When Beans Don’t Produce

Bean vines with leaves and no beans, unproductive beans

Have you ever encountered a time when you think you planted and did everything right, yet your beans don’t produce? I frequent a number of gardening forums on the internet, and hear about this problem every year. I’ve dealt with this problem a number of times myself.

Why does this happen?

There are at least three reasons that a given planting of beans might grow beautifully and yet, either not produce at all, or barely produce any beans.

  • Day length sensitivity can cause a bean either not to flower.

Oaxaca Cream day length sensitive bean, won't flower until days are short
Oaxaca Cream is an intriguing bean which comes from the South of Mexico. It won’t flower in Oklahoma until the middle of October! To produce seed, I had to grow it in a bucket and bring it indoors.

Daylength Sensitivity means that a bean plant won’t flower until the length of day fits a certain criteria. To one degree or another, I’ve found this challenge in at least three bean varieties. Those traveling and bringing beans home from the tropics may find the same thing.  The solution to this, is to grow such beans on an experimental basis. Be cautious about depending on them until you know you can meet their requirements.

Tarahunara Pink Green Bean
Tarahumara Pink Green Bean is another day length sensitive bean. In Oklahoma it always opens its first flower buds the first week of October.

Tarahumara Pink Green Beans don’t produce until VERY LATE at our latitude. Yet when they do, they produce exceedingly well, as the vines reach HUGE proportions.

Read More about Native Seeds Search, my source of this bean, here.

Again, these exotic bean varieties need special conditions to succeed in most of North America. If you plant them, treat them as an experiment. Also grow something tried and proven, just in case they do not succeed.

  • Heat and humidity issues can make it that beans don’t produce.

When Jerreth and I were first married we got seed for Barksdale Wax Pole Bean from her grandparents. I planted it late that year and lost several of the plants while they were small. They produced almost no pods until nights began to cool, and then BAM! Barksdale went into overdrive, outproducing all the other beans in our garden. Over the years this was a pattern I observed. The reason for this behavior is that its pollen is sensitive to warm temperatures. It barely pollinates until cool nights arrive.

Read more about Barksdale Wax Pole Bean here.

For even further reading about this bean: Five Lessons Learned from an Heirloom Bean


Kentucky Wonder Pole Bean
Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans are sold, as almost a “generic” bean, in box stores across the country.

“Kentucky Wonder Beans”by ancapron is licensed under CC BY 2.0


Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans were my parents favorite. In my childhood and youth I never knew them to fail. They were really good to eat too! Yet, in a really hot climate, Kentucky Wonder will often fail to produce. Every year, on garden forums, I see the question about Kentucky Wonder, “Why won’t my beans produce?” It’s because of the heat. Blue Lake, another variety commonly found in seed racks, would probably have similar struggles with heat.

What to do about beans that hate heat and humidity?

If you live in a really hot and humid place, and you really want to grow one of these types of beans, start them in the middle of summer so that they come into flower when nights are cooling and the rains arrive. They’ll probably produce for you. Also, consider trying something like Rattlesnake or Cherokee Trail of Tears , pole beans with much greater tolerance for heat and humidity. Woods Mountain Crazy Bean is a bush bean which has amazing resistance to hot summer conditions.

Cherokee Trail of Tears Pole Bean
Cherokee Trail of Tears produces Kentucky Wonder Type pods and beautiful/plentiful black seed.
  • Too much nitrogen can cause a bean plant to produce lots of leaves but no flowers.

This is often a problem encountered by new gardening enthusiasts. In their excitement they want to help everything to grow and to do this, they … fertilize it. Most fertilizers contain nitrogen which is one thing one generally doesn’t want to use on beans. Beans are legumes. They produce their own nitrogen. When a gardener gives them nitrogen, they produce… lots of leaves and no pods.

What should you do if your beans don’t produce because of too much nitrogen?

There’s not too much you can do, except avoid fertilizing any more and hope that the nitrogen level drops while there’s still time for them to produce. Remember not to fertilize beans! I wouldn’t plant beans where chicken manure has been applied, in any form, for at least a year.

Related post: Bush beans vs. Pole, which is better for you?

Did you know that Homesteading Edu has an entire course on Growing Beans?


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