How Hardy Are Sweet Peas

As annual plants, sweet peas (Lathryus odoratus) complete their whole life cycle in a single growing season. This traditional flower germinates well in cool environments, but if the plants are not covered, frost and freezing temperatures can cause damage to sweet peas. Direct sow sweet peas outdoors in late fall in warmer areas to enhance winter and spring blooms. Young seedlings can survive cold snaps if they are shielded from abnormally low temperatures.


Sweet peas can withstand a slight frost, but immature seedlings can freeze in temperatures below 25 degrees Fahrenheit. To ensure your cutting garden flowers will endure chilly nights in the early spring, protect sweet peas when low temperatures are anticipated.

Sweet peas can withstand how much cold?

According to Gardeners’ World (opens in new tab), sweet peas should be treated like any other non-hardy annual: “Plant your sweet peas outside starting in late May, after all danger of frost has passed. Put them outside throughout the day and bring them inside at night to harden them off before planting.

The most recent edition of Sarah Raven’s podcast (opens in new tab) claims, however, that “Sweet peas are hardy and can go in the garden from the middle of March.”

Confused? So were we up till we learned the RHS’s excellent sweetpea-growing tips (opens in new tab) (watch in the video above). Sweet peas are in fact “extremely tough,” says Propagation Leader Sam Gallivan, and they can withstand frosts “with no issue at all.” They do struggle with extended cold and rainy times, though. Your young sweet pea plants could perish if you reside in a region where early spring can bring both low temperatures just above freezing and a lot of rain.

Because of this, you have two options: either hold off and plant them outside in April when the weather will be warmer, even if it rains, or keep them in a cold frame until the chilly showers stop. However, sweet peas are typically categorized as half-hardy annuals and can withstand dry frost up to -4C. (25F). You will need to cover them with horticultural fleece in the event that temps fall below that.

In the UK, are sweet peas hardy?

Sweet peas are a robust annual, so they can withstand cold temperatures, including a light frost if it is below freezing. They can withstand a regular cold down to about -4 degrees and are tougher than they appear. Sweet peas only need to be protected, such as with a fleece, if a heavy frost or extended period of low temperatures is predicted.

Do not wait until it is too late to grow sweet peas because they are hardy. Sweet peas can be sown beginning in March. The sweet peas grow best when tied to a structure, like a trellis or an obelisk.

Remove the tendrils and don’t allow them grow unchecked if you want straight stems and sweet peas that grow up the frame rather than a tangled clump. Why? See how to give sweet peas straight stems.

Don’t let the seed head form; keep plucking sweet peas. Check at the picture where the seed pod is ringed in red if you have any questions about seed pods. The sweet pea will reward you with increasingly more blossoms if you remove all seed heads as they develop.

Can sweet peas withstand UK frost?

Sweet Peas in the Cold Annual sweet peas can withstand frost. Therefore, if a “typical” nighttime frost in the range of -1 to -4 degrees centigrade is predicted, there is no need for concern.

Do sweet peas reappear in the spring?

Although Lathyrus odoratus, the most popular sweet pea variety, is an annual, there are also perennial forms available (Lathyrus latifolius).

  • 1. Annual sweet peas are plants that go through their entire life cycle in a single growing season. They grow, produce seeds, and perish within the span of a year, just like other annual crops. The next year, you must replant new plants in your garden if you want to grow them again. The majority of sweet pea species are annuals.
  • 2. Perennial sweet peas: These flowers reappear each year. After the growth season is over, you don’t need to replant them because they will keep growing for a longer period of time. Although there are fewer types of perennial sweet peas available and they tend to lack the traditional sweet pea aroma, they may be simpler to grow.

Should I protect my peas from frost?

Although the pea plant can withstand mild temperatures, late spring frost can harm the blossoms and pods of the pea plant. The plants become vulnerable as they start to blossom and bear fruit. If there is a chance of frost, keep an eye on the forecast and take precautions to safeguard the plants. This can be avoided by planting your pea plants sufficiently late in the growing season. Plant peas 70 to 90 days prior to the date of the region’s typical earliest hard frost, depending on the variety. This should prevent flowers from blooming while a heavy frost is still a threat.

Choosing sweet peas and perennial peas

The major consideration is whether or not aroma is crucial to you when deciding between perennial Lathyrus and sweet peas. Decide if you would then like an annual or perennial plant. There are several color choices available as well as climbing and bushier varieties.


Choose sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus), which are generally very fragrant, if you enjoy a pleasant garden and sweet-smelling flowers for indoor use.

Lord Anson’s blue pea (Lathyrus nervosus), a perennial Lathyus, is an exception to the rule since it does have a perfume.

How long the plant lasts

After setting seed, sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus) only have a one-year lifespan. However, don’t let this deter you because they are quite simple to grow from seed. Lathyrus latifolius is an example of a perennial species that returns every year, however there are fewer options and they typically lack smell.


The annual sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus) has a large variety of blossom colors, including bicolored varieties. However, the perennial varieties do come in some uncommon colors, like yellow and orange.


The majority of Lathyrus are climbing plants, therefore support them with canes, netting, or allow them to climb over a bank or through a bush. For ground cover and pots, clumping varieties like the spring-flowering Lathyrus vernus and dwarf bushy sweet pea varieties like “Snoopea” and “Bijou Mixed” are excellent choices.

Buying sweet peas and perennial peas

Although many garden centers also sell a few sweet pea seeds in packets, the largest assortment of sweet pea seeds may be acquired from internet seed suppliers. In the spring, several nurseries and garden centers sell pots of germinated sweet pea seedlings that can be divided into individual plants and raised in pots before being planted outside.

There are a few seed specialists who sell perennial Lathyrus seeds, like Lathyrus latifolius, but many gardeners opt to purchase the plants instead. The plant you’re looking for can be found using our Find a Plant tool.

When to plant sweet peas and perennial peas

  • Annual sweet peas should be sown either in late January or early April and planted out in April.
  • Sow perennial Lathyrus in the spring or the fall.

Where to plant sweet peas and perennial peas

Locate a sunny area where there is room for the plant to grow or to bush out (depending on its habit). Also acceptable is a little light shade, especially for Lathyrus grandiflorus.

How to plant sweet peas and perennial peas

  • To avoid cold shock, indoor seedlings should be hardened off for 10–14 days before being transplanted outside.
  • Ideally, four weeks before planting, enhance the soil by incorporating a soil conditioner like garden compost or manure.
  • Sprinkle general-purpose fertilizer, as directed on the pack, into the area where you plan to plant it, such as Growmore, Vitax Q4, or blood, fish, and bones.
  • Before planting, water your plants thoroughly to hydrate the roots.
  • Remove pots from larger plants and ease seedlings out of modules or pots while being careful not to snap or crush the stems.
  • Plants should be separated by 20–30 cm (8–1 ft).
  • Place climbing plants near to their intended support (within 5-7.5cm or 2-3in), with two plants at the foot of each cane if they are climbing a wigwam.
  • After planting, water once more to help the soil surrounding the roots settle.

Use garden twine or sweet pea support rings to secure young climbing plant shoots to canes, pea sticks, netting, trellis, or shrub shoots that they will be growing up. Tendrils in contact with supports will naturally start to cling on, but if any are straying or in danger of snapping, keep tying in new shoots.

In dry weather, check on plants in the ground every 3 to 4 days and on those in containers every day because they won’t flower as well if they become too dry. Each time you water, be sure to use enough water to completely moisten the roots.

Apply a high potassium liquid fertilizer, such as tomato feed, once or twice a week on light or infertile soils. This promotes flowering, particularly in annual sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus).

Pick or remove dead flower heads as frequently as you can once flowering starts. For annual sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus), which will stop flowering if seedpods are allowed to form, this is especially crucial.

Pinching out

When plants are around 7.5 to 10 cm tall, pinch out the shoot tips of new spring-sown sweet peas for gardening (3-4in). This promotes robust side branching. Autumn-planted seedlings frequently naturally branch.


Pick the strongest shoot and keep pinching out all the tendrils and other sideshoots as they grow whether you want to enter your sweet peas in a local show or just want to maximize the size of blossoms for cutting. By using this technique, the plant directs its attention to the blossoms. The term “cordons” is used to describe these single-stemmed plants.

One stem per bamboo cane or tall stake needs to be tied to them on a regular basis. To keep the shoot in place as it grows, you can use twine looped in a figure-eight pattern around the cane and stem. Use sweet pea rings, which are wire loops that wrap around the stem and cane and are lightly squeezed until they hold, to make things simpler.

Cordons have the potential to grow much taller than the typical 2 m (6 1/2 ft) estimated height.

Cutting back

Cut perennial Lathyrus back to the ground in the fall, or better still, wait until February to do it so the dead stems can serve as wintertime cover for wildlife. When flowering is ended at the end of the summer, annual sweet peas can simply be pulled out and composted. This might happen a little bit sooner during hot, dry seasons.


Sweet peas can be immediately sown into the ground in April, or they can be planted in seed compost pots in the fall or spring. Although it takes more time, pot-sowing is typically more dependable than direct sowing. If you plant in the fall to enhance your chances of getting early blooms, keep seedlings in a coldframe or cold greenhouse over the winter to protect them from growing lanky. Keep the coldframe’s lid elevated unless a strong frost is anticipated. Sweet peas planted in the spring flower in 12–14 weeks.

Sweet pea seeds frequently have a tough outer covering that makes them more challenging to germinate. Place your seeds on a layer of damp vermiculite or kitchen tissue and store them in an airtight container in a warm area. As soon as the seeds swell or start to sprout, plant them. Some gardeners like to soak the seeds overnight instead, but if you don’t plant them right away thereafter, they might rot. With a sharp penknife, chip off a little portion of the hard seed coat to allow moisture to enter and promote germination on recalcitrant seeds that haven’t swelled.

  • Individually sow seeds in seed compost-filled rootrainers or 9 cm (3 in) pots. As an alternative, sow five to seven seeds per 13 cm (5 in) pot, spacing them 2-3 cm (3/4-11/4 in) apart.
  • Add 1 cm (1/2 in) of vermiculite or compost to the top of the seeds.
  • Add water and maintain at around 15C. (59F)
  • It is optional to cover the pots with clear polythene or glass to reduce the likelihood that they will dry out, but keep in mind to remove the covering after the seeds have germinated.
  • Once they have grown to around 3.5 cm (11/2 in), carefully transplant single seedlings into 9cm (3 in) pots if you have seeded them several to a pot.
  • Use your thumb and finger to pinch out (remove) the top of the shoot just above a healthy leaf when the seedlings are 7.5–10cm (3–4in) tall. This will promote side branches, which are always stronger than the core stem that has been removed.
  • At least four weeks before planting, remove all weeds from the soil and add a soil enhancer, such as garden compost, manure, or composted bark.
  • Only plant seeds as the soil begins to warm, typically around April.
  • To create a wigwam, plant any temporary supports, like pea sticks or bamboo canes, in the ground.
  • Take out a shallow drill of dirt 2.5 cm (1 in) deep for rows of sweet peas, and plant a seed every 5 to 7.5 cm in it (2-3in)
  • Seedlings should eventually be spaced 20–30 cm (8–1 ft) apart to provide the plants enough room to flourish. The extra seedlings may seem like a waste to compost, but unless treated carefully, their roots are typically too damaged to recover.
  • Push two seeds into the ground at the base of each cane to a depth of 2.5 cm (1 in) when sowing around a wigwam of canes.

Perennial peas

In the spring or the fall, divide bigger plants. If you want to divide Lathyrus vernus in the spring, wait until after flowering.

Unfortunately, very few of the issues with sweet peas and perennial peas are extremely problematic.

  • Powdery mildew, which is brought on by drought or insufficient hydration, results in a grey leaf coating.


  • From March to May, you can easily plant your young sweet pea plants outside. Before planting out, sweet pea seeds sown in the winter or autumn need to be potted up into larger containers. Spring-sown seeds can be transplanted from their rootrainers.


  • Pick your sweet peas, then put them in indoor vases. Remove the seed pods from your sweet peas to continue deadheading them. You’ll need to harvest and deadhead them frequently when they’re at their height.