How To Grow and Care for Black-Eyed Pea Plants

Cowpeas have an extended historical past and are beloved in lots of cultures. They originated in Africa, and within the southern US, it’s mentioned they convey good luck if you happen to eat them on New 12 months’s Day! Whether or not you eat them for luck or for taste, chances are you’ll wish to plant this wholesome crop in your backyard.

These drought-tolerant “peas” are a sun-loving crop you possibly can develop by the summer season. They’ll add nitrogen to your soil and produce beans all summer season lengthy. There are completely different varieties to select from, so be at liberty to experiment to determine which type you want finest!

Let’s check out the right way to develop cowpeas so you possibly can add them to your backyard!

Fast Care Information

Frequent Identify(s) Cowpeas, black-eyed pea, crowder peas, southern peas, area peas
Scientific Identify Vigna unguiculata subsp. unguiculata
Days to Harvest 80+ days
Gentle 6+ hours of full solar
Water At the least 1 inch per week
Soil Properly-draining, fertile soil with a pH of 6.0+
Fertilizer Typically pointless, or 5-10-10
Pests Aphids, bean leaf beetles, cornstalk borers, cowpea curculios, inexperienced stink bugs, Mexican bean beetles, root knot nematodes, weevils
Ailments Bacterial canker, cercospora leaf spot, cowpea mosaic virus, fusarium wilt, powdery mildew, rust

All About Cowpeas

Cowpeas are beans are grown worldwide, primarily used for his or her seeds and for enhancing soil well being.

You in all probability know Vigna unguiculata subsp. unguiculata as cowpeas or black-eyed peas. They’re really beans – not peas – however most different nicknames for this plant discuss with them as peas. They have been first grown in west Africa however at the moment are grown in lots of locations all through the world. Within the US, they’re related to the southern states as a result of they want an extended, heat rising season.

Cowpeas are available bush and vine varieties. Bush vegetation sometimes develop 1-2 ft tall, and vining varieties can attain round 3 ft. Bean pods develop in clusters of 2-3 and may attain as much as 10 inches lengthy. The pods can are available quite a lot of colours, together with inexperienced, purple, or yellow. 

The kidney-shaped beans could be white, cream, inexperienced, black, or red-brown, or a mixture of these colours. They typically have a darker shade within the center to create a watch, therefore the “black-eyed pea” identify.

Cowpeas are a southern pea often grown for the seeds, however the pods and leaves can be cooked and eaten. They’re additionally grown in summer season cowl crop mixtures to enhance soil well being and soil tilth, or they’re grown as fodder for animals. Worldwide manufacturing of cowpea varieties tops out at tens of millions of tons yearly.

Forms of Cowpeas

Close-up of the ripening pods of the cowpea plant in the garden. The plant has climbing vines with large oval green leaves. The pods are long, thin, green.
Vigna unguiculata has edible catjang and yardlong bean varieties, together with subsp. textilis.

Vigna unguiculata accommodates a couple of completely different kinds of beans. Subsp. biflora is catjang or sow-pea, which is thought for its shrubby development behavior. Although it’s typically grown as fodder for animals, it’s edible and scrumptious. These beans are additionally helpful as cowl crops.

Subsp. sesquipedalis is named the yardlong bean, asparagus bean, and Chinese language long-bean. It will get its identify from being lengthy; pods can develop as much as 3 ft, though they’re often 1.5 ft. This selection is believed to have originated from southeast Asia.

The cowpea cultivar subsp. textilis isn’t as well-liked today, nevertheless it was as soon as used for its fibers to make rope and materials. These beans can be nice cowl crops for enhancing soil well being and weed management too. 

Planting Cowpeas

Close-up of small sprouts of a cowpea plant growing in moist soil. The sprouts have vertical thin pale green stems with two tiny oval smooth green leaves.
Plant cowpea seeds outdoor in heat, well-draining soil with direct daylight, 1-2 inches deep.

Cowpeas want heat climate and don’t transplant effectively, so that you’ll have to sow dried peas exterior after the hazard of frost has handed and the soil temperature is persistently above 65°F. The time of 12 months in your cowpea planting will differ relying on the place you reside, however it is going to probably be between April and June.

The video above walks by a number of strategies of rising beans vertically.

Plant your cowpea seed in an space with well-draining soil that may get direct daylight for not less than 6 hours. Plant the seeds with the attention going through down 1-2 inches deep with not more than 8 vegetation per 1 foot in a row and 30 inches between rows. Cowpeas develop effectively in containers with trellises, so that you’re not simply restricted to the bottom!

A cowpea planting that features succession planting will can help you get a continuing harvest slightly than getting most of your beans without delay.

Plant seeds exterior each two weeks in the course of the planting season so you possibly can stagger the vegetation. You may interplant them amongst different crops which can be good companions, like pearl millet or wheat.

Caring For Cowpeas

Cowpeas develop fairly simply if you happen to give them sufficient daylight. Let’s take a look at how one can make these “peas” comfortable and have fast development!

Solar and Temperature

Close-up of a growing cowpea plant in a sunny garden. The bushes are lush, have climbing vines covered with large oval green leaves with oblong narrowed tips. The pods are long, narrow, green and contain about 10 small edible seeds.
Cowpeas want heat climate and 6-8 hours of direct daylight.

Like different beans, cowpeas want a number of sunny climate and solely develop within the heat season. They are often grown in USDA zones 5-10 and may solely be grown as perennials in zones 7-10.

They want a naked minimal of 6 hours of direct gentle, however if you happen to can present them with 8 hours or extra, you’ll get higher outcomes and better yields.

Soil temperatures needs to be 65°F or hotter, however keep away from letting it get too scorching, or the vegetation gained’t set pods anymore. If the soil temperature goes over 90°F, think about using a shade material in the course of the hottest a part of the day.

Water and Humidity

A close-up of a growing cowpea plant in a garden, climbing a trellis. The plant has climbing vines with large, oval, dark green leaves with pointed tips. The soil is moist at the base of the plant.
To advertise deep root development, water cowpeas when the soil is dry.

Cowpeas want a little bit greater moisture than some crops do, with not less than 1 inch of water per week, and can probably want extra on hotter days. Water your cowpeas when the soil is dry, and provides them soak to encourage deep root development. 

Keep away from getting their leaves moist or letting the water type puddles to forestall ailments. You’ll want to monitor the soil moisture of your crops so the vegetation don’t get too moist or dry.


Close-up of young Cowpea sprouts growing in the garden. The plant has short stems and large oval smooth leaves with pointed tips. The soil is dark brown, loose.
Cowpea vegetation require impartial or barely alkaline soil that’s well-draining and nutrient-rich.

Cowpea vegetation like nutrient-rich soil with a impartial or barely alkaline pH. Be sure the soil has a pH of 6.0 or greater, or your cowpea plant gained’t be proud of the acidity.

The soil must be well-draining, so it gained’t cling onto an excessive amount of moisture. Loamy or barely sandy soil will work effectively for cowpeas.

In case you can present your vegetation with loads of natural supplies, like compost, from the beginning, chances are you’ll not have to fertilize your vegetation in any respect.

Fertilizing Cowpeas

Close-up of young Cowpea sprouts growing in two rows near a trellis in a garden. The plant has erect stems with medium oval smooth leaves of bright green color. The soil is strewn with small black fertilizer granules.
Restrict nitrogen fertilizer on cowpeas, as this will result in extra leaves and fewer beans.

Cowpeas are nitrogen-fixing, that means they create nitrogen and return it to the soil. In case you fertilize your cowpeas, keep away from giving them an excessive amount of nitrogen, or they’ll develop too many leaves and never sufficient beans!

As talked about within the final part, chances are you’ll not should fertilize your vegetation in any respect if there are sufficient vitamins within the soil from natural matter. In case your soil lacks vitamins, nevertheless, you possibly can feed your vegetation an all-purpose fertilizer that’s low in nitrogen, like a 5-10-10 or 3-5-5 fertilizer. You’ll in all probability solely have to fertilize them as soon as after they’re younger since they aren’t heavy feeders.

Pruning & Coaching Cowpeas

Close-up of young Cowpea bushes growing near the trellis in the garden. The bushes are low, lush, have large, oval green leaves with pointed tips. The soil is covered with straw mulch.
You may take away broken elements of cowpea vegetation and help vining cowpeas with trellises.

Pruning isn’t obligatory for cowpeas, however you possibly can take away broken or diseased leaves and stems. If leaves are touching the bottom and look sickly, eradicating them will forestall the illness from spreading.

Vining cowpeas will should be supported by a trellis or different form of help. Bush varieties also can profit from a trellis, however they gained’t want it just like the vining varieties do.

Cowpea Propagation

Cowpea Propagation. Close-up of small Cowpea sprouts in a black plastic seed starter tray. The sprouts are small, have short pale green stems with oval dark green smooth leaves.
Cowpeas are sometimes grown as annuals, and planting seeds is the simplest propagation technique.

The tried-and-true technique of planting cowpea seeds is admittedly the one propagation technique you’ll want, particularly since they’re sometimes grown as annual vegetation in most areas. Permit a couple of pods to dry on the plant. Harvest the dried seeds and save them to plant subsequent 12 months.

Harvesting and Storing Cowpeas

Now, for the essential half: getting the cowpeas onto your plate! There are a couple of other ways you possibly can harvest and retailer your beans (or peas).

Harvesting Cowpeas

Close-up of a male hand plucking the pods of Cowpea leguminous plants against a blurred background of a sunny garden. Pods are thin, long, green, contain 10-15 small edible seeds.
Harvest cowpeas when the pods are 6-10 inches lengthy, both immature or dry.

You may select to reap inexperienced pods (which are literally immature pods) or wait till all of the beans are dry on the plant. You would even harvest someplace in between.

Cowpeas are prepared when the pods are 6-10 inches lengthy, agency, and inexperienced. You may decide the pods proper off the plant or minimize them with scissors.

If you wish to wait till the beans are dry, you possibly can depart them on the plant till each pod is dried. Then, minimize the plant on the base and cling the plant the other way up for a couple of days to ensure they’re undoubtedly dry. Take away the seeds from the seed pods and retailer them.

Storing Cowpeas

Top view, closeup of cowpeas seeds in a large wooden box. Seeds are firm, oval, cream-colored with a smooth shiny surface and with a black halo on each seed.
Retailer dried cowpeas in an hermetic container in a cool, dry place.

Dried beans (technically dry seed) needs to be saved in an hermetic container in a cool, dry place. Be sure moisture can’t get to the beans, otherwise you’ll danger getting them moldy.

In case you decide the pods whereas they’re inexperienced, you possibly can retailer them in containers or freezer baggage within the freezer for a couple of months. Be sure the beans don’t have extra moisture on them in order that they gained’t flip into an ice block. You can even retailer cooked cowpeas in an analogous method and they need to additionally have the ability to final for a couple of months.


You will have some issues whereas rising cowpeas, so let’s speak about them! A lot of them could be prevented if you understand what to look out for.

Rising Issues

Vigna unguiculata on agricultural land. Close-up of a young plant with large, elongated, oval, bright green leaves with smooth edges. The leaves have small pale green and brownish spots.
Test soil temperature, alter moisture ranges, and keep away from extra nitrogen from earlier crops.

There are numerous explanation why your cowpea vegetation don’t produce pods. First, test the soil temperature. Temperatures beneath 65°F or above 90°F aren’t best and are more likely to trigger the vegetation to cease producing pods. Frost covers and shade covers might help you appropriate the temperatures. 

If the soil temperature isn’t the issue, test the water scenario. Soil that’s too dry or moist may cause many issues and stress out the plant. Regulate moisture ranges as wanted.

An excessive amount of nitrogen could possibly be an issue if you happen to’ve grown legumes in the identical spot as cowpeas inside the final three years or if you happen to gave your vegetation an excessive amount of fertilizer this 12 months. You may take in nitrogen by planting leafy greens between your beans and including a layer of wooden chip mulch. Rotate your beans with different crops every year to forestall nitrogen from increase.


Close-up of a Mexican bean beetle on a leaf, against a blurred green background. The Mexican bean bug is a small, yellowish-orange beetle with black spots and long, spiny legs that feeds on leguminous plants.
Mexican bean beetles are a standard pest that may injury and destroy bean vegetation.

The most typical pest discovered on cowpeas is the cowpea curculio. Adults feed on pods and seeds, which smash the crops. Additionally they lay their eggs contained in the pods, and the larvae will eat their manner out. 

Prevention is essential – eliminate the adults earlier than they lay eggs! It’s frequent to spray pesticides as a preventative measure. For a pure strategy, attempt eradicating them by hand or spraying neem oil to suffocate them. Encourage useful bugs that eat the curculio (like tachinid flies) by planting yarrow, asters, feverfew, and oxeye daisy. 

Different pests you may encounter prefer to suck sap from leaves, stems, and pods. Mexican bean beetles and bean leaf beetles are more likely to be round for the legumes, whereas aphids and inexperienced stink bugs might be attracted by different vegetation however feast on cowpeas simply because they will.

Most of those pests can simply be eliminated with water or by hand, and neem oil can be fairly efficient. You can even search for pesticides that may goal particular pests.

Cornstalk borers will solely be current if you happen to even have corn planted, so planting cowpeas and corn away from one another will assist. Weevils are solely a storage downside and could be averted by utilizing an hermetic container.

Disadvantageous nematodes trigger nodules on roots and yellowing and wilting foliage. Useful nematodes could be added to the soil to kill the nematodes. You can even take away roots from previous vegetation and add natural matter to the soil to assist scale back the inhabitants.


Close-up of leaves of a Cowpea plant affected by mosaic virus in a garden. The leaves are large, elongated, oval in shape, with pointed tips. Dark green leaves with yellow-green mottling
The mosaic virus may cause stunted development and decreased yields in cowpeas vegetation.

Most ailments cowpeas get can’t be reversed, however they are often prevented. As soon as a plant is diseased, it’s finest to take away the plant to forestall it from spreading. You may forestall fungal ailments with a fungicide spray and stop most ailments by holding the pest inhabitants below management.

Frequent ailments that may simply be recognized on the leaves are powdery mildew (white powder), rust fungus (red-brown spots), cercospora leaf spot (brown spots), and mosaic virus (mottled yellow and inexperienced leaves). Fusarium wilt appears to be like just like the plant is dying with wilted crunchy leaves. This may trigger root rot in your crowder pea crops.

Bacterial canker is a goopy-looking lump generally discovered on fruit bushes, however can typically seem on a cowpea plant. Southern stem blight is a fungus that assaults the stem just under the soil line and also can have an effect on each a part of the plant that touches the soil.

Ceaselessly Requested Questions

Q: What’s the distinction between cowpeas and black-eyed peas?

A: Black-eyed peas are cowpeas, and are referred to as that as a result of they seem like they’ve a black eye. Nevertheless, not each cowpea is a black-eyed pea since some are one strong shade.

Q: What are cowpeas used for?

A: Cowpeas are utilized in cooking or as animal fodder.

Q: Why are they referred to as cowpeas?

A: It’s believed that they earned their identify as a consequence of them typically being grown to feed cows they usually have been used as early as 1798!

Q: Are cowpeas edible?

A: Sure! The seeds, pods, and leaves are edible, however you’ll wish to cook dinner the leaves first.

Q: What do cowpeas style like?

A: Cowpeas have an earthy taste that’s a bit nutty.

Q: What’s the distinction between cowpeas and peas?

A: Cowpeas are literally beans, and beans and peas are each legumes, in order that they share many similarities.

Q: Are cowpeas and area peas the identical?

A: Subject peas are simply one other identify for cowpeas.

Q: Do cowpeas add nitrogen to soil?

A: Cowpeas are a legume, in order that they add nitrogen to the soil. They can be utilized as a canopy crop to enhance soil high quality and scale back weed strain.

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