The colorful and sweet-scented sweet peas are a bright and fun addition to every garden. Sweet peas fit almost every setting and purpose. Whether you pot them, sow them in the ground, or plant them next to a frame for their dazzling bloom come summer months.
As a member of the legumes family, sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus) are easy to grow and care for. They come in two types, annuals that bloom during one season and evergreen perennials. Thanks to their various colors and heady fragrance, they’re perfect for planting near your garden seats or near the windows to transform the view. During the bloom months from June to October, you can pick the flowers and put them in a vase to brighten your mornings.
Best Sweet Peas Varieties for your Garden
To say that sweet peas come in a lot of varieties is an understatement. Some sweet peas are grown for their strong scents, while others have stunning blooms of different shapes and colors. So whether you’re going for show or prefer to start your mornings with a fresh fragrance wafting through the open window, that will determine the type of sweet peas you plant in your garden.
Some of the best sweet peas to grow include:
- Lathyrus odoratus ‘Hi Scent’: As the name implies this is one flower to grow for its strong fragrance. When it blossoms, in late summer and early fall, it has a pleasant scent that fills the whole garden. The flowers have a cream color with hints of purple around the edges.
- Lathyrus odoratus ‘Lipstick’: The aptly named Lipstick flower is a genus of the sweet peas family that has bright red flowers, strong scent, and wavy-edged petals that grow on strong stems.
- Lathyrus odoratus ‘Percy Thrower’: Famous for their large blooms, the flowers of the Percy Thrower are white with a subtle purplish tint that look great either in the garden, in a pot, or in a vase. The scent of this sweet peas variety isn’t that strong, so you’d mostly grow it for its looks.
- Lathyrus odoratus ‘Promiscuity’: This plant bears flowers that come in two-color variations. The most common shades are pink, white, and purple with edges of matching colors. They are great for picking since they last long in a vase and their strong scent remains for days after cutting.
- Lathyrus odorous ‘Almost Black’: You’d want to grow this variety of sweet peas most for its exquisite dark maroon flowers. The blossoms are a delight in any pot or corner you plant them in and the strong fragrance is an added bonus.
How to Sow the Seeds of Sweet Peas
The best time to grow sweet peas from seeds is during the spring when the weather warms up. Some people plant the seeds in pots during the winter and wait for them to germinate in the spring. Either way, you need to prepare the seeds before planting them.
It is recommended that you fold the seeds in a moist kitchen towel and keep them in a container. The warm temperature of the room will speed up and facilitate the sprouting of the seeds. When it’s time to sow the seeds, take them out and plant them in a pot. The seeds need to be about half an inch deep in the soil. Plant three seeds in each pot and cover them with a liberal layer of peat-free compost.
You should choose a tall and deep pot for sweet peas since their roots grow long and deep. After you sow the seeds, water them well and don’t disturb the soil until the plants start to grow and take root.
How to Grow the Sweet Pea Flower
If you prefer to plant sweet peas directly in the garden, then choose a sunny area where the soil is well-drained albeit moist all year round. Sweet peas plants don’t do well in frosty weather, so you should wait until the end of May to plant them in your garden.
It’s important to harden the plants before you move them into a permanent place in the garden. You can do this by taking out the pots of the young plants during the day and bringing them indoors in the evening. To encourage the bushes to grow, make sure to snap the tips of the young plants when they’re about 5 inches tall.
Make sure there’s a frame near the plants to grow on. Bamboo canes are an ideal choice. Sweet peas usually reach a height of 6 feet when fully grown and are easy to train. They need plenty of water to help them grow faster.
Transplanting Sweet Peas Plants
If you plant sweet peas in a pot as a temporary location, you’ll need to transplant them later into their permanent place in the garden. Dig the soil before you transplant the sweet peas and add in plenty of organic compost to fertilize the soil and help with water retention. make sure it’s well-irrigated in preparation for the transplanting.
Take out the pots and separate the plants carefully. You don’t have to plant each seedling separately. Most experts recommend planting two or three seedlings in one hole to get nice foliage and a rich bloom. Place the support frame near the plants and check on them regularly to make sure the tendrils and offshoots have access to the frame. Keep each group of seedlings about one foot away to prevent competition over water and nutrition. Water immediately after planting the seedlings and keep the water moist for the next few weeks until the plants start to grow.
How to Care for Sweet Peas
While caring for sweet peas can be a handful, the end result is well worth it when the blooms start to show. The first thing you need to worry about is irrigation. Sweet peas don’t do well in dry soil and you need to keep the soil moist especially in the summer months.
One way to deal with this is to use organic compost and mulch. Opt for peat-free compost since sweet peas have a low tolerance for peat. The compost improves moisture retention in the soil and prevents the topsoil from going dry quickly.
During the bloom season between June and October, trim the heads off the plants and remove the seed pods. This encourages the plant to produce more flowers that last longer.
Another aspect of sweet peas’ care has to do with their stems. Since the plants wrap their tendrils around the frame to climb up and spread their foliage, you need to keep an eye on that spread as it usually goes out of hand.
Trim off any stray tendrils that grow outside the frame or reach out to other support frames such as pipes or windowsills. You might have to guide the offshoots and direct them to climb up instead of growing horizontally.
During the growing season from late spring until mid-summer, the sweet peas need your full attention. Make your rounds once a week or every 10 days, readjusting tendrils, removing dead leaves, and guiding offshoots.
Common Issues (And How to Solve Them)
Apart from their fast growth, and their tendency to spread out across your garden, sweet peas have other problems that need constant care and attention. One of them is pests such as snails and slugs. Those two wreak havoc with the young sweet peas plants and the damage they leave behind can be fatal.
To deter slugs and snails you can make a homemade repellent. Just mix garlic with water or use cold coffee as a deterrent. Spray the sweet peas liberally every morning or when you see the pests making nests in the perennials.
The other common problem that you’d come across while growing sweet peas is how easily the plants become parched. During the hot months, the soil goes dry quickly and this causes the sweet peas to drop their flowers. Use mulch and compost to improve moisture retention in the soil. Nitrogen-rich fertilizers are also known to help the plants grow and keep the issue of bud dropping at bay.
If you notice that the plants are late in blooming or developing buds, that could be due to the presence of old flowers and seed pods. Manually remove any lingering flowers or seed pods to encourage the buds to grow.