Runner beans, Phaseolus coccineus L., like scarlet runner beans named after their red blooms, are green beans that may be grown for snap beans or for shell beans. Snap green beans are harvested when the seeds inside first start to swell. Shell beans are green beans that are left on the vine to allow the seed to mature, making the mature seed the food product. Runner beans are a variety of pole bean. As a pole bean that vines, runner beans require support such as a tepee trellis.
Pound three to five bamboo poles into the ground about 6 inches deep. The poles should be 6 to 8 feet long. Space the poles 6 to 12 inches apart to create a triangle with three poles or a near-circle with more poles. Instead of bamboo, use recycled handles from a broom, mop or long-handled tool, like a shovel, or pruned tree limbs.
Use the ladder to reach the top of the poles. Pull together the top of two poles that are almost opposite each other. Cross the poles and use twine or wire to secure the two poles 6 to 12 inches from the top. Grasp the top of the remaining poles, crossing them in tepee fashion, and secure the poles with twine or wire. Runner beans grow to about 6 feet in length. The bean vines will wrap around the poles, decreasing the need for support taller than 6 feet. If you are planting a variety of runner beans that will reach a length greater than 6 feet, the vine will climb to the top and droop over. You can encourage it to climb around or back down the tepee.
Secure an end of twine at the top of the tepee. Twist the twine down one pole of the tepee. Space the twine wraps 4 to 6 inches apart. Repeat for each pole of the tepee. The twine provides a grabbing point for the tendrils of the runner bean.
Add horizontal lines, if desired, for additional grab locations for the growing vine. Secure twine 4 to 6 inches above ground level on one pole, stretch the twine to the next pole and secure it. Continue around the tepee, securing the twine 4 to 6 inches higher than the previous horizontal run. Continue to the top of the tepee.
When growing scarlet runner beans just for ornamental value, try planting the seeds next to an arbor or decorative flower trellis. If equal-length poles are used, a hole can be drilled about 6 inches from one end of each pole and completely through the pole. Cord, twine or wire can easily be threaded through the holes to pull the tops together to form the tepee.
Soft garden soil can make it difficult to keep a ladder stable. If you need a ladder to secure the poles at the top to form the tepee, ask someone to hold the ladder for you.