- How to grow sweet peas
- Great sweet pea varieties to grow
- Why Don’t My Sweet Peas Flower – How To Get Sweet Peas Blooming
- Why Don’t My Sweet Peas Flower?
- How to Get Sweet Peas Blooming Again
- Lathryrus odoratus
- What Are Sweet Pea Flowers?
- Cultivation and History
- How to Grow: Pinch for More
- Growing tips
- Pruning and Maintenance
- Cultivars to Select
- Managing Pests and Diseases
- Sweet Pea Quick Reference Growing Chart
- Best Uses
- Vintage but Relevant
- Sweet Peas
- Sweet Pea Flower Meaning, Images (Pictures) – How to Grow?
- How to grow sweet peas from seed
How to grow sweet peas
We all associate sweet peas with bunches of sweetly scented blooms that offer flower after flower in summer. However, the genus offers perennial types as well as the familiar annuals (Lathyrus odoratus) that are grown for picking.
More expert advice on growing sweet peas:
- 10 sweet peas to grow
- How to sow sweet pea seeds
- How to sow sweet peas in pots
- Best sweet peas for cut flowers
- Best sweet peas for scent
- Grandiflora sweet peas to grow
- How to prolong sweet peas
Perennial varieties may be unscented but they are hardy and reliable garden plants.
Picking continuously will encourage more flowers and prevent plants from setting seed. Lathyrus odoratus ‘Starlight’
Where to plant sweet peas
Annual sweet peas should be planted in an open, sunny position in a well-drained but moisture-retentive soil.
Perennial types, such as the non-climbing hardy perennial Lathyrus vernus, prefer a position of dappled shade.
Perennial climbers, such as the everlasting sweet pea (Lathyrus latifolius, Lathyrus rotundifolius and L. grandiflorus), require a support to scramble up and a position of sun or light shade. They’re ideal for growing up an old tree stump and they will tolerate very alkaline soils.
The perennial types prefer to be grown in the garden, whereas annuals can be grown in pots if planted in a good compost with a slow-release fertiliser mixed in.
Lathyrus odoratus ‘Lady Turrell’
How to plant sweet peas
Annual sweet peas can be grown from seed or bought as plug plants in spring. Avoid planting them in the garden until the danger of frost has passed. Plant them under a support, such as a wigwam made of bamboo canes. Annual types will grow to about 2m in height. Water in well until they’ve put on good growth. Space them about 20cm apart.
As with the annual types, perennial sweet peas should be planted in a humus-rich soil. Water in well until established.
Sowing sweet pea seeds
How to propagate sweet peas
Annual sweet peas are easy to grow from seed in either November or spring. A propagator will encourage even germination. If sowing in November ensure you have the room to grow them on in a frost-free place until spring.
To help activate germination nick the seed coat with a knife, avoiding the ‘eye’ area. Either sow seed in 9cm pots (3 to a pot), in root trainers or trays. Sow the seed in a good quality seed compost. Rub out the lumps from the compost. Seeds need to be covered with 0.5cm of compost and watered so it’s damp and not wet. Then place the seed tray or pots in the propagator and keep at about 15°C. If growing without a propagator cover the pots or trays with a sheet of glass until you see signs of germination.
Watch Monty Don’s video guide to growing sweet peas from seed:
If seeds have been sown in pots or root trainers then they won’t need pricking out. Plants shouldn’t be planted out in the garden until all danger of frost has passed. Before planting harden them off by putting them out in the day and returning them to a frost-free place at night. Seeds can be sown directly into the garden in late April as an alternative. However, when you grow your sweet peas, pinch out the top of seedlings when they reach about 10cm to encourage bushy growth.
Sweet peas: problem solving
Young seedlings are prone to slug and snail damage when first planted into the garden. Try beer traps, copper bands, or the biological control, Nemaslug. Find out more about keeping slugs and snails away.
Lathyrus odorata ‘America’
Looking after sweet peas
Perennial sweet peas require very little care and are simply cut right back in autumn. Annual sweet peas require training up a suitable support and can be grown as cordons.
Watch David Hurrion’s No Fuss video guide to tying in sweet peas:
Picking continuously will encourage more flowers and prevent plants from setting seed. Water annual in very dry weather.
Saving sweet pea seeds
Seed can be collected in early September. Leave the seed pods on the plants until they have turned a paper bag colour. Collect them on a dry day, remove them from their pods and store in paper bags in a dry place until you a ready to sow them.
Lathyrus odoratus ‘Lipstick’
Great sweet pea varieties to grow
- Lathyrus vernus ‘Alboroseus’ – a hardy perennial bush-forming sweet pea that has tiny pink and white flowers in April. Reaches 35cm in height and spread
- Lathyrus latifolius ‘White Pearl’ – perennial climber with pure-white flowers from June to late August. Reaches a height of 2m
- Lathyrus odoratus ‘Matucana’ – hardy annual that is hugely popular and fondly known as the old-fashioned sweet pea. It has scented two-tone purple flowers in summer and is ideal for picking
- Lathyrys odoratus ‘Lipstick’ (pictured) – a wavy-edged, Spencer type with good scent
- Lathyrus odoratus ‘Lord Nelson’ – hardy annual grown for picking. Blue flowers with a highly rated scent in summer. Plants reach 2m
- Lathyrus odoratus ‘Painted Lady’ – hardy annual grown for picking. Bi-coloured blooms of pale and dark pink. Highly scented old-fashioned type. Great for early flowers
Find more great sweet pea varieties to grow here
Why Don’t My Sweet Peas Flower – How To Get Sweet Peas Blooming
My sweet pea flowers are not blooming! It can be frustrating when you’ve done everything you can think of to help your flowers thrive, but they refuse to bloom. Let’s look at a checklist of the requirements for a sweet pea to bloom.
Why Don’t My Sweet Peas Flower?
Sweet pea flowers not blooming? There are several reasons why this happens. To pinpoint the cause in your plant, here are some possibilities to look for:
Are your sweet peas getting enough light? Sweet peas should have direct sunlight for six to eight hours every day. The more light the plants have, the better they flower. And speaking of light, they prefer long days. The ideal day length is 16 hours, followed by eight hours of darkness. Day length isn’t critical, but bear in mind that they may not do their absolute best without long days.
Are you fertilizing them right? All they really need is a little compost, and they won’t even need that if you’re growing them in rich soil. If they get too much nitrogen, they produce lush green foliage at the expense of flowers. Phosphorus, on the other hand, encourages flowers. Lawn fertilizer has a high nitrogen content, so keep it away from your sweet peas.
Are you deadheading your sweet peas? Blossoms should be plucked off as soon as they fade to keep the plant from forming a seed pod. Flowering slows and might even stop if the plants form pods. You don’t have to stand constant watch over them, but visit them every few days to remove the spent blossoms. You might find that you enjoy the task. Take your pruners along so you can gather a few flowers to enjoy indoors.
How to Get Sweet Peas Blooming Again
Of the three factors we’ve discussed, deadheading is the easiest one to fix once you’ve made a mistake. You’ll be surprised how soon you’ll see blossoms once you start deadheading neglected plants.
If you’ve got no blooms on sweet peas because of poor light, you can transplant them to a sunnier location. Bear in mind, though, that sweet peas don’t like to be transplanted in hot weather. In fact, they’ll often die back once the temperatures rise.
Getting blooms on sweet peas once they’ve been hit with high nitrogen fertilizer is more challenging. There is nothing you can add to the soil to correct the problem completely, but adding a high phosphorus fertilizer or bone meal may help some. It might also help to water them as often as possible. Just be careful not to let them become soggy or waterlogged.
A child in a beloved cartoon strip. A mother’s tender nickname for a tiny baby. A character on a TV show popular with young adults.
Sweet peas one and all. All named for the lovely vining annual whose legendary beauty makes us desire to apply its nomenclature to those dearest to us.
Let’s start with the flowers. A delicate, slightly folded petal that resembles a butterfly’s wings surrounds smaller petals that also flutter gracefully in the breeze.
And the colors! Dark pink, light pink, medium pink; lavender, violet, deep purple, red, yellow, white, blue – Mother Nature has been generous to us with her palette of sweet pea flower hues.
She’s painted these blooms variously, with solid colors, in a bicolor fashion, or with streaks or other mottled designs.
And as if that weren’t enough – the fragrance! A blend of honey and orange, some say, while others detect a note of rose. It’s simply the scent of sweet pea, and while it may vary from cultivar to cultivar, it’s nearly always captivating.
The delicate stems and curling tendrils of L. odoratus add to its allure. It’s considered a desirable cut flower, and is often used in arrangements.
Let’s get to know this eponymic plant.
An important note before we get too far: Sweet peas are poisonous to our canine friends. So you might want to avoid planting these where Rover is tempted to snack.
What Are Sweet Pea Flowers?
The sweet pea flower (Lathyrus odoratus) is an annual climbing plant that is in the genus Lathyrus and in the family Fabaceae (legumes). It is native to the Mediterranean including southern Italy, the Aegean Island region, Sicily, and Cyprus.
Most varieties grow between 3 and 7 feet as a vine if supports such as trellises, arbors, fences, or walls are available.
The annual species, L. odoratus, may be confused with the everlasting pea, L. latifolius, which is a perennial.
Cultivation and History
The first written record of this plant appeared in 1695, when monk and amateur botanist Francisco Cupani noted seeing it in northwestern Sicily.
Cupani later sent some seeds off to botanists in England and Holland, one of whom published an article about the flower, which included the first known botanical illustration of L. odoratus. To this day, ‘Cupani’ remains a popular variety of the plant.
Perhaps because of its long history, this plant is considered by some to be old fashioned. But many believe it’s as lovely as ever, and is refreshed often with new, ever-more-beautiful cultivars.
Sweet peas are most commonly started from seed and many folks collect their own seeds from those grown the year prior.
These plants like it cool, so you have to plan carefully based on where you live. They need about 50 days of cool temperatures from planting to blooming. The seeds will germinate in soil temperatures of 55 to 65°F, needing 10 to 14 days for this process.
They can be killed back by hard freezes, but they are fairly cold hardy and can take frost without suffering too much damage.
As a general rule, gardeners in the western United States should direct sow L. odoratus seeds from August forward.
In the drier plains states, Midwest, and northeast non-coastal areas, start seeds indoors for transplanting after the harshest weather has passed and the ground has thawed. Or, direct sow if you’ll have enough not-apocalyptic-but-still-cool-enough days to get from planting to bloom.
Southerners can direct sow in November or December.
Many gardeners have better germination rates if they lightly nick the seeds with nail clippers. If you’re starting seeds indoors, use a good-quality potting mix in small pots, such as jiffy pots.
Different cultivars are planted at different depths so check the back of your seed packet for the recommend planting depth for your specific variety.
Place your pots in a sunny spot, and give them plenty of water, ensuring that there’s good drainage.
Get ‘Em in the Garden
If you started your seeds indoors, begin to harden them off when the plants have three or four pairs of leaves. Move your trays to an outside location that gets direct morning sun and afternoon shade.
After three or four days, move them to a place where they’ll get direct sun all day. After another four or five days, you can transplant the peas to your garden.
When transplanting, pick a sunny or mostly sunny location and prepare the soil by adding compost and turning the entire patch. This will allow the roots to grow deeper while continuing to feed on rich soil.
Most sweet peas types are climbing vines, though you can change that via pinching (more on that in a minute), and furthermore, some cultivars are more bushy (more on that in a minute, too).
Assuming you’re planting a climber – some can grow to six feet tall – place your transplants near a railing, wall, or fence, or construct some other kind of support. This could be a trellis, a frame, or a teepee made of bamboo canes.
If you’ve placed your plants near a railing or wall, you can help them climb by adding support rings to the structure and gently weaving the vines through as they grow.
You could also leave your vines unsupported so they form a ground cover.
This plant needs elbow room for proper air circulation and to ensure the roots don’t get too crowded. Place transplants at least six inches apart for proper growth.
Transplant into a hole the same depth as the container from which you’re moving the plant.
If you’re direct sowing outdoors, plant one to two seeds per hole in fertile, well-drained soil, spaced six inches apart.
How to Grow: Pinch for More
If you’re not growing a bushy cultivar, but you’d like to encourage a more bushy shape, you can train these plants into such a form by pinching.
Pinching back the plant is easy. Just pinch off the stem tip and new leaf growth right above an established set of leaves, using clean shears or the tips of your fingernails.
It’s best to wait to pinch back the plants until they’ve been established outdoors. If they aren’t going to be transplanted, then wait until your sprouts reach about 4 inches.
Keep up the pinching throughout the season when you see vines looking a little leggy, or want to increase the bushiness of your plant.
These plants will go to seed more quickly if the soil is allowed to dry out. Water deeply in the morning once a week, or as needed depending on your local climate and weather conditions.
- Grow when it’s cool outside
- Prefer sun, but will tolerate a bit of shade
- Keep soil moist
Pruning and Maintenance
Deadhead faded flowers and cut away any emerging seed pods. This will prolong blooming and helps to keep your plants from going to seed early.
Another way to prolong the blooming season is to fertilize regularly. Mixing in compost will keep your soil rich and moist, which in turn will feed your sweet peas and encourage strong flowering.
Fertilize once or twice a growing season with a high potash feed, or with a compost tea.
Cultivars to Select
Dozens of L. odoratus cultivars exist today, with plenty to choose from.
‘Royal Family Mix’
You might like to start with a mix of colors, as available in this ‘Royal Family Mix’ from True Leaf Market. This seed mixture produces 5- to 6-foot vines and is available in various quantities.
If fragrance is what you’re after, consider this ‘High Scent’ variety from Burpee. The large white blooms are edged in lavender.
‘Cupani’ Sweet Pea Seeds
Get the original ‘Cupani’ from Nuts n’ Cones via Amazon. You’ll receive a packet of 70 seeds.
‘Little Sweetheart’ Sweet Pea Seeds
If container gardening is your thing, or if space is tight, consider “Little Sweetheart’ from Hirts via Amazon. These plants grow 8 to 14 inches tall.
Managing Pests and Diseases
A few pests can bother this plant. You might see aphids, which can be blasted off with a stream of water. For caterpillars and cutworms, consider sprinkling diatomaceous earth around the base of your plants.
If you see leafminers or thrips, consider traps. For spider mites, try neem oil.
Snails and slugs can be treated with a bait such as Sluggo, available from Amazon.
If plants are packed too tightly or don’t get enough sun, mildew can be a problem. Address this issue by thinning plants and/or applying a fungicide.
Sweet Pea Quick Reference Growing Chart
|Plant Type:||Annual, flowering vine||Flower Color:||White, yellow, deep purple, violet, lavender, blue, pink, red|
|Native To:||The Mediterranean||Maintenance:||Moderate|
|Hardiness (USDA Zone):||2-11||Soil Type:||Rich, organic|
|Bloom Time:||Late winter-early summer, depending on location||Soil pH:||Neutral to slightly alkaline, 7.0-7.5|
|Exposure:||Full sun to part shade||Soil Drainage:||Well-draining|
|Time to Maturity:||Plant in fall for spring growth||Companion Planting:||Sweet alyssum, lobelia|
|Spacing:||6 feet||Uses:||Climbing plant on wall, fences, or trellises; dwarfing varieties in hanging baskets|
|Planting Depth:||1/2-2 inches, check seed packets||Family:||Fabaceae|
|Spread:||Densely packed rhizome-based growth||Genus:||Lathyrus|
|Water Needs:||Moderate||Species:||L. odoratus|
|Pests & Diseases:||Aphids, caterpillars, cutworms, leafminers, thrips, snails, slugs|
As we mentioned above, this plant is a capital climber. It looks lovely crawling up a fence, wall, or other support.
Some gardeners select a dwarf cultivar and grow it in a hanging basket. Some grow it in a pot and let it trail over the sides. Many options are available to you!
Vintage but Relevant
What’s in a name? If it’s a tender sobriquet bestowed upon those dearest to us, it brings to mind a lovely and fragrant plant adorned with delicate blooms in a rainbow of colors.
While some might consider L. odoratus old fashioned, there’s something to be said for honoring the longevity of a plant that has remained popular for centuries. Give this beauty cool weather, a sunny spot, and even, moderate watering, and it will reward you for weeks with showy flowers.
Have you grown this well-loved annual in your garden? Share your experiences below and let us know what you love most about the gorgeous flowering sweet pea.
And for more floral delights to add to your garden, read more here:
- Charming Dianthus: Fragrant, Pretty, and Easy to Grow
- It’s Time to Plant Four O’Clocks
- Give and Old-Fashioned Beauty New Life: Grow Wax Begonia
© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via Burpee, True Lear Market, Nuts ‘n Cones, and Hirts. Uncredited photos: . Revised from a version originally written by Casea Peterson.
About Gretchen Heber
A former garden editor for a daily newspaper in Austin, Texas, Gretchen Heber goes through entirely too many pruners and garden gloves in a year’s time. She’s never met a succulent she didn’t like and gets really irritated every 3-4 years when Austin actually has a freeze cold enough to kill them. To Gretchen, nothing is more rewarding than a quick dash to the garden to pluck herbs to season the evening meal. And it’s definitely time for a happy dance when she’s able to beat the squirrels to the peaches, figs, or loquats.
One of the most romantic of all flowers is surely the sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus), with its frilly, butterfly-like blooms and heady fragrance, likened to honey and orange blossoms.
Native to the eastern Mediterranean region, it has been in cultivation since the 1600s when, according to legend, a Sicilian monk named Franciscus Cupani took note of its qualities and sent seeds to England. But it wasn’t until the late 1800s that a Scottish nurseryman, Henry Eckford, recognized the sweet pea’s potential and developed numerous varieties (some still on the market), launching this humble member of the Pea Family into garden stardom.
Now sweet peas come in every color except true yellow, from red to lavender to navy blue, some streaked and flecked. Most types trail for six to nine feet or so, but there are also shorter forms ideal for containers that are only eight to 20 inches tall.
While the sweet pea is considered an annual, there are a few perennial cultivars, but they lack fragrance. As does a related perennial species, the everlasting pea (Lathyrus latifolius). Since some breeding of sweet peas has actually favored blossom size over scent, be sure the ones you’re buying are scented if that’s an important factor to you.
Relatively easy to grow, the main thing to remember is that sweet peas like cool weather, requiring about 50 days of temperatures under 60 degrees to bloom well. In cooler climates, sow seeds outdoors in early spring as soon as the soil is workable. Seedlings can withstand a touch of frost, so don’t stress if the weather turns colder. Flowering will last from spring into summer, and even into fall in some regions. A thick layer of mulch will keep roots cool and extend the blooming as long as possible.
In the South, sweet peas (look for short-day varieties) can be sown outdoors in the fall, October to early November or even in late winter, January-February. They’ll produce roots but not much top growth until spring.
To speed germination, before sowing make a small nick in the seed coat with a knife, metal file, or sandpaper. This will allow the seed to take up water more easily. Plant seeds one to two inches deep.
You can also start seedlings indoors in a cool place, six to eight weeks before last frost date. But don’t let them entwine together into a tangled mess that’s hard to separate before it’s time to transplant into the garden. Before transplanting, pinch off any flower buds to encourage roots.
The best location offers full sun (except in really hot regions where late afternoon shade will be appreciated), rich soil, and good air circulation. Protect young plants from birds (with netting) and slugs.
Sweet peas will scramble up all manner of fences, trellises, and arbors, attaching themselves by slender tendrils. Supports should be small enough in diameter for the tendrils to easily wrap around. If you want to grow sweet peas up a thick support, you’ll need to attach netting or lengths of twine.
Sweet peas can also be used like clematis to trail through flowering shrubs, to offer wonderful floral combos or to bloom when the shrub is not. Since sweet peas are annuals, they won’t accumulate a mass of vines from year to year to overwhelm their shrub “host.” They can also be grown alongside perennial or woody vines to extend the season of interest.
Though not edible like their garden-pea cousins, when trained up bean teepees in the vegetable garden sweet peas add an element of beauty and also attract beneficial pollinators like bees, which will then visit your fruit and veggie plants.
Another benefit of growing sweet peas is they make excellent, long-lasting cut flowers. A clutch of them in a small vase brings their heavenly scent and the romance of the cottage garden indoors. And by regularly cutting flowers from the plant, you’ll be encouraging more blooms.
Sweet Pea Flower Meaning, Images (Pictures) – How to Grow?
The Interplay of Color and Fragrance: Sweet Pea
If I tell you if it weren’t for the Scottish nurseryman Henry Eckford, we wouldn’t have the pleasure to bask in the sweet and intoxicating fragrance of sweet pea, won’t you be immensely grateful to him? He crossbred and developed the sweet pea of today – “the sweet pea”, which we are going to cover as one of the most pleasant-smelling flowers and which was devoid of any natural significant fragrance before that!
Now being used elaborately for the creation of fresh flower bouquets and in decoration, these flowers hold a prominent space in every garden. The intense and pleasant smelling flowers are purple in color and native to the Aegean Islands, Southern Italy and Sicily.
Sweet pea or Lathyrus odoratus comes from the family of legumes and is an annual flowering plant. With flowers in deep red, yellow and white color, the plant is a climber and grows to the height of 1-2 meters.
It is the preferred choice for many novice gardeners because the large seeds of sweet peas are easy to manage and cultivate easily. Of course, the scented and gorgeous flowers are bonus! It is always better to plant them indoors before taking them outside in natural environment as this ensures full season of bloom. They prefer cool area to thrive, so late winter or early spring is the ideal time to plant them.
- Working during the late Victorian era, Eckford was awarded the top award of First Class Certificate in the year 1882, for introducing the Bronze Prince of sweet pea, the first ever crossbred species. Though, it was only in 1888 that he established trial fields in Wem, Shropshire for sweet peas. And by 1901, there were 115 successful cultivars out of the 264 that were grown.
- Wem has recognized and valued the association between sweet pea, its land and Eckford family. Almost each street signs are adorned with sweet pea motif and one of the areas is also known as Eckford Park. One of the cultivated species is also named, ‘Dorothy Eckford’ after one of the family members of Eckford family.
- The annual and cross-bred sweet peas blooms last only one season while the everlasting and natural variety of this plant is less fragrant.
- It is not to be confused with the edible green pea and the seeds of this genus can be toxic if ingested in large numbers.
- The Father of Modern Genetics, Gregor Mendel did his famous genetic cross-breeding on pea plants and the cross breeding of sweet pea has been done in the same manner. It is highly preferred for genetic experiments because it can self-pollinate and the traits like petal shape, height and colors can be observed easily in the posterity.
- The pioneer geneticist Reginald Punnett used sweet pea plants to study genetic linkage.
- The cross-breeding of sweet pea has been known for ages now. They have been around here since 17th century but so far, there has been no success in cultivating yellow sweet pea flowers. Like blue rose, it remains elusive and a dream of many botanists and geneticists. Though, cross-breeding of pea cultivars have given us several colors to feast our eyes upon, such as pastel shades and even bi-colors too!
- As of now, there are over 50 sweet pea cultivars that are recognized and have been awarded Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.
How to grow sweet peas from seed
This guide to growing sweet peas from seed will show you how to create fantastic summer sweet pea displays in your garden. If you’ve purchased ready-to-go sweet pea seedlings from us, read on to the Planting out Sweet Peas section …
How to sow sweet peas
Sow your sweet peas seeds anytime from October until March, two seeds to a pot. You can sow your sweet pea seeds in March but growing sweet peas over winter will produce stronger, more robust plants.
I usually use root trainers – long, thin pots or cardboard loo rolls – to sow my sweet peas into. All legumes, these included, like growing with a long root run, so deep pots like these are ideal. Push seeds in to about an inch below the surface of the multi-purpose compost – dampen the surface and then push each seed in with your finger.
Cover the pots with newspaper or a polystyrene tile to keep moisture and warmth in and light out. Some heat will speed up germination, but is not essential.
It’s very important to set a mousetrap near your sweet peas. Mice love the seed and your whole crop may disappear in one go. You could soak the seeds in liquid paraffin overnight to make them unpalatable and put your mice population off.
Check for germination every day. Once the seedlings appear, keep them cool at about 5 degrees centigrade. This promotes root and not stem growth. A cold greenhouse or cold frame is ideal, but your plants will be fine in a light potting shed.
Pinch out the leader – the growing tip – when there are three or four pairs already grown. Just squeeze it off between your finger and thumb, reducing the plant to one to two inches in height. This promotes vigorous side shoot formation – the energy of the plant going into growing out, not up.
Planting out sweet peas
When the roots have filled the Rootrainer, plant them out.
Dig in a barrow load of organic material around the base of a teepee or frame. Farmyard manure is good for sweet peas – it helps retain water on a freely drained soil and gently feeds these hungry plants. On very freely-drained soil tear newspapers into strips and put these in the trench too. They’ll help hold onto water.
Place each pot holding two sweet pea plants 5-7cm away from the support (a teepee, an arch, or a tunnel), so you’re planting two plants 8-10 inches apart at the base of every upright. Surround them with slug prevention. I use at least a foot-wide strip of washed inland sharp sand, two inches deep, all round mine. It acts as a path for picking later on and should keep the slugs at bay.
As the young sweet pea plants begin to grow, tie them into the frame – don’t leave them to flop around. They’ll grow more quickly and make stronger plants tied in regularly, once a fortnight for the first month and then more often when they start to romp away. I use Flexi-ties to do this.
If you garden on poor soil, feed your sweet pea plants with a general fertilizer every couple of weeks, or sprinkle on comfrey pellets. A potash-rich tomato feed is ideal. I don’t feed mine, gardening on a rich, heavy, clay soil.
Professional and serious amateur growers who are going to compete in horticultural shows will tell you to pinch out all the curly stems. They take energy from the flowers, and attach themselves to flower stems and bend them into curves. It’s a lot of work on the scale of a tunnel. I try to remove any I see while I pick, but I don’t get bogged down.
Then just let them get on with it and pick, pick, pick. If you see any seed pods as you’re cutting, snip these off as well. You don’t want your plants forming seed or it will stop the plants producing flowers.
The stems on sweet peas get shorter as the plants mature, this is normal due to the energy used to make the flower. Simply feed, water and deadhead to encourage more flowers to appear.
Read how to cordon train your sweet peas for magnificent flowers …
Browse our range of sweet pea seeds or, if you’d rather plant out straight away, our sweet pea seedlings – ready to plant straight out into your garden, for gorgeous scent throughout the summer.
You may also like:
- How to sow sweet peas in winter
- How to cordon train your sweet peas
- Why you should deadhead your sweet peas