number of flowers they are quite advanced on the beans that I started this year with 3 or 4 times more flowers and a good number of beans already formed. This year’s beans also have very large leaves with some of the flower clusters completely failing to set. On the other hand, the sprouted roots have smaller leaves and strong healthy flower stalks. We have a sheltered walled garden and it would seem at this stage, for us, protecting the roots at the end of the season and allowing them to re-grow may be a successful method of cultivation. We await with anticipation for the harvest.

Date: 11 March 2017 From: Wendy
QUESTION: Is there a right or wrong way of placing your runner bean seeds in the compost?

ANSWER: No, just put them in the compost any way. If you want to go overboard, the shoot will appear from the little, normally white, indentation in the seed. Planting this upwards will enable the shoot to reach the surface about a half day earlier compared to the indentation being placed downwards in the soil. But that’s about it.

Date: 18 February 2017 From: Irena
QUESTION: Do I plant the beans into a toilet roll tube in a plant pot or just stack them side by side so that they don’t fall over?

ANSWER: Just stack them side by side as you suggest.

Date: 5 September 2016 From: Mrs Tolley
QUESTION: I planted a 14ft row of scarlet emperor runner beans in May and no flowers appeared until now which of course is too late. Where may I have gone wrong?

ANSWER: The normal reason for lack of flowers, or late flowers is too much nitrogen in the soil. Nitrogen encourages leafy growth often at the expense of flowering. Possibly you added some nitrogen rich ertiliser at the beginning of the season which is only running out now. Next year, try only feeding with blood, fish and bone and lots of watering.

Date: 21 May 2016 From: Colin R
QUESTION: I have planted beans in a large wooden crate, is there a limit to how many plants I should put in. Do I need to separate them?

ANSWER: Personally I would only sow runner bean seeds in individual pots. if you sow lots of seeds in trays the plants will quickly have entangled roots. Runner beans produce roots very quickly after germination. If I was sowing them in wooden crates or any other large container I would keep them as far apart as possible.

Date: 13 August 2015 From: Anna
Hi, I have a very full Hestia which appears to be doing really well except the are no beans! It’s in a large pot on our second floor balcony and does get visited by bees, but it has been flowering for two months now and not a single pod has developed. It was in fresh compost when I planted it out and it gets full sun. Any advice would be much appreciated. Thanks.

ANSWER: The two key reasons for lack of pods on runner beans are that they are not being pollinated or that the pods are falling off at a very early stage, unnoticed. I assume your Hestia is growing in a pot so it seems unlikely that fallen pods have gone unnoticed so that leaves a problem with pollination.

I don’t know for certain the answer but i suspect that it has to do with living in a second floor flat. Bumble bees have been spotted flying at altitudes higher than Mount Everest but the suspicion is those particular types of bumble bees had evolved to do just that. Research is still going on as how high your average bee can fly.

But irrespective of their high flying capabilities it may well turn out that in practice some types never
bother to fly above a certain height because the likelihood of finding food there is so poor compared to lower heights. It’s just possible that the particular bees which are good at pollinating runner beans just can’t be

This would explain the presence of some bees. The only way to prove it is to hand-pollinate your Hestia and see what happens. I leave it up to you to investigate hand pollination of beans on the internet.

Date: 1 August 2015 From: Maisie
QUESTION: My runner (and climbing) beans have copious foliage, so much so that it forms an ‘umbrella’ over the plant, meaning that even a good rainfall doesn’t get to the soil or roots. Will I do any harm by pruning up to 30% of the leaves to allow more rain, sun and airflow to the plants?

ANSWER: Yes, that will be fine. By nature, runner beans produce excessive foliage because they are climbers and they are programmed to survive low light levels. I have a sneaking suspicion that removing some of the foliage will in fact increase the crop of beans. I just haven’t had time to test the theory out.

Date: 1 July 2015 From: Jenny C
QUESTION: Does it help the runner bean to pinch out the tops to stop them trailing over?

ANSWER: Yes, it does help them. Firstly they start to produce beans earlier if you pinch out the tops. It also stops the top of the supports from becoming congested with overgrown foliage – that can attract fungal diseases. Finally it stops the top part of the plants becoming so heavy that they pull themselves off the supports. I usually pinch my runner beans out when they get to 15cm / 6in from the top of the supports.

Date: 6 July 2015 From: Denis B
QUESTION: Is Tomorite a suitable feed for Runners Beans. Very slow this year despite trenching with manure and lots of water. Thanks

ANSWER: It won’t do any harm but I doubt it will do much good either. If you have trenched with manure all the necessary nutrients will be there. I think the problem is more likely to be the variable weather this year in some areas of the UK rather than lack of nutrients.

Date: 31 May 2015 From: Kate W
QUESTION: We went on holiday. A friend has watered them every day. The leaves on both plants have turned white. Will they recover? I see some new undamaged growth appearing but i didn't harden them off before planting. Should I start all over again?

ANSWER: It does sound like the plants have suffered from the cold weather. As a solution I would compromise. First, leave the existing runner bean plants where they are, if they have new growth they may well recover. As a backup I would sow new seeds now in pots and keep them indoors to speed up germination. If you soak the seeds by placing them on damp kitchen paper for 24 hours before sowing them in pots that will speed up the process even more.

Your seeds will have germinated in a week and be ready for planting outside in two weeks. At that point you can look at your existing plants and decide if you want to replace them with the new seedlings.

Date: 9 July 2016 From: David H
COMMENT: I sprout my Runner-Beans in a kitchen seed-sprouter (in the kitchen) for a few days before direct sowing into the garden. Those that have a vigorous shoot get planted, whilst those that don’t, or if they go grey and mushy go straight in the bin. I’ve been doing this for 4-years so far, and am getting pretty close to 100% success rate for plant survival. I’m 5-miles west of Norwich.

Date: 9 July 2016 From: David H
COMMENT: I grow my Runner-Beans vertically up a south-facing fence. I screw two “L” shaped brackets to the fence-posts 6ft apart, and about shoulder-height, then fix a bamboo-pole horizontally to the brackets using cable-ties. I then fasten the vertical poles to the horizontal pole, again using cable-ties – was there ever anything easier? The whole Runner-Bean garden space only takes-up about 6″ and is as solid and secure as the fence itself. Really simple and effective. Please report back if it works for you….

Date: 2 April 2016 From: John
QUESTION: I have a question regarding permanent runner bean beds. I keep one with a structure, quite successfully however I wish to re-nourish every spring. I have access to well rotted horse manure but would that be to nitrogen rich for beans ,if so what do you recommend?
ANSWER: The key to your question is how rich in nitrogen is well rotted horse manure and how this will affect runner beans? Well rotted horse manure does contain a reasonable amount of nitrogen but not quite as much as many believe. It also only releases the nitrogen slowly and over about a three to four year period. Roughly speaking, 50% will be released over year 1, 25% over year 2, the rest at 12% a year. The key is that it is slow release so is very unlikely do anything other than good for runner beans.

The key variables are how much bedding is included in the mix and what the horses diet was. Well rotted horse manure provides a wide range of other nutrients and will greatly improve the texture and make-up of almost all soils.

I would add
about a 5cm to 7cm layer around the base of the plants each year and it will do nothing but good for runner beans. Dig it in when you dig up your beans at the end of the year.

Date: 9 August 2015 From: Tom Kitt
QUESTION: How long after flowering will beans appear?
ANSWER: I timed this on my runner beans and it took about two weeks for small but obvious beans to appear.

Date: 7 June 2015 From: Geoff
QUESTION: I grew Runner Beans last year and after leaving the roots in the ground, I find that some of them are sprouting up again. Will they be any good?
ANSWER: Never heard of that before! But if they are indeed runner bean shoots then they should produce  excellent plants.

Date: 20 May 2015 From: Carolina
QUESTION: I started runners beans and Scarlett runners indoors. I’ve been hardening them off for about a week now but they are already flowering. Is that okay? Should I pinch the flowers off?
ANSWER: If the runner beans will be planted outside in the next week then leave
the flowers on. Sometimes premature flowering is a sign that the plant is under stress possibly because the pot is too small. In this case, pot them up into a larger pot.

Date: 6 May 2015 From: Linda
QUESTION: I planted seedlings of runner beans a couple of weeks ago indoors but I am only now getting 1 seedling up at the moment what am I doing wrong?
ANSWER: Runner Bean seeds germinate quickly so it seems likely that there is a problem if they haven't appeared after two weeks, however give them another week just to be sure.
Common reasons could be that they don't have enough heat, they should be very roughly at house temperature for good germination.
Another common problem is that the seeds have rotted because the compost is too wet. Use moist compost but not water-logged.
The seeds could simply be bad, that's always possible, or simply too old. When stored correctly in dark, cool and dry conditions runner bean seeds will keep well for three years.

Date: 31 May 2016 From: Alan B
QUESTION: I started my beans in the greenhouse, before plating and about 30cm they started to go yellow. I put them outside to harden off then planted them a few days later. They still look very yellow. We have had some dry weather. I have watered them since they were planted but I am concerned they were over watered in the greenhouse.

: I think that overwatering is the most likely cause. Now they are planted in the open ground they should recover.  Don't water unless conditions are very dry, let the roots search out water for themselves.

Date: 11 July 2015 From: Mr M Carter
QUESTION: Hi, the problem with my runner beans is they start of with little brown spots which just spread all over the leaf and just fall off in the end

: This sounds like halo blight, see the section above. If you reply to this email and attach a picture or two of the damage I will be able diagnose the problem more

Date: 29 June 2015 From: Jan
QUESTION: Leaves are being eaten although no sign of caterpillar, plants dying

: The prime culprits for eating the leaves (especially the young tender ones) of runner beans are slugs and snails. See the section above here. Other causes can be pigeons, rabbits, deer and as you mention some caterpillars.

Date: 20 June 2015 From: Nikki
QUESTION: Hi my runner beans had black fly so I have treated it with a shop bout black fly killer they now look like this are they safe to eat and why are they discoloured please thanks, see picture attached.

Runner beans

: As far as spraying the runner beans and then eating them is concerned you need to be clear that you have followed exactly the instructions on the spray. If that has been done the manufacturers of the spray believe that the veg will be safe to eat. Only you can decide if that is true
The runner beans themselves look mis-shapen to me, at first I thought they were broad beans. I think you may find that the skins are rather tough and the beans inside over grown.

Date: 20 August 2014 From: Not Given
QUESTION: Tiny brown dots on Blue Lake climbing bean leaves but not aphids. Eventually leaf dries up what causes them?
ANSWER: I think a photo is needed to identify this problem.Click here to email us and attach a photo of the affected leaves.