Where To Grow Sweet Peas

One of the best plants for cutting, sweet peas (officially known as Lathyrus odoratus) offer tempting colors and aroma for spring and early summer bouquets. The tiny flowers emit a grape-like fragrance into the air and come in a variety of beautiful colors. We enlisted the assistance of Barb Pierson, our nursery manager, to provide some guidance for individuals who have never grown Sweet Peas in a garden or a container pot. Any beginner or green thumb can benefit from a plentiful supply of these lovely flowers thanks to her advice.

Why do people grow Sweet Peas?

Sweet peas are cultivated for their lovely, ruffled blossoms, which come in pastel, blue, and bicolor hues. They are a beautiful cut flower since many types have scented blooms. The cultivation and breeding of sweet peas for both the home grower and the florist industry has a long history.

How do I go about growing Sweet Peas?

Sweet peas can be grown from seed that is treated before sowing or, more conveniently, from a starting plant. At White Flower Farm, we plant three seeds in each pot to create three Sweet Pea vines.

Where do I plant them and when?

In the northern half of the US, sweet peas flourish in the full sun. They can benefit from afternoon shade in the South. They are planted as early as possible in the spring since they prefer mild temperatures and cool roots. Newly planted seedlings will not be harmed by a mild cold. They can be sown in the fall and cultivated through the winter and early spring in highly warm climates. Compost should be added to the soil, and the area should be well-drained for optimal results. Sweet peas can be successfully grown in raised beds.

Do they need any special care while they are growing?

Sweet peas require support to grow and flower because they are climbing plants. Many other kinds of structures, like a trellis, supports made of mesh or wire, or fences, can be used. To sustain the weight of the vines, they require a sturdy framework that is firmly planted in the ground. The vegetation will develop tendrils that encircle the support you offer.

Since they like nutrient-rich soil, adding compost at planting time is advised. Mulching Sweet Peas will keep the roots cool and help them retain moisture as they grow.

Pinch the growth tips by one after the plants have reached a height of around six to encourage branching and the development of extra flowering stems.

What are the most common mistakes that people make with Sweet Peas?

  • planting them in the middle of the summer They dislike the heat and won’t blossom as frequently.
  • not offering assistance when planting. Once the plants have begun to grow, it is challenging to install your trellis or support.
  • Lack of compost or fertilizer will cause weak plants and fewer flowers in poor soil.
  • If Sweet Peas are planted too closely together without being thinned out, powdery mildew can grow and crowding lowers bloom production.

Do Sweet Peas produce pods that you can eat like the ones you find in the grocery store?

Despite having the appearance of snap pea pods, the seed pods are not edible. The pods and seeds can be saved in order to grow plants the following year. Remember that the plants that the seeds may grow may not be the same hue as the parent plant.

Will the plants come back again next year?

The plants are typically not winter hardy in most areas. They are replanted with new seed and plants even in warm climates to produce the most flowers and have robust development.

When do they bloom? Are there tips for getting extra blossoms?

Sweet peas will begin to blossom 4 to 6 weeks after they begin to show apparent vining. Whether or not the plants have been pulled back will affect the timing of the bloom. Although pinching may slightly limit growth, it will result in bushier plants with more flowers. In the spring and early summer, sweet peas will grow and bloom more quickly as the days lengthen. Compost or old dry manure can aid to supply nutrients for the growth of huge, many blooms. A fertilizer with a phosphorus to nitrogen ratio greater than one can also increase flower production.

What is the process for cutting the blooms?

Cut the blossoms early in the day to prevent the sun from drying them off. For your vase, select newly opened flowers with the longest stems. Just the side flowering stems of the plant should be clipped; leave the main stem alone.

Why should I get my Sweet Peas from White Flower Farm?

No seed treatment or waiting for germination is necessary because our plants are grown in our greenhouses in the spring and supplied to you at the ideal time for planting in your region. Our sweet peas arrive completely rooted and ready to plant in the ground in 4 pots, each containing 3 seedlings. You can avoid the time and hassle of starting sweet peas from seed by doing this. The quickest method to enjoy these beautiful flowers outdoors and in vases within your house is to purchase and plant our Sweet Pea seedlings.

Where do sweet peas thrive in nature?

Sweet peas are one of the few annual flowers with enduring appeal and rural charm. They appear to be the exact opposite of our hurried life as they twine languidly around a rustic trellis. Sweet peas are fantastic flowers for gardens and bouquets thanks to their alluring scent. For information on how to plant and care for sweet peas, read our Sweet Pea Growing Guide!

About Sweet Peas

The sour pea Lathyrus odoratus is an annual flower that looks great twining on a trellis or arch, growing in a cutting garden, border garden, or woods. Today, a wide variety of hues, from pearly white to ice cream pastels to ritzy magentas and inky purples, are available for the blooms.

Only their honey and orange blossom fragrance matches their delicate winged flowers. Their appeal has been ensured by the combination of their exquisite aroma and their capacity to generate a large number of flowers for the house over an extended time of cutting.

One of the keys to cultivating sweet peas is to sow them early. Sweet peas are incredibly tough, despite the way they appear fragile. Plant them in very late winter or early spring in USDA Hardiness Zone 7 or colder, as soon as the soil is dry enough to work with. (Don’t plant seeds after the last frost.

When Dr. Robert Uvedale, a teacher from Enfield, Middlesex, received seeds of this exceedingly fragrant annual in 1699 from a Sicilian monk named Francis Cupani, he brought the first sweet peas to Britain. In North America, they gained enormous popularity as garden plants and cut flowers. By the late 1800s, producers in California, especially W. Atlee Burpee, were exporting trainloads of sweet peas across the nation and creating numerous new varieties.

Some people liken the process of producing sweet peas to that of preparing pie dough. Some individuals are gifted, while others are not. This plant sprouts from large, manageable seeds that resemble peas. They are still rather challenging since they take a while to germinate. It’s worthwhile to experiment with various seeds every year.

When to Plant Sweet Peas

  • Sweet peas should be planted as soon as the soil is dry enough to work in very late winter or early spring in most places where frosts occur frequently (Zone 7 and colder). (Start sowing before the last frost! Most certainly, it will be too late.)
  • Plant sweet peas in the late fall (November) if you garden in a region with a mild winter climate (Zones 8, 9, or 10), so they can grow and blossom in the late winter and early spring. Six weeks before you plant the seeds, dig a trench and fill it with compost or well-rotted manure to obtain the greatest show. Sweet peas are gregarious plants that require a lot of nutrient-rich materials to flourish.

Sowing Sweet Peas Indoors

  • Start sweet peas inside in a seed tray to get a head start on the season in the coldest regions of the nation. Sweet peas can withstand light frosts, so plant out as soon as the soil can be worked in early spring, around 6 to 7 weeks before the last date for frost.
  • The seeds’ outer layer is softened and helped to germinate by soaking them overnight. Using a nail file to lightly score the outer shell can also be beneficial.
  • 2 seeds to a module is fine to sow the seeds, but keep in mind that their lengthy roots have a propensity to tangle and can make separation challenging. Sow the seeds around half an inch deep in each cell of a seed tray.
  • Scoop them out gently after they start to sprout their first pea-like leaves and place them in a larger container to harden off. One of the most reputable growers of sweet peas gave me the following piece of advice: “Treat the seedlings like I would treat my husband: put them in an unheated greenhouse, neglect them, and they will thrive.
  • Plant them outside as soon as the soil can be worked.

Sowing Seeds in the Ground

  • Sweet peas thrive when their roots are firmly planted in cold, wet soil and their heads are exposed to sunlight. Plant low-growing annuals in front of them if you can to provide shade for the roots.
  • Pick a spot that drains effectively. If your soil tends to be acidic, it is recommended to add some powdered lime to the surface.
  • Mix liberal amounts of compost or well-rotted manure into the ground to a depth of two feet to create a rich soil. (Learn more about adding amendments to the soil and getting it ready for planting.)
  • You should dig a beautiful, deep “compost trench” that is around 4 inches deep before planting.
  • After digging the trench, use a pencil to cut holes, place the seeds inside, and then press down on the earth to compact it and block out any light.
  • The seeds should be soaked in water for 24 hours prior to sowing. To hasten sprouting, nick the seeds with a nail file before planting. In a temperate climate, seeds don’t need to be soaked.

How to Grow Sweet Peas

  • Depending on the soil temperature, germination after planting can take anywhere from 7 to 15 days.
  • Fill in the trench gradually as the seedlings appear and develop. Hoe additional dirt toward them.
  • Keep the soil wet. Summer rains may be plentiful. Sweet peas can have bud drop; if you stick your finger into the soil bed to its first joint and the soil is dry, water them at the soil level and do so in the morning.
  • You won’t need to fertilize if you plant with a lot of compost and aged manure. Use high potash feeds if you do want to supplement the diet because nitrogen feeds promote excessive top development.
  • Mulch well once plants are planted to keep the soil cool and moist. Unless the soil becomes dry, you might not need to water your sweet peas if you mulch.
  • Pinch off the tops when plants are 6 inches tall, not sooner, as this will promote the production of side shoots too early.

Provide Supports

  • When temperatures rise above 65°F, sweet peas will begin to fade since they like chilly days and nights.
  • Sweet peas are true climbers, with the exception of the bush forms. Provide them with sufficient support for at least 6 feet. Some species can reach heights of nine or ten feet. A braided willow obelisk, bamboo poles in the tee-pee design, or a trellis are examples of other attractive supports. If you don’t have a fence or trellis, give them something to cling on, such chicken wire, bushy twigs, or brush.
  • Give the plants a good start by tying the first few stems to the support; the rest will follow. When they reach a height of 4 to 8 inches, use your thumb and forefinger to pinch out the middle growing point. Plants will grow stronger as a result.

Picking Flowers

  • Pick flowers frequently for bouquets so that the plant will focus its energy on producing additional blooms rather than seeds. Up until the first frosts, the more you pick, the more they produce.
  • Allow a couple of the final blossoms to mature into seedpods when the leaves begin to lose their color. On a windowsill, dry them, and then keep in an envelope in a dry location to sow the following year.

From miniature bedding kinds ideal for pots and borders without support to 8-foot-plus scramblers, there are sweet pea varieties for every setting.

These decorative peas are native to Sicily, where they have flimsy stems and a powerful orange-jasmine-honey aroma. Modern hybrids feature larger blooms and stronger stalks.

However, some of these contemporary kinds, despite having larger blossoms and more fashionable colors, lack the earlier sweet peas’ perfume. Sweet pea ‘Cupani’ is still rightfully well-liked and simple to grow. It has bi-colored flowers with maroon upper petals and violet “wings.”

The decadently fragrant “America” is an antique from 1896. When its petals open, beautiful red and white wavy stripes are revealed.

Look for antiques like the Sicilian “Old Spice” collection. Shades of white, cream, pink, lavender, and purple can be seen in this strain’s blossoms.

A new cultivar with enormous, creamy-yellow blooms with violet shading called “April in Paris” is aromatic.

Although the ordinary sweet pea is an annual, Lathyrus latiflolius, a perennial broad-leaved everlasting pea, is not fragrant. These clambering plants have a height of up to 6 or 7 feet, are hardy to zone 5, require little care, and bloom continuously from year to year.

  • An essential component of a late Victorian garden is the sweet pea. Because of their wide range of colors and aroma, Victorians adored sweet peas.
  • When the dew is still on the flowers in the morning, gather them. Their best aroma is at this time.

Are sweet peas trellis-required?

  • A tough seed coat covers the sweet pea seed. Before planting, immerse the seed in water to promote germination.
  • In the early spring, direct sow seeds in normal soil with full sun. From late fall to early spring, seed in areas without frost.
  • Because they are climbers, sweet peas require a structure they can wrap their tendrils around. They can scale walls, trellises, and even threads. No support is required for dwarf cultivars.
  • The top 6 to 8 inches of soil should be cleared of weeds, and then it should be leveled and smoothed.
  • The majority of plants do well in soils that have had organic matter added. Compost is a beautiful organic material that can be applied to your planting area whenever you like. It has the perfect pH level and nutrient balance. If compost is not available, topdress the soil with 1-2 inches of organic mulch after planting; this mulch will break down into compost over time. Following the growth season, a soil test will reveal what soil amendments are required.
  • Plant seeds 2 inches deep and 3 inches apart, then cover with fine soil.
  • Keep the soil uniformly moist and lightly compacted.
  • Depending on the soil and weather, seedlings will appear in 10–14 days.
  • When plants are 1 to 2 inches tall, thin them so that they may stand 6 inches apart.

How to Grow

  • Keep weeds under control while the plants are growing. Weeds compete with plants for water, space, and nutrients, therefore keep them in check by frequently cultivating or by using a mulch to stop the germination of their seeds.
  • Mulches also support stable soil temperatures and moisture retention. Shredded leaves used as an organic mulch for annual plants give the bed a more natural appearance and, as they decompose over time, enrich the soil. Mulches should never be placed on a plant’s stems to avoid potential decay.
  • The growing season requires roughly 1 inch of rain every week for plants. To determine whether you need to add water, use a rain gauge. The optimum irrigation method is a drip or trickling system that releases water at low pressure directly into the soil. To reduce disease issues, water early in the day if you want to use overhead sprinklers so the foliage has time to dry before dusk. Maintain a moist but not saturated soil.
  • Some protection from strong winds and intense sunlight may be required until plants grow established. Additionally essential is good airflow.
  • Unless the plants exhibit nutrient deficiency, avoid fertilizing. Sweet peas may develop lush foliage instead of blossoms if you fertilize them excessively.
  • To keep plants blossoming, remove spent flower heads.
  • Observe for illnesses and pests. For advice on pest management measures that are suitable for your area, contact your cooperative extension service.
  • In order to prevent disease problems the next year, remove plants that have been killed by frost in the fall.

Growing Tips

  • Sweet pea vines are simple to grow and require minimal maintenance.
  • Sweet peas give flower beds, trellises, and containers a lovely vintage feel in the cold springtime.
  • Flowers with a strong scent are ideal for cutting.
  • When it’s chilly outside, sweet peas thrive. They can withstand a minor frost.

Common Disease Problems

One of the most frequent issues when beginning plants from seed is damping off. The seedling appears healthy when it first emerges, but then it mysteriously begins to droop and die. A fungus that causes damping off is active when there is a lot of moisture present when the soil, air, and temperature are above 68 degrees F. This typically means that the soil is either too moist or heavily fertilized with nitrogen. Burpee advises keeping seedlings moist but not overwatering them, avoiding overfertilizing them, thinnng out seedlings to prevent overcrowding, ensuring the plants have good air circulation, and if you are planting in containers, washing them thoroughly in soapy water and rinsing them in a 10% bleach solution after use.

Downy Mildew is a fungus that eventually affects both sides of the leaves, causing pale gray areas on their undersides. Burpee Rotate crops with plants from a different family, according to advice. Avoid watering from above. Don’t overcrowd plants and make sure there is enough air movement. When plants are damp, stay away from them.

Fasciation: Fasciation is an unnatural flattening of stems that can give them the appearance of being joined. Often, distortion starts to appear in the plant’s base. It usually enters the plant through a wound and is brought on by a virus or bacteria. Burpee advises being extremely cautious when handling plants. Any plants that exhibit disease symptoms should be removed and destroyed.

When the weather is humid, a fungus illness known as powdery mildew develops on the tops of the leaves. The surface of the leaves seems to be white or grayish, and they may curl. Burpee advises giving the plants adequate air circulation through optimum spacing and pruning in order to prevent powdery mildew. For advice on fungicides, get in touch with local cooperative extension service.

Root Rots: Both mature roots and seedlings can develop root rots, which are caused by several pathogens. Burpee advises using crop rotation and avoiding planting closely related crops in the same location for an extended period of time. Grasp and throw away infested plants. Ensure that your soil drains well. For advice, get in touch with your local Cooperative Extension Service.

Rust: Several fungus infections that cause rust-colored patches on stalks and leaves. Burpee advises using crop rotation. Delete the diseased plants. For advice, get in touch with your local Cooperative Extension Service.

Common Pest and Cultural Problems

Aphids: These disease-transmitting sucking insects that feed on the undersides of leaves might be green, red, black, or peach in appearance. On the foliage, they deposit a sticky substance that draws ants. Burpee advises attracting or introducing aphid-eating predators like lady beetles and wasps into your garden. You can also use an insecticidal soap or a powerful spray to wash them away.

Leafminers: These insects make uneven serpentine lines by boring just under the leaf surface. The adults are tiny black and yellow flies, while the larvae are cylindrical yellow maggots. They typically damage the foliage rather than killing the plants. Burpee advises removing the damaged foliage. At the end of the season, make sure to clean up all the trash because sanitation is crucial.

Slugs: These pesky insects consume entire leaves or leave big holes in the vegetation. They feed at night, leaving a slime trail, and are especially problematic in wet weather. Burpee’s Advice Hand select, ideally at night. You can try using cornmeal or beer to lure the slugs into traps. Create a hole in the ground and fill it with a huge cup or bowl to serve as a beer trap. Make sure the object has steep sides so that the slugs can’t escape once they’ve finished. Beer should be poured into the bowl until it is about 3/4 full. The basin should be filled with drowned slugs by morning so that they may be emptied outside for the birds to consume. Put a spoonful or two of cornmeal in a jar and place it on its side close to the plants to create a cornmeal trap. Slugs are drawn to the smell, but since they are unable to digest it, it will kill them. Diatomaceous earth or even coffee grounds can be used to create a barrier around your plants. They are too big to crawl over these.

Spider mites: These minuscule insects, which resemble spiders, are approximately the size of a peppercorn. They can be yellow, brown, black, red, or black. They ingest plant liquids, sucking out chlorophyll and injecting poisons that leave the foliage with white spots. On the plant, webbing is frequently seen. They cause the leaf to stipple, dry, and become yellow. They proliferate swiftly and do best in dry environments. Burpee’s Advice Every other day, a strong spray can help control spider mites. Try using insecticidal soap or hot pepper wax. For advice on miticides, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service.

Thrips: Thrips are little, straw- or black-colored, needle-like insects. They attack flower petals, leaves, and stems while sucking plant liquids. The leaf surface of the plant will show stippling, discolored flecking, or silvering. Numerous illnesses can be transported from plant to plant by thrips. Burpee advises placing sheets of aluminum foil between plant rows to deter many thrips. After the first frost, remove all weeds from the bed and any debris. For information on pest control, contact your cooperative extension service.