Saving Common Bean Seeds

Learn how to save seeds from common bean varieties.

  • Common beans vary greatly in their color, shape, size, and pattern.
    Photo courtesy Seed Savers Exchange
  • After fertilization, young bean pods begin to develop.
    Photo courtesy Seed Savers Exchange
  • Pole beans continue to grow, flower, and set fruits over a long period of time. The pods and seeds will mature in succes¬sion, based on when the fruits were set.
    Photo courtesy Seed Savers Exchange
  • Although not an efficient process for large-scale seed production, seed savers often shell beans by hand. This process is easiest with varieties that naturally split open when dry.
    Photo courtesy Seed Savers Exchange
  • Filled with advice for the home gardener and the seasoned horticulturist alike, “The Seed Garden: The Art and Practice of Seed Saving” provides straightforward instruction on collecting seed that is true-to-type.
    Cover courtesy Seed Savers Exchange

The Seed Garden (Seed Savers Exchange, 2015) by Micaela Colley & Jared Zystro and edited by Lee Buttala & Shanyn Siegel brings together decades of research and hands-on experience to teach both novice gardeners and seasoned horticulturists how to save the seeds of their favorite vegetable varieties.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: The Seed Garden.

Common beans are one of the most popular garden crops from which to save seeds, because the task is so straightforward. This species includes a seemingly endless list of open-pollinated cultivars that are harvested both dry and fresh, including beans in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Almost without exception, there is a variety suitable for cultivation—and seed saving— no matter where one lives. Saving common bean seeds can be as simple as collecting the mature beans left on the vines at the end of the season, shelling them, and storing them.

Crop Types

Phaseolus vulgaris varieties can be classified by their growth habit (bush, half-runner, or pole beans) and by the way they are consumed (dry, green, or shelling beans). Beyond these classifi­cations, common beans are divided into broad market classes according to the size and color of the bean’s seed coat or the color, shape, and size of the pod. These categories include dry beans, such as turtle, cranberry, and pinto beans, and snap beans, such as green beans, wax beans, and the French varieties known as haricots verts.


Phaseolus vulgaris was most likely domesticated twice, once in the Andes around 8,000 years ago, and once in Central America around 7,500 years ago. Common beans were subsequently cultivated throughout South and North America. Common beans were brought to Europe from the Americas by the Spanish in the sixteenth century and then made their way to Africa and Asia. In Europe, common beans were selected to produce the edible immature pods that are now commonly known as green beans.

Growing Common Beans for Seed

Phaseolus vulgaris is an annual species that ger­minates and grows best when planted in warm, loose-textured soils. Ideally, dark-seeded beans should be planted when the soil temperature has reached at least 60°F (16°C), and light-seeded beans should be sown when the soil temperature is above 65°F (18°C). Typical garden spacing and trellising is appropriate when growing common beans for seed.

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