I love to grow Sweet Peas, they are essential in my garden. Their sweet perfume is a delight that cannot be surpassed. I grow them all through the Summer but I get started early in Spring from seeds.
How to Grow Sweet Peas in your garden.
Sweet Peas are a fragrant and a super easy flower to add to your flower 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 started my love affair with Sweet Peas back in 1990. I worked for a family that owned a cherry orchard manning one of their cherry stands. It was located in Escalon, California and was on the highway that leads to Yosemite. (you would not believe the people I met from around the world headed for Yosemite)
The owners son had worked for a seed company the year before selling seeds and he had tons of Sweet Pea seeds left over that Fall. She had opened all the packs and tossed them along a fence on the edge of their cherry orchard.
That Spring during cherry season they bloomed by the thousands! She brought huge bouquets to the cherry stand that scented the air and I fell in love.
I have grown Sweet Peas ever since. Now the Valley where I lived then had very different growing conditions than I have now but I have learned how to grow them in both climates.
PIN for later…
We 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 about 6 weeks before you last frost date.
Though I am technically in Zone 8 I have to be a bit tricky about my Sweet Pea growing. I have had them reseed themselves and sprout and still winter over to bloom in Spring but I have also endured late hard freezes that killed all my Sweet Peas in one fell swoop.
So I start half early on in February and I save some to start later on, just in case.
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 always bother. I used to until I observed many reseed themselves in my garden, that assured me that it was an unnecessary step when I seed early. Some recommend scarifying as well which is scratching the seed surface to aid germination, again I don’t waste my time on that. I have read but not tried rolling them on some sand paper can do this less tediously than trying to scarify one seed at a time.
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!
When to Start your Sweet Pea Seeds
February is a good time for me to get Sweet Peas started in my greenhouse, many other places March is an excellent time to start. (Please Note: once it warms up outside I sow them directly in the ground) They prefer soil temps of 50 to 60 degrees so you may need to shade the area if it has already warmed up.
If you live in warmer zones you can start yours in Fall. I have had some reseed themselves sprout then overwinter in a sheltered area to bloom in Spring.
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. (Some prefer using peat pots or poo pots so as not to disturb the roots when transplanting out in the garden)
Don’t press the soil hard, just firm them in. Water the seeds in and that will help tamp the soil down.
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 below need pinching back.
You can snip them back to with pruners or just use your fingernail.
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.
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.
Keep Them Growing All Summer Long
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 is one key to success when you grow Sweet Peas.
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. As I stated before we have dry summers, very little humidity, you may find you have to battle mildew more if you grow sweet peas in a humid environment.
Feed, feed, feed
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 grow sweet peas by a cattle panel trellis and I just wind them up it as they grow. If I get more than one coming up in my pots I just plant them all together.
Have you tried Sweet Peas in your garden?
I wish you Happy Gardening!