Glycine max

Common Name: soy bean 
Type: Annual
Family: Fabaceae
Native Range: Northern South America, Eastern Tropical Asia
Zone: 2 to 11
Height: 2.00 to 6.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to September
Bloom Description: White to purple-pink
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Annual, Vegetable
Flower: Insignificant
Fruit: Showy, Edible


Best in loose, fertile, moist but well-drained soils in full sun. Sow seeds in spring after danger of frost has passed. Harvest beans when young (before pods turn yellow) if growing as a vegetable. Otherwise, harvest pods after they turn yellow. Soybean crops are often grown in rotation with corn as a method of fixing nitrogen in the soil (plow plants under). Glyphosate resistant varieties are available.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Glycine max, commonly called soybean, is an erect, bushy, hairy, annual legume that typically grows from 2-6’ tall. It features white to purple-pink flowers and trifoliate leaves. Flowers are small (to 1/4”) and ornamentally insignificant, somewhat resembling those of peas. Flowers bloom from mid to late summer. Fruit is a hairy pod that grows in clusters of 3-5. Each pod contains 2-4 seeds. Soybeans today are a major global food crop (second in volume in the U.S. only to corn). They are grown mostly for their protein- and oil-rich seeds, but also for forage, cover and green manure. Additional non-food uses such as biodiesel fuel are becoming increasingly significant. Genus name comes from Greek glykys meaning sweet. This species is native to eastern Asia where it was first cultivated in China around 3000 B.C.

Genus name comes from the Greek word glykys meaning sweet in allusion to the sweetness of the roots and leaves of some species.


Foliage is susceptible to a number of potential disease problems including bacterial blights, brown spot, anthracnose, downy mildew, powdery mildew and soybean rust. Root and stem rots, stem blights and sudden death syndrome may occur. Viruses (bean pod, tobacco ringspot and soybean mosaic) may occur. Potential insect pests include caterpillars, beetles, soybean looper, cloverworm, corn earworm, beet armyworm, stink bug and alfalfa hopper.


Soybeans have no horticultural uses. Young beans are edible. Soybeans have a large number of food and non-food uses. The beans are an excellent source of oil and protein.