Sweet peas are one of the garden flowers you can smell before you see them. These easy-to-grow annual vines unfurl delicate blossoms in spring or early summer, perfuming the garden with a pleasing sweet, spicy fragrance. They love cool weather and will wither as soon as the heat of summer sets in. Even with their short growing season in most regions, sweet peas are a prized member of the flower garden and a coveted cutting flower for bouquets.
Popular—to the point of obsession—with gardeners at the turn of the 20th century, sweet peas were the highlight of elaborate plant expositions and the sole focus of some plant societies. Gardeners collected and grew all colors and shapes of the boldly fragrant blossoms. Although they are not as commonly grown today, once you experience the intoxicating fragrance of sweet peas in a twilight garden, you’ll likely plant your own crop year after year.
Garden Plans For Sweet Pea
Sweet Pea Care Must-Knows
In mild winter climates where the ground does not freeze, plant sweet peas in fall for spring blooming. Seeded directly in the garden in October or November, sweet peas will emerge and bloom in March in most areas. In areas with a mild climate, sweet peas can be planted in January or February for a crop before the heat of summer sets in.
In colder areas, plant sweet peas as soon as the soil can be worked in spring. Sweet peas handle light frosts. Plant in full sun and well-drained soil. Soil enriched with aged manure or compost is perfect for sweet peas.
Sweet pea seedlings are a favorite snack for birds, slugs, and snails, especially if planted in fall. Protect seedlings from pests with netting, if necessary. Spread a 2-inch-thick layer of mulch around plants and water them regularly for best flower production.
Staking Sweet Pea
Most sweet pea varieties produce long tendrils and do best when provided with a trellis or fence for climbing. Set up a well-anchored trellis, fence, or vertical support at planting time for easy plant care throughout the season. A simple fence panel is a great climbing option for a cutting garden.
Grow a Bouquet
Sweet pea blossoms make wonderful bouquets. Mix sweet peas with other seasonal cut flowers, or simply create a bouquet of fragrant sweet pea flowers. Pick stems in early morning and plunge them in water right away. A 15- to 20-foot-long row of sweet peas will provide blossoms for many large bouquets. Continue harvesting flowers every other day or so to encourage the plant to continue producing flowers.
More Varieties of Sweet Pea
This heirloom annual variety of Lathyrus odoratus was introduced in 1896. It bears ivory-white flowers streaked with crimson red. It's strongly fragrant and climbs to 5 feet.
Lathyrus odoratus bears fragrant pink blooms flushed with white. This annual climbs to 6 feet.
Rich burgundy-purple flowers make this variety of Lathyrus odoratus special. It is an heirloom from 1898 with rich burgundy-purple flowers. This annual climbs to 6 feet.
Lathyrus odoratus shows off silvery-lavender fragrant blooms. This annual climbs to 5 feet.
This annual variety of Lathyrus odoratus is an especially fragrant heirloom from 1699 that bears burgundy and violet flowers on a bushy plant that climbs to 6 feet.
This type of Lathyrus odoratus bears strongly fragrant crimson-red flowers on a 6-foot vine. This selection is an heirloom from 1903, and it's an annual.
Bright red flowers cover this variety of Lathyrus odoratus. This annual climbs to 6 feet.
Lathyrus odoratus is an heirloom with fragrant rich-purple flowers. This annual climbs to 4 feet.
This variety of Lathyrus odoratus presents pale mauve blooms with strong stems. This annual climbs to 6 feet.
Lathyrus latifolius bears pinkish-purple flowers from summer to early fall. It climbs to 8 feet. Zones 5-9
This variety of Lathyrus odoratus bears large white flowers on strong stems. This annual climbs to 6 feet.