Growing Sweet Peas


Sweet pea Sweet Pea Sweet pea



How to Grow Sweet Peas

red wheel barrow sweet peas need growing attentionSweet Peas, latin name Lathyrus odoratus,  look just fantastic as the images above show but even better they are one of the most sweetly scented of garden plants. Sweet peas are long flowering and provide colour, scent and flowers to pick for months.  Sweet peas are not difficult to grow but they need regular attention throughout the summer by
dead heading, removing tendrils and watering during dry spells, which is why they are tagged with a red wheelbarrow. Sweet peas are rewarding for their fantastic scented flowers.
The down side to growing sweet peas is they are time consuming, and Colour Coded red. The most important task is to dead head the flowers as they fade and form seed head, this ensures the Sweet Peas flowering for a long season. If sweet peas are not regularly dead headed their blooms will get fewer and fewer, dead heading keeps the plant going and I have picked sweet peas  right through to October.

Video How to plant and grow sweet peas 

Growing Sweet Peas

 Sweet Peas are easy to germinate and buying seed gives a wider  choice of fragrance and colour, but it is more time consuming. Many of the garden centres sell Sweet Peas seeds in mixed colours which is good, but it is also nice to have some single colours to contrast and complement other summer flowering plants. This type of sweet pea is an annual which means it will only flower for one season. There is a perennial sweet pea called Lathyrus latifolius which looks very similar to the annual variety, however select this sweet pea with care as many are not scented, and do not carry the sweet scent of the annual sweet pea.

Commonly Sweet Peas are seeded in Feb/March. Sweet Peas need heat to germinate and need to be placed on warm windowsill or heated propagator, about 15C/ 59F. When growing Sow sweet peasSweet Peas,  the choice of container is important; Sweet Peas have long roots which means it's important to plant them into a deep container not a regular pot. You can use either root trainers sold by all garden centres, or cheaper and just as easy, toilet roll holders.  Put two/three seeds into the container placing the seed near the top to give plenty of room for the roots to grow down. Sprinkle with a light covering of compost, spray with water so moist not too wet and place in a warm place. It's essential for germination to cover with a lid or clear polythene. Germination should occur within a few days and as soon as the sweet pea seedling is a few centimetres above the soil, if in a heated propagator remove so as to prevent the seedling getting too warm which will make it sappy and not very sturdy. Only use the heat to speed up germination.

Sweet Peas can also be successfully germinated in the Autumn in a warm conservatory and the moved into an unheated greenhouse for the winter. Provided the Sweet Peas are protected from frost under glass they will do well over the winter and produce sturdy Sweet pea close up growth points nipped outplants for the Spring. Autumn sown Sweet peas tend to flower earlier and by sowing in Autumn and Spring the flowering season is extended.

With young Sweet Peas  at the seedling stage, pinch out the growing tips to make the seedling bush and produce more growing tips which will in the summer make more flowers.  The image left shows the young sweet peas and you will see on every one the top has been removed. This makes the sweet pea throw out more shoots and so have multiple stems not just one. Autumn sown sweet peas, and peas I sow early in the season I often nip out the top growth a couple of times before planting out.

When planting out sweet peas pick a sunny spot, and they like moisture retentive soil which needs to be enriched with compost or other organic matter.  If you encounter any problems growing sweet peas the most common problem is powdery mildew, a fungus which leaves white powder on the leaves. This fungus is much more likely to attack the plant if it is dry so it is important to water sweet peas especially in any dry periods.


Tips on growing sweet peas

When growing Sweet peas the young plants need to be tied in regularly as they grow up the support. Don't make the mistake of letting the tendrils support the plants. It is really  important when growing sweet peas, to pay attention to the tendrils. The image illustrates tendrils, they are the thin stems without flowers running off the plant which wind and cling to the support, and each other.


Sweet-pea-tendrilsThe presence of tendrils can suggest the plant is clinging,  and so will support itself  via tendrils. In one way it can, but if it is left to do this unchecked, as the Sweet Peas mature, the tendrils grab or catch other parts of the Sweet Pea plant, or adjacent plants,  which causes the plant to become bunched, which twists the stems so the Sweet Peas don't have those lovely long stems. Towards the end of the season, the Sweet Peas can look a mess all bunched up and matted together. If the tendrils are allowed to grow, instead of growing up the obelisk with nice stems, the Sweet Peas will bunch up into a tangled mess. When growing Sweet Peas, every week remove 90% of the tendrils. This may mean in the early days of growing you need to tied in the plants to give them some support, other than the tendrils.

It is also essential  when growing sweet peas to pick the flowers regularly  and don't allow any seed pods to form. If seed pods form the plants will stop flowering so remove  and deadhead to ensure the Sweet Peas continue to flower throughout the Summer . If the weather is dry Sweet Peas need watering. The decision whether to grow sweet peas is really a question of how much you like them and how much time you have. Sweet Peas are definitely colour coded red. Even though they are high maintenance, I grow them every year as the colours and scents are just irresistable. Growing up through obelisk in the garden they make a great summer feature in the garden.