Sweet Peas - The Queen of the Annuals
Name: Lathyrus odoratus
Common Name(s): Sweet Pea
climbers bearing clusters of flowers in a wide variety of colors
including red, pink, blue, white and lavender. The stems appear
folded and the flowers resemble fringed butterflies. The
old-fashioned varieties were selected for their vibrant colors
and intense fragrance. Many modern cultivars are on the market
offering sweet peas in almost every color except yellow. Not all
Sweet pea varieties are fragrant. They have a long season of
bloom and make excellent cut flowers.
Mature Size: 6'
- 8' vine
Bloom Period: Blooms
late spring into summer. Blooming is curtailed by heat. In
cooler climates, they can bloom through fall. Southern regions
can sow ‘short day’ varieties in the fall.
Design Suggestions: Sweet
peas lend a cottage feel to gardens. They are often grown on
bamboo tripods, but they will gladly grow through shrubby
plants, much like clematis. They also work well in a vegetable
garden, attracting bees and other pollinators needed in the
vegetable garden. They can be grown along the fence or mixed in
with the pole beans.
Suggested Varieties: ‘Old
fashioned’ - Although not really a variety, Sweet peas
labeled old fashioned should be very fragrant
Spencer cultivars - especially hardy vines with striking
coloring, but not all of them are particularly fragrant
Bijou Group - Sweetly scented dwarf variety suitable for
Requirements & Maintenance: Sweet
peas are usually direct seeded. To assist germination, seeds
should be nicked or soaked in water for several hours, to soften
the seed coating. Seed can be started outdoors, as soon as the
ground has warmed to about 50 degrees F. and is not too wet. At
about 3-6", pinch the seedlings to encourage strong side shoots.
Seed can be started earlier indoors, in pots. Pinch off all
flowers and buds when transplanting seedlings, to encourage root
Sweet pea vines have tendrils and will attach
themselves to most any type of support with meshing or lines.
Regular deadheading or cutting for display, will keep them
blooming longer. Sweet peas require regular watering, especially
as the temperature increases. They prefer a somewhat rich soil
and can be fed monthly with a fertilizer high in potassium, as
used for tomatoes. Adding a bit of blood meal to the soil is
thought to help keep the stems long and suitable for cutting.
There are few pests or problems associated
with sweet peas. They are usually done in by the heat.