Pole Beans vs. Bush Beans – What’s the difference?

Whats the Difference between Pole and Bush Beans?

We get lots of gardening questions at our office and the other day one of our intrepid MadAboutGardening.com gardeners emailed us asking what the difference was between Pole and Bush Beans.  Thanks for your question Florence – this is a good one that I’d be happy to answer!

Bush Beans

Bush Beans

Pole Beans

Pole Beans

The answer may surprise you – there aren’t very many differences between pole and bush beans. Many of them taste exactly the same and there are even some varieties that have both a Pole and a Bush Bean variety – like the Kentucky Wonder. However, there are a few differences you may want to factor into your bean decision this year in your garden.

The main difference is the first one you can see – Pole Beans grow up tall and need a pole for support. While Bush beans usually grow only about 2-3 feet tall in a bush and don’t require support. When planning your garden, realize that bush beans are going to take up more room to produce the same yield as pole beans – so if you don’t have a lot of space, pole beans may be the way to go for you.

The next difference is how quickly they mature. Bush beans tend to mature a little more quickly (50 – 60 days) than pole beans (65 – 75 days).  However, pole beans keep producing as you pick them, whereas bush beans produce most of their fruit at the same time and then they are done for the season. As long as you keep picking your pole beans every couple of days the plant will keep producing.

I’ve never really noticed a huge difference in terms of flavor, however many gardeners swear that the bush beans taste better.  If you have an opinion on flavor – be sure to leave a comment below, we’d love to hear your view! Either way – just be sure to plant some beans in your garden this year.  Beans are the great repairer of soil in the garden – they take in nitrogen and add it back to the soil.  So if you have an under-producing bed one year, be sure to plant it with beans the next year. One of my favorite beans is the Heirloom Royalty Purple Beans – simply delicious with a vibrant purple color. Be sure to plant yours today!


Bush Beans on the Vine

Bush Beans on the Vine

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22 Responses to Pole Beans vs. Bush Beans – What’s the difference?

  1. Jan Robertson 2013-04-08 at 2:49 PM #

    I’m going to plant some bush beans. Which brand or name should I get. I don’t want to get pole beans. Thanks.

  2. Maggie 2013-04-27 at 9:09 AM #

    I am hoping to produce enough for canning this year…. I planted 20 bush bean plants. I am now thinking that I should have planted 10 pole bean plants for the quantity to can on the weekends. This would be my first attempt and canning green beans. Any advice is more than welcome!

  3. Sydney 2013-05-11 at 11:40 AM #

    Is a garden bean a pole bean or a bush bean?

    • Beau 2013-05-11 at 5:04 PM #

      Garden bean is more of a categorical term, and pole beans and bush beans are sub-categories of garden beans. I hope this helps!

  4. Teresa 2013-06-11 at 7:22 AM #

    Bush beans are also nice if you have a variety that you dry. I planted some Appaloosa beans (think Pinto, but spots on all one side). They were all mature roughly the same time and they dried on the bush quite nicely. I found a local seed seller at the farmer’s market so I knew that the variety would be okay in my area and I got good advice from the grower.

  5. Kristofer 2013-06-17 at 12:24 AM #

    Good day! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a collection of volunteers
    and starting a new project in a community in the same niche.
    Your blog provided us useful information to work on.

    You have done a wonderful job!

  6. ace 2013-07-28 at 5:36 PM #

    I planted three types of beans around the end of Feb (I live outside Los Angeles and we had no winter to speak of this year). The two bush beans I planted were Contender and Empress. The pole beans were Kentucky Wonder.

    The Contender was ready first (April) and produced impressively…in fact it’s still making a few beans in July. The flavor was pretty good, but not spectacular. Then the Empress bush beans started producing, and WOW. While not as productive as the Contender, they are absolutely the best tasting beans I’ve ever had. The Empress beans are very “forgiving,” too — you can pick them in a fair range of sizes and they’re still tender and delicious, so don’t worry if you miss a couple and they get big. Also, they’re good whether you barely cook them or totally overcook them. A great and forgiving bean.

    Finally the Kentucky Wonder pole beans started producing, and they are definitely a space-saver, I’ll give them that. I’ve got them on a teepee in a 3×3 area and they are just cranking out beans faster than I can eat them. Only problem is, I am totally underwhelmed by the flavor. They’re bland and get tough very easily, so you really have to keep on top of them and pick them small. Also I find it’s hard to cook them just the right amount — cook them too little and they’re tough; cook them too much and they’re mushy. This doesn’t happen with the Empress beans. Not sure what the problem is, maybe it’s just too hot here to grow decent beans by the time the pole beans get going? Those of you who’ve had a good experience with Kentucky Wonder, which zone do you live in?

    I will say the pole beans seem to be more disease-resistant, so that’s a plus.

  7. Steve 2013-12-29 at 8:46 AM #

    Be wary of Burpees “Tendercrop bush beans. for at least three years, customers, including myself, have found these revert to pole beans due to parentage. Burpee acknowledges that this can happen and still sells them without a warning to customers. It is a shock to plant them without supports only find 6 or 8 foot vines all over the place.

  8. sandra 2014-06-18 at 9:58 AM #

    I am a first time gardener. I planted some green beans and have no idea if they are pole or bush. They are just sprouting. How and when will I tell what kind they are?(Trying to figure out if I need a trellis)

  9. Anne 2014-08-08 at 6:09 AM #

    This yr I planted both. The bush were delicious and the pole weren’t. I’m not sure of the names because the packages got thrown out but I will definitely do some research for my pole beans next year because these are lacking flavor. I’ll dilly them and see if it helps!

  10. Jim Flynn 2014-11-26 at 11:14 AM #

    I prefer pole beans – they’re a lot easier to pick and they produce all summer if you keep them watered and picked. My favorite variety is Rattlesnake, which I get from Ed Hume Seeds. If you let the seed inside the pod develop just a little it has a great “meaty”, beany flavor that green beans don’t have. You may have to pull a few strings off the pods but that’s really easy to do. It is great in soups (cut in short sections) or sautéed with tomato, onion, garlic, etc.
    I also like Noreaster pole (got mine at Johnny’s Seeds) and Violet-podded Stringless.
    We always grow a few bush beans as well (like Ed Hume’s French bean) but I far prefer pole beans. Easy to grow on a short section of green wire fencing turned on its end to make a 3 or 4 foot wide trellis whatever height you want.

  11. Austin 2015-01-29 at 9:58 PM #

    What is the difference between snap beans, bush beans, and pole beans? Are bush beans and pole beans sub-categories of snap beans or what? Please help.

  12. josh 2015-02-28 at 2:34 AM #

    i don’t remember ever having any green beans(bush beans) that weren’t canned(i’m sure i have). it depends on how you cook them.. pole beans baked and peaches with pork steaks on top is one of my favs.

  13. josh 2015-02-28 at 2:43 AM #

    assuming youre calling green beans bush beans.. they are better than pole beans .. theyre fuller, fatter, bigger, but not string or french cut.. green beans taste better than pole beans by themselves..

  14. Stephen Banda 2015-04-06 at 5:15 AM #

    I never knew that fertilizer can be applied in beans and that can yield 6-10tones/hac.this year im growing 2 hactares its amazing production im from zambia

  15. john h. gehman 2015-04-21 at 7:59 AM #

    I bought pole beans by mistake and did not realize it until they started growing. Is there any I can get away
    without staking them?

  16. john h. gehman 2015-04-21 at 8:02 AM #

    I bought pole beans by mistake and did not realize it until they started growing. Is there anyway I can get away
    without staking them?

  17. Beau 2015-04-21 at 8:13 AM #

    Hi John,

    Run out and grab some bamboo sticks and stick them in there. You’re going to end up with a bunch of dead or badly producing plants if you don’t give them the environment they need.

  18. T.jones 2015-04-28 at 10:54 AM #

    I planted pole beans and staked the poles and ran string between the poles for the beans to grow !! That should work I am thinking since I didn’t have but a few poles !! What do you all think ?

  19. Patricia Sullivan 2015-05-05 at 12:04 PM #

    Re: Garden Bean a Bush or Pole Bean

    I have a package of Garden Bean, Burpee’s stringless green beans. On the bottom right, it’s called a Bush Snap Extra Early and Crispy. I was reading about companion plants and became concerned. Bush Beans can be planted near beets but not Pole Beans is what I have been reading. I also have peas in the same bed, but have a space in the middle. I hope to add a line of beets there. Will this work out okay?

  20. Kirk 2015-05-21 at 1:39 PM #

    Went to buy seeds the other day and there were five or six varieties of green bean. So mad! with one or two exceptions, there was no way of knowing if they were bush or pole. Seems like reading the package should be enough to find out right?

    • Beau 2015-05-21 at 2:26 PM #

      An unfortunate common oversight of seed manufacturers, or manufacturers/product packaging designers in general, is to assume that a buyer knows something they do and they end up causing confusion just like you stated. It seems like bringing a reference of which varieties are which with you is a bit much for someone who just wants some new plants for their garden when they obviously already have the information and could likely just as easily put it on the packaging.

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