Mengmeng Gu, Ph.D., is an extension specialist-ornamental working at Mississippi State University. She conducts applied research on ornamental plants and teaches Greenhouse Management, a undergraduate/graduate level class.


Hyacinth bean
by Mengmeng Gu, Ph.D. - posted 05/20/11

An arbor covered with hyacinth bean

Hyacinth bean (Lablab purpureus) fits so well in a currently steaming-hot category of plants – the ornamental edible. Although perennial in its native range, it is grown as an annual in Mississippi until frost takes it down. Hyacinth bean is a fast growing, twining climber in the legume family, and will cover any supporting structures in no time. Starting in summer, burgundy purple ½-inch bean flowers open gradually on flower spikes that are about a foot long. The flowers are often fragrant. The flower show is extended as the purplish seed pods start to form from the base of the flower spike. As they age, the flowers and seed pods turn to light lilac or lavender. In addition to the flowers and pods, the veins on the palmate leaves, the leaf stalk and the vine also have a hint of purple. Another common type is the white flower cultivar with everything in white instead of purple. The flower and immature pods could be consumed as vegetables.

In the landscape, a supporting system such as a trellis, arbor, fence or pergola is a must-have for hyacinth bean. It can be started from seeds or small transplants any time after danger of frost has passed. No ties are needed as the plant will help itself to climb up the structure.


Proliferous burgundy purple flowers and seed pods

Common Name: Hyacinth bean

Botanical Name: Lablab purpureus

Color: Purple flowers and seed pods

Blooming Period: Summer to fall

Type: Annual vine

Size: 20-30 feet tall and 20-30 feet wide

Watering: Moderate to wet

When to Prune: Not necessary

When to Fertilize: Summer

In Your Landscape: Climber – plant on supporting systems such as trellis, arbor, fence, pergola or garden gates.


(Photos courtesy of Mengmeng Gu.)


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