At least four of the species have been domesticated since pre-Columbian times for their beans. Most prominent among these is the common bean, P. vulgaris, which today is cultivated worldwide in tropical, semitropical and temperate climates.
Previous classifications placed in this genus a number of other well known species that have now been removed to genus Vigna, sometimes necessitating a change of species name. For example, older literature refers to the mung bean as Phaseolus aureus, whereas more modern sources classify it as Vigna radiata.
Phaseolus species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Common Swift, Garden Dart, Ghost Moth Hypercompe albicornis, Hypercompe icasia, the Nutmeg and various caterpillar species. Snail Flower was discovered in 1753 and in 1970 moved from the genus family of Phaseolus to the Vigna family.