How to Germinate Lima Bean Seeds

Updated February 21, 2017

Lima beans, which are also known as butter beans, are large, flat, kidney-shaped beans that are native to Central America. The most common varieties are white, although Lima beans may be black, red or orange. These beans are grown throughout the United States as a vegetable that is high in fibre. Lima beans are not eaten in the bean pod. Instead they are shelled and dried. Dried beans may be cooked and eaten or saved from year to year to grow new bean plants.

Wait until the soil in your garden warms to at least 15.6 degrees Celsius before planting Lima beans. Lima beans will not sprout if the temperatures in your garden are cooler than 15.6 degrees C. In the southern parts of the United States, this may be as soon as mid-April. In northern parts of the United States, this may not occur until mid-May. Ideal soil temperatures for Lima beans to sprout are between 18.3 and 29.4 degrees C. Lima beans may be planted as late as mid-July.

Break up your soil to a depth of 12 inches with a tiller. Spread a 4-inch layer of compost over the soil to increase the drainage, nutrient structure and soil texture, which is known as tilth. Lima beans prefer full sun and well drained soil. Never plant Lima beans in a location where they were previously planted.

Mix compost into the soil to a depth of 12 inches using a rake or hoe. Create furrows with a hoe for your Lima beans that are spaced 36 inches apart. Lima bean furrows should be 1 inch deep in clay soil or 2 inches deep in sandy soil.

Drop Lima beans into the furrows so that each bean is spaced 4 inches apart. Close the furrows to cover the beans with soil.

Water Lima beans to make the soil as damp as a wrung-out sponge. Watering beans helps to encourage germination. Thereafter, water plants so they receive the equivalent of 1 inch of rainfall every seven to 10 days in drought conditions.


Before planting beans, have your soil tested to determine the pH. Lima beans will germinate at higher rates and grow better if the soil ranges between 5.8 and 6.5. But if the pH is outside this range, it will not be detrimental to a Lima bean crop. Adjust your soil pH by adding elemental sulphur to lower the pH or dolomite lime to raise the pH. You can contact your local county extension service to find a good soil testing laboratory.

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About the Author

Tracy Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Arkansas.