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Pole Beans Or Bush Beans: Which Should I Be Growing?

Pole beans and bush beans share a lot of similarities. After all, both are still types of green beans despite how different their names are. Yet, these two types of beans also have an extensive list of differences that will leave you wondering which one you should be growing.

Pole Bean Vs Bush Bean

Pole beans grow vertically and can reach heights of up to 15 feet. That growth pattern is a plus because they don’t require much horizontal growing space. However, pole beans do require supports to grow optimally. Bush beans, on the other hand, only grow up to 2-3 feet. They don’t need support to grow, but they do take up more ground space.

Choosing which type of beans to grow can get a little confusing, but don’t worry. This guide will help you understand their differences and similarities to choose the ideal one for your growing conditions.

What Are The Differences Between Pole Beans And Bush Beans?

Pole beans and bush beans are two different green beans, sometimes collectively referred to as snap beans or string beans. 

Even though these beans are called ‘green’, both types come in a wide variety of other colors, including:

  • Red
  • Purple
  • Yellow
  • Those with streaks

Still, even though both are considered green beans, it’s important to understand their differences before deciding which one you should grow in your garden.

Here are the ways that bush beans and pole beans are different from one another:

#1 Growth Styles

Their growth styles are the first and most significant difference between pole beans and bush beans. After all, it’s those different growth styles that earned them their names.

Let’s take bush beans as the first example.

Bush bean plants don’t grow very tall or wide. Instead, they’re pretty compact and only reach a height of two or three feet at the most.

So, as the name suggests, the overall shape of bush beans is that of a small bush plant.

That’s quite different from pole beans, though. Unlike bush beans, pole beans reach pretty far vertically.

So, don’t be surprised if you discover a pole bean plant that grows as high as 10-15 feet tall!

#2 Necessary Support

The difference in growth styles you read about in #1 leads to the second way that pole beans and bush beans differ: the amount of physical support they need to grow.

Remember: bush beans don’t grow very tall. So, they don’t need any support to reach their full growth potential.

The same can’t be said about pole beans, however. As you saw earlier, they grow vertically as high as 10-15 feet. That means you’ll have to prepare enough support for pole beans to reach their full potential.

That support can be in the form of trellis or some kind of stakes that provide stability for the pole beans to grow.

Pole Bean Trellis

#3 Resistance To Diseases

Aside from their growth patterns and the support they need, pole beans and bush beans also differ in another meaningful way: their vulnerability to plant diseases.

Generally speaking, pole beans are much more resistant to diseases that might hurt them. That means you won’t have to worry too much about them because pole beans are somewhat harder than bush beans.

Bush beans, on the other hand, don’t share the same resistance as pole beans. That means they can get the diseases that pole beans aren’t vulnerable to.

Why would this affect your choice to grow pole beans or bush beans? Well, to put it simply, growing something more vulnerable like bush beans requires more effort.

You’ll have to spend time and resources educating yourself on the diseases they could possibly catch and put in the effort to prevent that from happening.

That could be a deal-breaker if you prefer growing something in a more hands-off kind of way.

#4 Temperature Tolerance

Another factor to consider when choosing between pole beans and bush beans is their temperature tolerance. 

This difference between both plants is pretty straightforward. Pole beans are more suited for slightly lower temperatures, though you’ll be better off with bush beans if you live in a warmer climate.

By providing the ideal temperature to your preferred beans, you’ll be able to maximize their growth.

Bush Green Beans

#5 Harvesting Methods

Another essential difference to consider between pole beans and bush beans is the harvesting method you’ll have to use. After all, you can’t enjoy the beans you grow until you harvest them first.

Unfortunately, it’s challenging to harvest bush beans manually. Although they grow close to the ground, that also means they grow too close to each other. As such, it’s hard to spot the parts you want to harvest.

Pole beans, on the other hand, grow very high. That means you can see every part of the plant that you’ll want to access and harvest quickly. Although, you might need a ladder to reach plants that grow up to 10-15 feet.

#6 Necessary Growing Space

Lastly, pole beans and bush beans differ in how much space you’ll need to grow them.

Pole beans grow vertically while bush beans remain closer to the ground. The vertical growth of pole beans means that you don’t need as much space to plant them. That can be a blessing to do all your planting in a limited space.

Pole Beans Growing Vertically

Bush beans, on the other hand, require a broader space to grow. After all, they grow as small bush plants that take up more ground space.

What Soil Conditions Are Ideal For Pole Beans And Bush Beans?

Despite all the differences between pole beans and bush beans, they do share some similarities. For instance, both types of beans will thrive under specific growing conditions, particularly those related to the soil.

For starters, you must provide your beans with soil that can drain very quickly. Besides that, the soil must also have an acidic or neutral pH of between 6.0 and 7.0 to grow optimally.

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On the positive side, you don’t have to add too much fertilizer to the soil for your pole or bush beans. That’s because they can add their own nitrogen to the soil.

The only exception will be if you’re planting those beans in particularly unpleasant soil. 

If that’s the case, you can heal the soil with compost or manure before planting your pole or bush beans.

Lastly, it’s crucial that the soil you use remains undisturbed once the beans are planted. So, if there are any preparations necessary for the soil, make sure you get it all done before you plant the beans.

Companion Planting With Pole Beans and Bush Beans

Both pole and bush beans can be excellent companions for many plants although choosing which one to plant will depend on what your reason is.

Nitrogen Fixing

Pole beans and bush beans are great nitrogen-fixing plants when harvested correctly. Sacrifice a few–or even the entirety–of your bean plants towards the end of the growing season to add the most possible nitrogen to your soil.

One good option is to add beans to a crop rotation, choosing to plant a section of beans to use as green manure once every three or four years. You can grow and harvest beans in another section of your garden, leaving the plants to decompose over the winter to add a bit of nitrogen to the soil.

Ground Cover

Bush beans make an excellent groundcover around taller plants. This works as a living mulch that can shade the soil, help with water retention, and even help with weed control. Pole beans, because of their vertical growing nature, don’t work well for this.

Shade Providing

As I mentioned, bush beans can shade the soil but because they don’t grow tall they can’t provide shade to other plants. This is good for sun and heat loving plants but you may want to provide some shade for other plants.

Pole beans, however, can be grown thickly up a trellis and positioned in a way to create a shady microclimate for plants that may struggle in summer months, like lettuce, broccoli, and bok choy. This can help to prevent bolting and extend your harvest of these normally cooler weather crops.

Good and Bad Companion Plants For Pole and Bush Beans

Most things grow well with beans as long as you take into consideration sun and shade and the vining nature of pole beans. However, there are a few plants you should probably separate from your beans.

Plants You Should Avoid Planting Near Beans

Pole and Bush BeansOnions Inhibit the growth of bean plants. Prevents nitrogen-fixing qualities.
Pole BeansBeetsBoth the pole beans and beets can stunt one anothers growth.
Pole and Bush BeansGarlicInhibit the growth of bean plants. Prevents nitrogen-fixing qualities.
Pole and Bush BeansSunflowersWill inhibit the growth of beans.
Pole and Bush BeansLeeksInhibit the growth of bean plants. Prevents nitrogen-fixing qualities.
Pole and Bush BeansChivesInhibit the growth of bean plants. Prevents nitrogen-fixing qualities.
Pole and Bush BeansScallionsInhibit the growth of bean plants. Prevents nitrogen-fixing qualities.
Bad Companion Plants For Beans

How Long Does It Take To Harvest Pole Beans And Bush Beans?

Unfortunately, pole beans and bush beans grow at different rates. That difference will affect your harvesting schedule depending on which one you choose to grow.

Let’s suppose you prefer a plant that grows faster. In that case, you’ll want to go with bush beans that you can harvest sooner.

On top of that, bush beans grow all at the same time. That means you can harvest them all together when they’re ready, typically every 2-3 weeks.

Pole beans, on the other hand, take around 1-2 months before they’re ready for harvesting. The longer intervals mean you’ll have to wait longer to enjoy the beans. But that also means you won’t have to worry about harvesting so frequently.

Harvesting Green Beans

Can You Grow Bush And Pole Beans Together?

Yes, you can grow bush beans and pole beans together. Planting them side-by-side is perfectly fine, and both plants will grow optimally as long as their needs are met.

Do Pole Beans Taste The Same As Bush Beans?

When choosing between growing pole or bush beans, you might wonder if there’s a difference in taste. Unfortunately, the answer to that question isn’t so straightforward.

If there is a difference in taste, it’s not because one is a pole bean while the other is a bush bean. Instead, the taste difference depends on the varieties of beans being grown.

Bottom Line: Pole Beans Or Bush Beans?

After considering all of the above, which ones should you grow? Would pole beans be a better option, or would you be happier growing bush beans instead?

Well, the truth is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer here. As you’ve seen above, pole beans and bush beans have several significant differences. Sure, they have plenty of similarities as well. But their differences are substantial enough that some people will be better off choosing one over the other.

Some Favorite Pole Bean Varieties

  • Kentucky Wonder
  • Scarlet Runner
  • Blue Lake Stringless
  • Oriental Yard Long
  • Purple Podded

A Few Favorite Bush Beans Varieties

  • Blue Lake 274
  • Contender
  • Cherokee Wax
  • Kentucky Wonder Bush
  • Dragon Tongue
  • Provider

The Choice Depends On Your Circumstances and Preferences

For instance, pole beans would be ideal if you have limited space for growing beans. Growing them would allow you to enjoy green beans by making the most of your limited space.

Alternatively, choosing bush beans is an excellent idea if you’re not keen on building the supports necessary for pole beans to grow to their full potential.

So, to decide between growing pole beans and bush beans, you’ll have to do a bit of introspection. First, inspect your growing space and see which type of beans would grow better. 

Secondly, consider how much time and effort you’re willing to invest in your beans and choose the ones you can sustain.


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