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PlantFiles: Lima Bean
Phaseolus lunatus 'Dr. Martin'

Family: Papilionaceae (pa-pil-ee-uh-NAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Phaseolus (FAZ-ee-oh-lus) (Info)
Species: lunatus (loo-NAY-tus) (Info)
Cultivar: Dr. Martin

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4 members have or want this plant for trade.


8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

9-12 in. (22-30 cm)

Seed Type:
Open Pollinated

Growth Habit:

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Unknown - Tell us

Days to Maturity:
91 to 100 days

Bloom Color:
Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:
Unknown - Tell us

Propagation Methods:
From seed; sow indoors before last frost
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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By rjseeney
Thumbnail #1 of Phaseolus lunatus by rjseeney

By rjseeney
Thumbnail #2 of Phaseolus lunatus by rjseeney

By scarey
Thumbnail #3 of Phaseolus lunatus by scarey


5 positives
1 neutral
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Sdoyle On Aug 19, 2014, Sdoyle from Ozark, MO wrote:

We live in the Ozark, Mo area and have raised the Dr. Martin lima bean for the past 15 years here. This year seems to have been our best year yet, so far that is. We have chosen to space the rows 6 feet apart and 5 feet apart in the rows with 2 to 3 plants at each pole. We set a heavy pole at each end of the row and then use 1 1/2 to 2 inch ceder "bean" poles at each hill.
One thing that I do not see discussed is the pruning of the vines to control the heavy growth. I have been cutting off many of the side shoots in an attempt to do this, and still have more pod hanger stems. I have yet to find any bean pods that have 5 beans in them Mostly 2 - 4 beans per pod.
I am wondering if I need to get new fresh seeds for next year, as I have saved these seeds for 3 years now.
What insect sprays do you all find the best to control the bugs?

Positive freeper7 On Jul 20, 2014, freeper7 from Seaford, DE wrote:

The spacing given for Dr. Martin Lima Beans will drive people crazy! People in this area (southern Delaware) use five feet (that's right, 60 inches!) and we still have trouble finding the beans! Please try five feet between plants and five feet between rows. They require strong poles (my beans are now at 7-10 feet up) and very strong bracing at the end of each row. Poly baling twine makes a good way to strengthen the poles and give the beans something to climb on. I tag the pods that have five beans and save them for seed. Any with two-four get harvested as soon as they fill out. Huge beans, huge flavor, tender and good for you. And if you have trouble with fungus on saved seed, keep them in an air conditioned room. No problem.

Neutral seedvendor2011 On Feb 22, 2012, seedvendor2011 from Marshall, AR wrote:

Hi, I'm a interested gardener about this particular type of lima, and if anyone has some and would be willing to share, I'd really appreciate it. I sell garden seeds, I'm with Ozark Mountain Seeds and would like to start growing and selling this bean. :) You can visit my website at or contact my e-mail at

Positive DeGeorge On Sep 12, 2004, DeGeorge from Chesapeake, VA wrote:

I have been growing this bean for over 30 years.

Dr. Martin Lima was actually developed by a physician many years ago. Where and why is obscure, but I found the seeds somehow and ordered them from a couple in New Jersey who had been working with them for years. Then one of them became ill and their operation stopped.

I live near the coast in Virginia and as a result it is very hard to save seeds of any kind due to the humidity, which results in a lot of fungual growth. However, with the use of near constant fungicides seeds can be saved. It is better (here) to gather the seed just as the pods come to full maturity, shell them and put them down in a fungicidal powder until they dry.

Never plant different limas close to each other because although they are self-fruitful, bumble bees will, and do, cross pollinate them.

This year I planted previously grown and potted plants about 18 inches apart and found even this to be too thick. The vines run like crazy, even going across the ground. They can easily reach a length of 12-14 feet. The problem is that on a trellis low enough for one to harvest them they mat at the top and this adds to the fungus problem.

Dr. Martin Limas won't set fruit when the temperatures get much over 90 degrees, tending to wait until late summer to produce. As has been said, the pods are huge, but never bear more than 3 beans per pod. One should wait until the pod has a slight leathery feel before harvesting, lest they be hard to shell and the fruit immature.

They are delicious and everyone I have offered them to says the same.

Positive rjseeney On Mar 1, 2004, rjseeney from Ft Mitchell, KY (Zone 6a) wrote:

I have grown this type of bean for 2 years now. They produce large, tender beans. Some of the beans are up to 1 1/2 inches across. They are a lot larger than the commonly found King of the Garden bean. The pods are huge and easy to shell. I have only been able to find one supplier of the seed, Rohrer Seeds, near Lancaster, PA. The seeds are fairly expensive, about 30 cents apiece. My father has had success with this bean, in Dover, De. From what I can determine, this bean is not real tolerant of excessive heat. The seeds also rot very easily in wet conditions. With proper care and planning, this bean is worth the extra effort.

Positive ppbrownlee On Jan 4, 2004, ppbrownlee from Middletown, VA wrote:

This produces large, tender beans, in pods that are easy to shell (unlike most limas)! The vines grew to ~12 ft. on a strong trellis. I spaced the seeds about 6" apart. The bloom color is pale yellow. I was given a few poor quality seeds by a friend for 2003. I had a great crop and now have saved seed from 2003, shared half with a friend, and would be willing to give a few seeds to a gardener who would like to try them.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Seaford, Delaware
Ft Mitchell, Kentucky
Ozark, Missouri
Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
West Chester, Pennsylvania
Middletown, Virginia
South Boston, Virginia
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

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