Tips for Growing Sweet Peas

My Garden Life
February 17, 2021
Table of Contents
Sweet peas are a long-time garden favorite, loved for their beautiful flowers and unforgettable fragrance. These climbing flowers are easily grown from seed each year and add enchantment to any garden where the springs and summers are cool. Here are our best tips for growing sweet peas including selection and planting guidelines.

Choosing a Sweet Pea – Heritage vs. Modern

heritage and hybrid sweet peas

The original sweet peas grown in Europe had small blossoms with a strong, pleasing fragrance. Breeding work in England during the nineteenth century produced the modern sweet pea. When growing sweet peas you will want to decide which features appeal to you when making a selection.
  • Heritage varieties of sweet peas have an exquisite perfume, but the flowers tend to be much smaller.
  • Modern varieties have large, spectacular flowers, often at the expense of their scent.

If you want to have fragrant sweet peas in your garden, check the information on the packet when you are choosing the seed. If the packet doesn’t state that the flowers will be fragrant, they probably won’t have a scent. It’s possible to find modern sweet peas that have a strong fragrance as well as large showy flowers, but finding a variety that offers both may take a bit of searching.

There is another way to ensure the scent of sweet peas in your garden. Buy a seed packet of a fragrant variety and mix them with the seeds of a modern variety that produces beautiful, but scentless flowers. Then, plant the seed mix in a sunny location. By mixing the seeds, you can enjoy the fragrance as well as the beauty of the lovely flowers.

Tips for Growing Sweet Peas

Follow these guidelines to get your sweet peas off to the best start:

  • Choose a sunny spot that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight.
  • Sweet peas should be grown from seed because they don’t transplant well. You can start seeds in the ground or start them in pots and transplant them when the weather turns favorable.

Growing sweet pea seedlings in repurposed cardboard tubes from tissue or paper towels.

  • Plant the seeds in very early spring. Or, seeds can also be planted in the fall in regions where winters are not severe. Sweet pea blossoms last much longer in cool temperatures because the coolness encourages strong root development. The flowers quickly die and form seed pods in the heat of summer.

sweet pea flowers on the vine

  • Most sweet peas are climbing plants that will need support. But there are also varieties available that have a naturally smaller size and can be grown in pots. A simple trellis, netting, or even growing on a chain link fence should provide adequate support.
  • To keep the flowers blooming for a long time, do not allow them to go to seed. Pick the seed pods as soon as they appear.
Growing sweet peas - sweet pea seed pod

If you live in a location where the springs and summers are cool, why not try growing sweet peas? Whether you prefer the modern sweet peas that have stunning, large frilly flowers, or the more modest scented varieties that first captured the hearts of gardeners centuries ago, you can find sweet peas to suit your taste.

Bouquets of Sweet Peas

Sweet peas make a wonderful cut flower. A bouquet of sweet pea cuttings in a vase brings a touch of careless elegance and sweet fragrance to any room in the house.

For the longest-lasting blooms, cut the flower stems in the morning. Select stems with open flowers, but that also have two or three unopened buds. Sweet pea flowers usually last about a week in water. You can add flower preservative to the water to improve their longevity.

A bouquet of colorful sweet pea flowers in a vase outdoors.

If you want to grow more sweet-smelling flowers, check out Fragrant Plants for Containers.

fragrant phlox in a decorative planter


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