Description: Tropical vine grown as a garden annual; rich light and deep purple flowers and burgundy seed pods; lush dark green foliage tinged purple

Size: Twining stems grow 6 to 20 feet; fast growing

Cultural Information: Prefers rich, well-drained soil and full sun; regular feeding

Historical Notes: This ornamental vine is native to the tropical regions of Africa and is cultivated extensively in Asia and North Africa for its edible fruit pods, which, like the flowers, are highly ornamental. The hyacinth bean, also known as Egyptian and Indian bean, was introduced to European gardens by the early 1700s and was sold by American nurserymen by the early 19th century. In 1812, Thomas Jefferson noted "Arbor beans white, scarlet, crimson, purple. at the trees of the level on both sides of the terrasses, and on long walk of [kitchen] garden."1 Although Jefferson does not specifically cite this species, hyacinth bean was sold by his favorite nurseryman, Bernard McMahon, in 1804, and it is possible that Jefferson's "purple" bean was the Dolichos lablab.

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Typical Blooming Dates: July - November
Growth Type: Annual
Color(s): Pink, Purple, White
Location at Monticello: Vegetable Garden
Planting Conditions: Full Sun


Further Sources


1. Betts, Garden Book, 474. For the manuscript page, see Garden Book, 1766-1824, page 48, by Thomas Jefferson [electronic edition], Thomas Jefferson Papers: An Electronic Archive (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2003).