How to Grow Sweet Peas


Fragrant, old school candy peas had been very talked-about reduce flowers within the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, however then they fell out of favor for practically 100 years. With the current emergence of the cut-flower farm motion, candy peas have made an enormous comeback, with many thrilling and improved varieties accessible. Seeds are promoting out all over the place. 

To be truthful, candy peas had been by no means straightforward to suit into fashionable gardening designs. They hardly ever develop properly in containers and are finest grown as a seasonal crop in an space with plenty of area. And but it’s straightforward to understand them. They verify off loads of containers with their distinctive perfume and their delicate varieties. Their real superpower, nevertheless, stands out as the various shade prospects of their blooms. Blooming candy peas can resemble a bag filled with Valentine’s Day sweet, with practically each possible shade of pink, pink, white, and purple represented. This range makes selecting just some varieties difficult. While candy peas might require the kind of effort some folks dread, it’s typically exactly the kind of fussy work that appeals to practiced gardeners. 

For fragrance and beauty, sweet peas can’t be beat. But if you want abundant blooms, weeks of training, staking, and pruning are required.
For perfume and wonder, candy peas can’t be beat. But if you need considerable blooms, weeks of coaching, staking, and pruning are required. Photo: Courtesy of Matt Mattus

Starting seeds is straightforward 

Although candy pea seedlings should not typically discovered at backyard facilities, they are often began simply from seed at residence, and so they profit from an early begin indoors. In colder climates, seeds must be began in late January by means of February. In hotter climates, you can begin them in autumn. Some sources advocate that you just soak seeds or chip them to soften the arduous seed coats, however in actuality these strategies velocity up germination by just some days. Seed-starting pots must be deep, as candy pea roots are lengthy and develop straight down. Experienced growers use plug trays which might be at the least 5 inches deep; these can be found from greenhouse provide corporations. When planting, use a sterile potting combine that drains properly. You will see well-intentioned hacks on social media recommending repurposing rest room paper tubes for beginning candy pea seeds, however the cardboard is prone to disintegrate lengthy earlier than your seedlings are able to plant outside. 

At a look 

Lathyrus odoratus
Photo: Courtesy of Matt Mattus

Name: Lathyrus odoratus

Zones: Annual

Size: 2 to eight ft tall, relying on selection; 1 to 2 ft large

Conditions: Full solar to partial shade; wealthy, well-drained soil

Native vary: Crete, Italy, Sicily 

Pests: Aphids might seem on rising ideas, however they are often managed simply with a light natural spray. They may additionally disappear by themselves. 

Diseases: The most typical candy pea ailment is powdery mildew, however that often happens later in the summertime when blooms are already fading. 

While I like to recommend sowing one seed per plug tray cell and giving candy peas their very own devoted area within the backyard, if you wish to develop them in a border, then you may plant extra seeds per container. Plant 5 to seven seeds in a 4- or 5-inch pot, and when it comes time to transplant, plant your complete root ball with out disturbing any roots. Sweet pea crops which were began indoors must be hardened off outside on delicate days in early spring to acclimate them to cooler nights. Seeds can be sown straight exterior across the similar time one would sow edible peas. This could be March for colder areas or late autumn or early winter in hotter climates. Sweet peas are very chilly tolerant whereas younger.

Long stems need long roots, so be sure to use plug trays that are at least 5 inches deep.
Long stems want lengthy roots, so you’ll want to use plug trays which might be at the least 5 inches deep. Photo: Courtesy of Matt Mattus

When seedlings are about 3 inches tall, the principle rising tip should be pinched out, ideally simply above the primary two pairs of leaves (picture this web page, backside). Unpinched crops hardly ever carry out in addition to these which were pinched. The aim right here is to provide a stronger rising stem. For no matter motive, deciding on a brand new aspect shoot to change into the first stem prompts the expansion of huge stems and blooms. You ought to solely must pinch out the principle rising level as soon as. Then it’s essential ­determine what number of stems you’ll permit to develop. Purists hoping for the longest flower stems hold their crops rising on one stem, however most cut-flower farmers permit three to 6 stems to develop as a substitute of 1. This is a sensible compromise that produces crops with barely shorter stems however extra blooms per plant. If you’re rising candy peas in a border on branches, chances are you’ll need to permit many branches to kind for lots of small flowers, however it is best to nonetheless carry out the preliminary pinch.

Give them some solar and every day consideration

Choose a spot to plant your candy peas that has wealthy, well-draining, neutral-pH soil. Amend with compost or manure, as candy peas are heavy feeders. A sunny spot is finest, with crops uncovered to at the least six hours of direct solar a day. Late afternoon shade is often appreciated in hotter climates.

Be certain to chop flowers or deadhead blooms typically to maintain your crops flowering longer. The aim is to cease seedpods from forming, which is able to put an finish to flowering. Sweet peas additionally demand plenty of water, and if there’s one trick to protecting vines blooming by means of scorching summer time climate, it’s to water every day throughout these warmth spells (though that won’t cease your crops from struggling in heavy droughts or excessive warmth). 

Provide lots of space and lots of sun. Sweet peas need at least six hours of sun and plenty of room to grow in rich, well-drained soil
Provide plenty of area and many solar. Sweet peas want at the least six hours of solar and loads of room to develop in wealthy, well-drained soil. Photo: Courtesy of Matt Mattus

For larger stems and blooms, pinch seedlings when they are 3 inches tall
For bigger stems and blooms, pinch seedlings when they’re 3 inches tall. Photo: Courtesy of Matt Mattus

Occasionally, buds might yellow and drop. This typically occurs in late spring as a result of temperature extremes, particularly when chilly nights are paired with scorching days. Bud drop naturally stops as soon as the day and evening temperatures change into extra secure. Bud drop may also happen if daytime temperatures change into too scorching (often above 95°F), however once more crops will regulate their bud manufacturing as soon as the climate turns into cheap once more. If the climate is simply too scorching, water early within the morning at soil degree. Sweet peas choose a cooler environment the place temperatures keep between 65°F and 80°F.

Remove some tendrils.
Photo: Courtesy of Matt Mattus

| Tip |

Remove some tendrils 

While candy peas are vines, the crops themselves don’t twist or twine round a construction like morning glories (Ipomoea purpurea, ­annual) do. Rather, like grape vines, candy peas produce skinny tendrils that should seize onto netting or branches in ­order to climb up a construction. ­Because the tendrils attain out and grasp, they’ll simply seize onto leaves of the plant and even flowers, crushing them underneath their grip. While some tendrils are wanted for greedy onto a construction, many must be eliminated to forestall such problematic progress. This requires frequent monitoring and trimming. 

Different coaching strategies yield completely different outcomes 

Before you plant your candy peas, you need to determine how you’re going to help and practice them. Many gardeners assume that candy peas will produce blooms all through your complete plant, thus protecting a tower with flowers. The actuality is that candy peas solely bloom on the ends of their stems, typically solely on the prime of a construction. People additionally underestimate how tall vines will develop. Most candy peas received’t start blooming till daytime are at their longest (across the summer time solstice) and when crops are already 5 to six ft tall. By then, vines are often close to the highest of any backyard construction. goal top for no matter construction you create is 8 ft, and regardless of which technique you select, it can require some tying of stems to supply help. There are 4 principal strategies that individuals use to coach candy peas, and every will obtain a distinct impact.

The cordon technique is a labor-intensive however conventional method of coaching. It requires crops to develop on a single stem. Individual crops are every tied to a single bamboo cane. The canes are set in rows 8 to 10 inches aside and rows 3 to 4 ft aside. Ongoing care requires regularly tying crops to the bamboo as
they proceed to develop. Restricting progress to at least one stem with no aspect shoots focuses all the crops’ effort and vitality into producing absolutely the longest stems and largest flowers. The ensuing crops will appear like no different candy peas produced by means of different strategies. They may have gigantic leaves that may be 4 occasions bigger than these of untrained crops. However, a plant with massive leaves may also have monstrous tendrils (that are produced on the finish of every leaflet). These tendrils should be snipped off as you tie the stems. While this requires loads of work, the cordons will look enticing and can produce Instagram-worthy candy peas. 

More work yields better results. The cordon method requires growing plants with one stem up a stake, frequently tying them off, and removing tendrils. It produces the largest stems, leaves, and flowers of any method.
More work yields higher outcomes. The cordon technique requires rising crops with one stem up a stake, steadily tying them off, and eradicating tendrils. It produces the biggest stems, leaves, and flowers of any technique. Photo: Courtesy of Matt Mattus

This method is great for growing cut flowers. Using a row of netting requires less work than the cordon method. Just make sure to use netting with small-enough holes.
This technique is nice for rising reduce flowers. Using a row of netting requires much less work than the cordon technique. Just be certain to make use of netting with small-enough holes. Photo: Danielle Sherry

Perhaps the simplest solution to elevate candy peas as reduce flowers is to develop them in a row with a tall sheet of netting between stakes. This just isn’t as enticing as another strategies, however it’s the finest method for rising reduce flowers. Choose mesh with smaller openings, ideally black plastic mesh, however hen wire works simply high quality. Using a bigger grid mesh might be labor intensive and require extra ties to maintain stems from breaking throughout summer time thundershowers, however it can work if you’re rising your candy peas in a greenhouse or polytunnel.

Sweet peas are naturally designed to develop over bushes within the wild. A dome constructed of twigs or a tower of pea brush (skinny branches which were reduce and dried in the course of the earlier winter) will create a rounded construction for candy peas to develop on. This technique is the least labor intensive and is sweet for incorporating your candy peas into beds and borders.

Two less-formal methods provide a different look. A dome of brush or twigs mimics the way sweet peas grow in the wild
Two less-formal strategies present a distinct look. A dome of brush or twigs mimics the best way candy peas develop within the wild. Photo: Danielle Sherry

A classic tuteur or trellis can work if it is first covered in bird netting.
A traditional tuteur or trellis can work whether it is first lined in hen netting. Photo: Danielle Sherry

Although it’s a mistake to plant candy peas on a trellis that’s too thick or on a tuteur manufactured from wooden with nowhere for the skinny tendrils to understand, there’s a simple answer. Wrap any of those buildings with high quality hen netting or plastic poultry mesh. While this may occasionally look untidy at first, candy pea vines will rapidly cowl the construction, and also you quickly received’t even discover the netting. 

However you determine to develop them, the traditional magnificence and perfume of candy peas makes all the hassle value it. 

| Plants |

Varieties that received’t allow you to down

All candy peas have lovely blooms, however completely different varieties have been bred for various functions. The following classes describe the assorted traits you may select from when choosing the right candy pea cultivars in your backyard. 

‘Sir Jimmy Shand’
‘Sir Jimmy Shand’ Photo: Courtesy of Matt Mattus

‘Daily Mail’
‘Daily Mail’ Photo: Courtesy of Matt Mattus

Spencers: Considered a revolution in plant breeding, the big Spencer varieties stay the gold commonplace for high quality and vigor. Their pleated and ruffled flowers are unmatched, and so they stay the go-to alternative for individuals who exhibit candy peas in competitions. Their lengthy stems and huge flowers make them nice reduce flowers, however that is typically at the price of perfume. ‘Sir Jimmy Shand’ is a traditional with lilac stripes. ‘Daily Mail’ has a really cool look with its ruffled salmon-pink petals. 

‘Indigo King’
‘Indigo King’ Photo: Courtesy of Matt Mattus

‘Aphrodite’ Photo: Courtesy of Matt Mattus

Multifloras: Most multiflora varieties are old school crops which have many flowers and a fantastic perfume. But as a result of their quick stems and small flowers, they don’t make the most effective reduce flowers. Look for the nineteenth-century heirloom ‘Indigo King’, which has deep, vibrant colours. ‘Aphrodite’ is a contemporary multiflora from 2011 with seven or extra white flowers per stem.

‘Sunshine Light Blue’
‘Sunshine Light Blue’ Photo: Courtesy of Matt Mattus

Early Winter-Flowering Multifloras: These are day-neutral or short-day varieties (most candy peas require progressively lengthening days to set flower buds). They have been bred for fall sowing in winter-mild climates like California. Varieties within the Sunshine sequence can bloom as much as a month sooner than different candy peas. ’Sunshine Light Blue’ has lovely pastel colours.

‘Cupid White’
‘Cupid White’ Photo: Courtesy of Matt Mattus

Dwarfs: Older strains from the mid-twentieth century are nice for rising in containers or on a dome manufactured from twigs. You may also search for improved strains similar to ‘Jet Set’ and people from the Knee High sequence. If you need the shortest crops, go along with the heirloom Cupid sequence.

‘Lord Nelson’
‘Lord Nelson’ Photo: Courtesy of Matt Mattus

Grandifloras: Modern grandi­floras share some traits with multifloras however have considerably bigger flowers and longer stems with extra flowers. ‘Mautucana’ is a grandiflora with darkish magenta and periwinkle petals. Semi-grandifloras had been launched throughout the previous twenty years and have flowers even bigger than these of contemporary grandifloras. They supply nice perfume and longer stems. Look for varieties such because the deeply indigo ‘Lord Nelson’ and the bicolored pink and purple ‘Erewhon’.


  • Ardelia Farm, Irasburg, VT;
  • Floret Farm, Mount Vernon, WA;
  • Renee’s Garden, Felton, CA; 888-880-7228;
  • Enchanting Sweet Peas, Sebastopol, CA;
  • Select Seeds, Union, CT; 800-684-0395;

Matt Mattus is the creator of two books: Mastering the Art of Flower Gardening and Mastering the Art of Vegetable Gardening. He lives and gardens in Worcester, Massachusetts. 


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