Built-up land in floodplains (BLF) is a vital indicator of the socio-hydrological system, and its dynamics are key to understanding and managing flood risk. However, previous studies have neglected the impacts of BLF growth modes (e.g., patch sizes and expansion types) on flood vulnerability. This paper fills this gap by assessing the BLF's growth modes and revealing their divergent impacts on flood vulnerability using a case study in the Yangtze River Economic Belt (YREB), China. The results show that the BLF has nearly doubled in the YREB during 1990-2014. A considerable proportion (35.43%) of the BLF growth is scattered in small patches (≤1 km2), which have a much stronger correlation with flood occurrence than that of the other patch sizes. In terms of expansion types, the edge-expansion type dominates 57.52% of the BLF growth, followed by the leapfrogging and infilling expansions. Both the leapfrogging and the edge-expanding BLFs are significantly associated with flood occurrence, while the infilling type is not. The patch size and expansion type can thus influence the vulnerability of BLF patches, which is also supported by real-world cases. These findings enrich a general understanding of BLF growth and its impacts on flood vulnerability. The scientific community and policymakers should pay attention to not only the quantity of BLF growth, but also its spatial arrangement.