Know what’s a super-frugal plant?

The hyacinth bean.

I love these things.

My brother started growing them years ago when he was the landscaper at church. They now cascade over a long fence there and produce hundreds of bean pods every year, each filled with little purple seeds.

This seed production is what makes these such a frugal plant…a single seed can grow a plant that produce more than 50 seeds. Each of those little purple blooms in the first photo will produce a bean pod, so you can imagine the copious output of seeds.

Unlike the seeds of some plants, the hyacinth’s seeds are very easy to save (just pluck the pods once they’ve dried on the vines) and very easy to plant (the seeds are the size of dried kidney beans and germinate as easily as most beans.).

This makes me very happy because I like to have beautiful plants at my house, but I don’t like to spend lots of money on plants that only give me beauty for a single season.

When we moved to this house, I snagged a couple of the pods from the church fence and brought them home. I planted them along a north section of fence the first year and they didn’t do very well. These plants love light and there’s just not enough on the north side of a house.

I’ve done some experimenting around, and I’ve discovered that they do really well around my mailbox.

(there is actually a mailbox in there!)

They’re also pretty happy on the fence which intersects with the south side of our house.

I’ve grown them on the mailbox and on the south fence before, but this year I tried planting them in two new places. In the spring, when Sonia and I walked around the yard with our container of seeds, we looked for planting spots that provided sun and a place to climb.

So, we put a single plant by the swingset, and though it needed a little help to begin climbing up the side, once I tied it up a bit, it took off and looks beautiful even though it hasn’t really bloomed yet.

I also put a couple of these plants in a pot on my deck, thinking that the deck railings would provide a place for the vines to climb. I had to move the pots a few times because we pressure washed and stained the deck this summer, but once I let them be, they did indeed climb up the railings.

I love that they’re visible from both sides, and because they hang down, they’re even visible from under the deck. These deck plants are just about to bloom, but even without the blooms, I think the green vines are beautiful to look at.

You can buy hyacinth bean seeds on Amazon and at other online stores for less than $5. Because these plants produce such a prolific number of easily harvestable seeds, your first package of seeds is the last you’ll ever need to buy. In fact, after your first season you should have more seeds than you know what to do with, in which case you can give some away to your friends and neighbors.

Or if you’re very fortunate, maybe you already know someone who grows these, and you can be the recipient of their leftover seeds.

Either way, if you’ve got sunshine and a place for plants to climb, I highly recommend giving this plant a try.

Do you grow any plants like this? If there are other easy-to-grow plants that produce easily saveable seeds, I’d love to hear about them!


  1. says

    I love these hyacinth beans. Have never seen them before. I will put them on my garden wish list for next year! Too bad you can’t eat them though. How long does it take them to grow and are they flowering right now?

    Some plants I have had great success with are:Sweet peas (looooove sweet peas fantastic colour, scent, and savable seeds) lupins (even better because they are perennials and you still get seeds) nigella (beautiful colour with ferny foliage and self seed like crazy) sun flowers (you can also eat them!), poppies (also self seed and also edible) Nasturcium (you can make faux capers from the seeds and you can also eat the flowers). All easy to grow and tons of seed or self seeding. Oh and pot marigold or calendula is lovely as well.

  2. Megan says

    I have these planted several places in my yard and just love them. I got seeds from my aunt several years ago and have never known what they were called. So, thank you for naming them! :) I am going to give seeds out this year because as you said they just produce a crazy amount! :)

  3. EngineerMom says

    I’ve had great luck with morning glories – they climb like crazy (great for porches or fences where you need some pretty or some shade), and each fertilized blossom produces 3 seeds. Since there are at least half a dozen blooms every morning, you can imagine how many seed pods you can easily accumulate! I planted some at my parents’ house 12 years ago, and they’ve come back from seed every year since.

    Another good plant for self-propagation is tiger lilies. You can dig up the plants and divide them just about every year!

  4. says

    Kristen, I’ve been reading your blog for several weeks now and I love it! I love all the good info you share and the glimpse into your daily, frugal life that you give.

    PS, the flowers are pretty.

  5. Jessica says

    I am going to sound like such a spoil sport, but you may want to ask your mailperson about the flowers around the mailbox as they may attract bees and your mailperson could be stung them. I read a long time ago that you should avoid planting flowers near your mailbox as a courtesy to the person who delivers and retrieves the mail.

  6. Glory Lennon says

    I could give you a list a mile long of easy-to-grow, frugal plants. Cosmos, Marigolds, Black-eyed Susans, Daisy, Zinnia, Chives (Well, they are pretty when they flower and yummy in the kitchen, too!), Hardy Hibiscus, Sweet Williams and Portulaca…to name a few. ;-)

  7. says

    4 o’clocks! I had 3 plants around my front steps last year and I gathered over a 1,000 seeds. The make a pretty hefty black seed, easy to see cupped among little green leaves. And they smell heavenly, butterflies and hummingbirds love them, and they reseed themselves so they come back every year. Blossoms are yellow, white and hot pink, on mine at least. One plant grows to about 2′ x 4′ where I live and we are in the middle of the worst drought ever. I can’t imagine what they would look like if they actually got rain water. Love your posts

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