Bean Plant Varieties: Different Bean Types For The Garden

bean variety
bean variety
(Image credit: StudioBarcelona)

Beans are one of the most popular garden plants out there. They’re easy to grow, vigorous, and they make a lot of produce that’s tasty and found in many recipes. In other words, you can’t go wrong with beans. How do you know which beans to grow though? Anything so popular comes with a lot of variety, and that variety can get overwhelming. Luckily, there are a few simple differences that split beans into smaller groups, which can be helpful in figuring out what suits you best. Keep reading to learn more about the different bean plant varieties and the best types of beans to grow for your situation.

How Many Types of Beans are There?

While there are far too many specific bean types to name, the majority of bean plant varieties can be divided into a few main subgroups. One very big distinction is between pole beans and bush beans. Pole beans are vining and need a structure to climb up, like a trellis or a fence. Some varieties can get quite long. However, these plants offer the added advantage of a small footprint; so, if your space is limited, any vegetable that can be grown vertically and still produce high yields is a great choice. Bush beans, on the other hand, are shorter and freestanding. Since they can be planted virtually anywhere, bush beans are easier to grow. Another thing that divides the varieties of bean plants is the difference between snap beans and shell beans. Basically, snap beans can be eaten raw, pod and all, while shell beans are meant to be opened up, or shelled, so the seeds inside can be eaten, and the pods thrown away. Snap beans may include green beans, yellow beans, and peas (which can also be shelled). Examples of shell beans include:

Really, most beans can be eaten pod and all if they’re immature enough, and most beans will have to be shelled if they’re allowed to mature or even dry out. Different varieties of bean plants are bred for both, however, which means that a bean marketed as a snap bean will taste much better raw than one marketed as a shell bean.

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.