How to Grow Sweet Peas
Flowers for Your Cottage Garden
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Sweet Peas are a fragrant and a super easy flower to add to your Cottage Garden. These are the annual type and not the perennial.
Perennial Sweet Peas are not fragrant and can become horribly invasive in some areas.
I will share photos of Sweet Peas I have actually grown, I take all my own photos and I talk about plants and flowers I have had personal experience growing.
I live in USDA Zone 8 with snowy winters and dry Summers.
In Zones 7 and above where winters are milder than in other areas of the country you can sow Sweet Pea seeds in the Fall, around October but in other zones it is best to wait until late winter/ early Spring.
Sweet Pea seeds look like this but turn into the sweetest scented blooms you have ever smelled.
Anniversary Sweet Pea is very fragrant. The pink edges are so delicate.
It is claimed that soaking the Sweet Pea seeds may hasten germination but I don’t bother. I used to until I observed many reseed themselves in my garden, that assured me that it was an unnecessary step.
Here is an example of how easy they can germinate, I found this little pea shoot starting from a seed I dropped accidentally in a pot next to a Sempervivum.
It sprouted while sitting on top of the soil. I had to use an arrow to show you, it kind of blends in.
Somewhere along the line this past Fall I dropped a seed and it sprouted where it landed. We have had a brief warm spell this month and it thought it was a good time to sprout!February is a good time for me to get Sweet Peas started in my greenhouse. (Please Note: once it warms up outside I sow them directly in the ground, I sow them all summer long so if you are reading in summer just sow your sweet peas directly)
I use regular potting soil or compost and 3 or 4 inch pots. Pour the soil into the posts loosely. Poke the seeds in just a bit, not far, about half an inch. I put in 2 seeds per pot.
Don’t press the soil hard, leave it loose. Water the seeds in and that will tamp the soil down enough.
When seedlings are about 4 to 6 inches tall pinch out the central stem just above a leaf joint, leaving about 2 or 3 leaf nodes, this will promote branching.
These are the seeds I potted up today. High Scent is a very fragrant variety and well worth growing. I love them as much as the Anniversary Sweet Peas.
A great selection for heat tolerance is the Old Spice Blend.
I grew some of these by my greenhouse in a barrel alongside a rose and they did just fine even though it gets quite hot in this spot. Here you can see they have reseeded themselves.
They are a little beat up as the snow has been covering them for weeks and more snow is on its way but once warm weather is here for good they will get strong and crawl up the trellis.
I stopped cutting my Sweet Peas in September so they could go to seed and replant themselves and I collect some to pot up in the greenhouse.
I love cutting Sweet Peas all Summer. A great variety just for cutting is Fairy Tale Blend. They have long stems great for floral arrangements but pick from all of your Sweet Peas.
Cutting the Sweet Peas frequently, every 9-10 days will get continuous bloom all Summer long. If you don’t cut they will go to seed and that is it for the plant, no more blooms.
This is especially important when it gets hot and dry.
I keep a soaker hose at the feet of my sweet peas for consistent watering, we don’t get summer rains.
Adequate water for Sweet Peas is one key to success.
Grow Sweet Peas in full sun with some afternoon shade, if you can. Where it is very hot afternoon shade is good for them but not absolutely necessary.
Plant where the soil is rich and has good drainage or amend to make it so. They don’t like soggy feet. (for a post on how I keep my soil rich and loose see my Lazy Gal Garden guide)
Provide support, these can climb well above 6 feet and will wrap themselves around whatever they need to go up! I planted some seeds in one of my pots of Bamboo, they will be happy as clams clamoring up the canes and I will enjoy their lovely perfume on my back deck all summer.
Sweet Peas are susceptible to powdery mildew. This doesn’t really do much harm to mine and I just keep picking the flowers, and many times the mildew disappears. Good air circulation is key to keeping the mildew at bay and a healthy well fed plant helps it to fight through it.
Sweet Peas are heavy feeders so be sure to fertilize. A good soil drenching with a diluted organic liquid fertilizer every week should be good. A blend of fish emulsion and liquid kelp is highly recommended but I have used worm casting tea as well with success.
Aphids love Sweet Peas too but since I garden organically I have a large amount of Lady Beetles that live here so they take care of them for me. If they get out of hand I do spray the Aphids off with my water hose.
Plant your seedlings out in the garden around the time of your last frost. Set them about 4 to 8 inches apart and close to a trellis or support. You may have to tie them up depending on the type of support. I have mine growing by a cattle panel trellis and I just wind them up it as they grow.
This year I am going to try a variety for hanging pots. I look forward to smelling their sweet perfume as I walk along my wrap around porch.
Have you tried Sweet Peas in your garden?
More garden articles you may enjoy:
How to Grow Delphiniums from Seed
How to Start Roses from Cuttings
How to Propagate Zonal Geraniums
I wish you Happy Gardening!
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