Back to Legume Species

Dry or Common Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)

Plant Species
From Montana Interagency Plant Materials Handbook *
S. Smoliak, R.L. Ditterline, J.D. Scheetz, L.K. Holzworth, J.R. Sims, L.E. Wiesner, D.E. Baldridge, and G.L. Tibke

Dry bean is one crop indigenous to the America's having been domesticated by the ancient cultures of South America, Central America and Mexico. There are several classes of dry bean grown and marketed in the United States. In addition to dry edible beans, some varieties of this species are grown for the snap bean and processed green bean markets. In Montana, "pintos" and "pinks" have been grown under irrigation for a number of years along the Clark's Fork and Yellowstone Rivers. Pintos, Great Northern (white) and Light Red Kidney beans have been successfully grown on dryland on an experimental basis in the Bozeman area. Dry bean production potential in Montana includes production for the consumer market, the export market and for certified seed.


Common bean is a warm-season, annual legume which consists of several types and classes. Emergence of the bean occurs with a segment of the hypocotyl arching up through the soil between the anchored radicle (developing root) and the large cotyledons at the end of the hypocotyl. Once the cotyledons emerge, the hypocotyl arch straightens, and the first two true leaves, which are unifoliate, expand from the cotyledon node along with the stem and terminal bud. All subsequent leaves, which develop from terminal or axillary buds, are trifoliate. Branching occurs in the axis of lower nodes, which will produce secondary groups of blooms or pods. Flowers are typical of all legumes and the color varies from white for most light-colored beans (whites and pintos) to pink or purple for red and black beans. Beans are normally self-pollinated with less than one percent natural crossing. Each flower can give rise to one pod which, at maturity, may be 5 to 6 inches long in "vining" types and 3 to 40 inches long in "bush" types.

There are two basic plant types of dry beans, determinate flowering, "bush" type which are upright in growth habit with most of the pods held above the ground and indeterminate (continuous) flowering, "vining" type which have growth habits varying in their degree of being prostrate with most of the pods lying on or in contact with the ground. Seed size varies and is usually classed as: Small (over 1,800 seeds per pound; examples are Small White, Navy and most Blacks), Medium (1,200 to 1,800 seeds per pound; examples are Great Northern, Pinto and Pink) and Large (under 1,200 seeds per pound; examples are Kidney, Marrow and Cranberry).


Common or dry bean is a warm-season, annual legume, and thus, should not be planted until the soil temperature has warmed up to at least 50 F. Dry bean is generally considered a short-season crop with most varieties maturing in a range from 85 to 110 days from emergence to harvest ripe. Dry bean is not tolerant to frost or to long periods of exposure to near-freezing temperatures at any stage of growth. Thus, frost may be a problem with early-planted or emerged plants, late-seeded plants, or seeding a late-maturing variety. Usually it is not affected by high temperatures if adequate soil water is present. The optimum, average growing temperature is 65 to 75 F.

Dry bean is adapted to a wide variety of soils and one not sensitive to soil type as long as it is reasonably fertile, well-drained and does not have conditions that interfere with germination and emergence. Saline soils and soils that form hard surface crusts should be avoided. Also, rocky soils present difficulties in harvesting as well as planting and should be avoided. Dry bean must be grown on well-drained soil due to its extreme sensitivity to standing water or waterlogged conditions. Iron and zinc deficiencies may particularly be a problem in soils with low content of these elements and/or high in lime content. Prolonged cool, humid or rainy weather is unfavorable to dry bean and its production is more successful in areas where rainfall is light during the latter part of the growing season.

* The Montana Interagency Plant Materials Handbook (EB69) is no longer in print, but is available for viewing in
Montana County Extension Service and National Resource Conservation Service Offices.