How to Grow Sweet Peas

How to Grow Sweet Peas

Sweet peas, also known as Lathyrus odoratus, are a classic garden flower, highly popular for their fragrant, colorful blooms in early spring. These delicate flowers are climbers that can reach up to 6 feet tall, producing clusters of blooms in a range of colors, from pastels to vibrant hues. They are native to the Mediterranean region, and have been cultivated for their fragrance since the 17th century.

In this article on how to grow sweet peas, we’ll be going over everything in detail. Growing sweet peas is a rewarding experience for gardeners of all levels of expertise, as they are relatively easy to cultivate and provide gorgeous blooms for months.

So, let’s get straight into it!

Key Differences between Sweet Peas and Green Peas:

Sweet peas are often confused with edible green peas such as snow/snap peas, but there are some key differences between them. Green peas are grown as vegetables to be eaten, while sweet peas are strictly ornamental flowers for the garden.

snow pea pods
Snow pea pods. Most green peas look superficially similar, but not all are edible.

Green peas are an annual crop that is grown for their edible pods and seeds, while sweet peas are a perennial plant that is grown for their fragrant, pretty flowers. Contrary to what its name might denote, sweet peas possess toxic flowers and seeds, even though their bean pods may look superficially similar to other green peas.

Growing Sweet Pea at Home

Here are 5 detailed steps to grow sweet peas at home:

  1. Choose the right location: Sweet peas need plenty of sunlight and good drainage. When you grow sweet peas, choose a spot in your garden that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight and has well-draining soil. Avoid planting them in a location that is shaded or prone to water-logging.
  2. Prepare the soil: Sweet peas prefer a rich, fertile soil that is slightly alkaline, with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Before planting, loosen the soil to a depth of 12 inches and add organic matter like compost, well-rotted manure, or leaf mold. This will help improve soil structure, drainage, and nutrient availability.
  3. Sow the seeds: Sweet peas can be started from seed in the spring or fall. Soak the seeds in water for 24 hours before planting to speed up germination. Sow the seeds 1 inch deep and 2 inches apart in rows or groups, or in individual pots if you’re starting them indoors. Cover with soil and water well.
  4. Provide support: Sweet peas are climbers that need support to grow. Install a trellis, fence, or string for them to climb on, and attach the vines to the support as they grow. This will prevent them from toppling over and make it easier for you to harvest the blooms.
  5. Water and fertilize regularly: Sweet peas need regular watering to keep the soil moist, but not waterlogged. Water deeply once or twice a week, depending on the weather and soil type. Avoid overwatering, as this can cause root rot and other fungal diseases. Fertilize every 2-3 weeks with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer to encourage healthy growth and blooming.
pink sweet pea flower
Sweet peas come in many colors due to their many cultivars.

Soil Requirements

It is best to grow sweet peas in rich, fertile soil that is slightly alkaline, with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. The soil should be well-draining and high in organic matter. You should not grow sweet peas in heavy, clay soils or soils that are too acidic, as this can affect their growth and health.

sweet pea blooms
Sweet pea blooms in the early summer. They prefer cool weather though.

Ideal Climate

Sweet peas prefer cool, temperate climates, and grow best in areas with moderate temperatures and plenty of sunlight. They can tolerate light frost but may struggle in hot, humid conditions. If you live in a warm, tropical climate, consider to grow sweet peas in the winter or in a shaded location that receives morning sun.

sweet pea stalks
Sweet pea stalks against the sky.

When to Grow Sweet Pea

Sweet peas can be planted in the spring or fall, depending on your location and climate. In most regions, it’s best to grow sweet peas in early spring, after the last frost has passed. Late Feb-March and late Oct-November are good times to plant sweet peas, as the winter climate isn’t too cold around this time.

In warmer areas, you can plant them in the fall for a winter bloom. Be sure to choose a time when the soil is warm and moist, as this will help the seeds germinate and establish quickly.

sweet peas in sunlight

Taking Care of Sweet Pea at Home

Once your sweet peas are established, they need regular care to ensure healthy growth and abundant blooming. Here are 5 points to keep in mind when you grow sweet peas:

  • Prune regularly: Sweet peas benefit from regular pruning to promote bushy growth and prevent legginess. Pinch out the tips of the vines when they reach 4-6 inches long, and remove any dead or yellowing leaves to encourage healthy growth.
  • Deadhead spent blooms: As the sweet peas bloom, remove the spent flowers regularly to encourage more blooms and prevent seed formation. This will help the plant focus its energy on producing more blooms, rather than seed production.
  • Watch for pests and diseases: Sweet peas are susceptible to a range of pests and diseases, including aphids, slugs, snails, and powdery mildew. Keep an eye out for any signs of damage or infection, and treat promptly with organic insecticides or fungicides as needed.
  • Mulch the soil: Adding a layer of mulch around the base of the sweet peas can help retain soil moisture, regulate soil temperature, and suppress weed growth. Use organic materials like straw, leaves, or compost as mulch, and avoid using inorganic materials like plastic or rocks.
  • Enjoy the blooms: Sweet peas are a delight to behold, and their fragrance is a true pleasure. Enjoy the blooms in your garden, and cut them for bouquets to bring indoors. The more you cut the blooms, the more the plant will produce, so don’t hesitate to enjoy them to the fullest.
garden full of sweet peas
A garden full of sweet peas is a pretty sight.

The Final Verdict

Growing sweet peas at home is a fun and rewarding experience for gardeners of all levels. With a few key steps and regular care, you can enjoy the colorful, fragrant blooms of sweet peas for months on end. Whether you grow sweet peas in your garden or in containers, be sure to provide them with plenty of sun, rich soil, and regular watering and fertilizing, and enjoy the beauty and fragrance they provide.

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