Velvet Bean Information: Learn About Growing Velvet Bean Plants

velvet beans
velvet beans
(Image credit: tinglee1631)

Velvet beans are very long climbing vines that produce white or purple flowers and deep purple bean pods. They’re popular as medicine, cover crops, and occasionally as food. Keep reading to learn more about planting and growing velvet beans in the garden.

Velvet Bean Information

What is a velvet bean? Velvet bean plants (Mucuna pruriens) are tropical legumes that are native to southern China and eastern India. The plants have spread throughout much of Asia and are often cultivated around the world, especially in Australia and the southern United States. Velvet bean plants are not frost hardy, but they have a short lifespan and even in hot climates they are almost always grown as annuals. (Occasionally they can be treated as biennials). The vines are long, sometimes reaching 60 feet (15 m.) in length.

Growing Velvet Beans

Velvet bean planting should take place in spring and summer, after all chance of frost has passed and soil temperature is at least 65 degrees F. (18 C). Plant the seeds to a depth of 0.5 to 2 inches (1-5 cm.). Velvet bean plants naturally fix nitrogen in the soil, so they don’t need any additional nitrogen fertilizer. They do respond well to phosphorus, however.

Velvet Bean Uses

In Asian medicine, velvet beans are used to treat a range of symptoms including high blood pressure, infertility, and nervous disorders. The pods and seeds are purported to kill intestinal worms and parasites. In the West, the plants tend to be grown more for their nitrogen fixing properties, working as a cover crop to restore nitrogen to the soil. They are also sometimes grown as animal feed, both for farm and wild animals. The plants are edible, and the beans have been known to be boiled and eaten and ground as a coffee substitute.

Liz Baessler
Senior Editor

The only child of a horticulturist and an English teacher, Liz Baessler was destined to become a gardening editor. She has been with Gardening Know how since 2015, and a Senior Editor since 2020. She holds a BA in English from Brandeis University and an MA in English from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. After years of gardening in containers and community garden plots, she finally has a backyard of her own, which she is systematically filling with vegetables and flowers.