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1 October 2020

Best Buy runner beans

The best runner-bean varieties from the Which? Gardening trials which produce the tastiest beans
Runner-beans

Runner beans are one of the most popular vegetables in the UK as they're easy to grow and plants produce huge crops. Many newer varieties have been crossed with French beans to make them reliably produce beans even in poor weather, but do these taste as good?

Choosing the best varieties will make a big difference to how big a yield you'll get and how tasty and tender the beans are. Which? Gardening has grown and tasted 18 varieties of runner beans to see how they compare. The best-performing varieties are in the table below. 

Once you've chosen which variety to grow, discover the growing secrets our trials have taught us to grow great beans.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. Not a member? Join Which? to get instant access to all our test results and reviews.

The best runner beans
What it

looks like
Runner bean variety Yield per plant

A previous Best Buy, this white-flowered variety gave us the heaviest crop of all, peaking in early September. The long, very pale green pods were a little hard to spot among the dense foliage of these vigorous plants. As with all white-flowered varieties, the seeds are white too. Find out which runner bean variety we're talking about - log in or join Which?

If you want ornamental red flowers and a decent crop of beans, this variety is a good choice. It was a winner in our last trial and compared well to the newer varieties in this one; it was our second-highest cropper. The long, slim pods are dark green and fairly easy to spot among the foliage. As with all red-flowered varieties, the seeds are pink speckled with black. Find out which runner bean variety we're talking about - log in or join Which?

This variety has white flowers that are self-fertile. It didn't crop particularly early in our trial, but gave us lots of beans from late August to mid-September. The broad, straight pods are fairly rough skinned with white seeds. The dense foliage made picking them a bit tricky. Find out which runner bean variety we're talking about - log in or join Which?

This variety has white flowers and matching white seeds. The beans were easy to pick, quite rough skinned, and broad but not stringy. It produced the third biggest crop in our trial, spread consistently through August and September and into early October. Find out which runner bean variety we're talking about - log in or join Which?

A red-flowered runner with characteristic speckled pink seeds. Although it grew vigorously, its open habit meant the beans were easy to pick. The mid-green beans, with a slight red flecking, were smoother than most and not stringy. The yield in August was good, and it cropped consistently through September. Find out which runner bean variety we're talking about - log in or join Which?

A newly bred runner/French bean cross, and the first with red flowers. This variety produced a big crop during August, then peaked again in early September. The pods are short, straight and smooth, reflecting their French-bean parentage. At 1.8m tall, it was shorter than most other varieties we trialled. Find out which runner bean variety we're talking about - log in or join Which?

How we trialled runner beans

We grew 18 varieties of runner beans in our trial. We started off our seeds in a greenhouse in modular trays containing a Best Buy compost for sowing seeds in early May. They were ready to plant out at the beginning of June, after all danger of frost had passed. We grew each variety up its own wigwam of six canes, planting two plants per cane. We watered regularly and controlled weeds by hoeing.

Our experts assess the emergence of the seedlings, the vigour of the plants and the characteristics of each variety, such as height and bushiness, flower colour and length, and colour and shape of pods. The pods were picked weekly from the beginning of August into early October. Three times during the season we rated the skin quality and stringiness of  typical pods.

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