How to Grow Sweet Peas

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how to grow sweet peas

Are you looking for a fragrant and colorful addition to your garden this summer? Sweet peas are a classic and beloved flower that offers a delightful scent, an amazing range of colors, and are easy to grow. Sweet peas are a wonderful choice for anyone looking to brighten up their garden with vibrant blooms and a delightful aroma. In this blog post, I want to give you a solid foundation, and how to grow sweet peas in your garden.

how to grow sweet peas in your garden very easily
Deep burgundy and bright pink sweet peas in full bloom in the summer. Image by Philip Bouchard on flicker.

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How To Grow Sweet Peas – The Basics

You don’t need much to know how to grow sweet peas in your garden. Sweet peas are are known for their deep fragrance and colorful blooms. They’re native to southern and western Europe. They are a popular choice for gardeners looking to bring vertical interest to their gardens.

Sweet peas are also good to grow because 

  • they attract pollinators like bees and butterflies
  • require little care and can be grown in almost any type of soil
  • ridiculously easy to grow and very hardy
  • come in a variety of colors, including white, pink, purple, and even bicolor
grow sweet peas to enjoy fragrant bouquets like this
Sweet peas are inexpensive and easy to grow, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a more lovely cut flower. Image by Satrina0 on flicker.

Almost all sweet peas are annuals, meaning that they only grow through one season. However, there is at least one type of perennial sweet pea available.

When do Sweet Peas Bloom?

Sweet peas germinate, sprout, and grow (vertically) in the mid- to late-Spring. They might begin flowering as soon as early June when do sweet peas bloom depending on their environment.

Do Sweet Peas Come Back Every Year?

Most sweet peas are in fact annual flowers. Usually, when you plant them and enjoy them for a summer season, you will need to replant more seeds.

However: Many times, the seed pods of my late summer pea vines have dropped to the ground, survived through the cold months to sprout and grow from the dropped seed pods the following Spring. Technically, this is “self reseeding” and it happens with a lot of so-called annual plants.

I’ve not tried it yet, but I’d bet if you replanted some seed pods right where the vine grew, you’d see new Sweet Pea growing the following year. In this way, they can be considered perennial.

Are Sweet Peas Edible?

No! No part of the sweet pea plant is edible. Consuming will lead to sickness, possible paralysis.

Are Sweet Peas Easy to Grow?

Sweet peas are a beautiful addition to any garden, and luckily for gardeners, they are also quite easy to grow! Whether you are gardening indoors or outdoors, sweet peas can thrive in a variety of climates with minimal effort. (Milkweeds are also very helpful to beneficial critters, they just don’t smell as nice.)

To ensure the best results when growing sweet peas, they need:

  • well-draining soil,
  • a trellis or netting to climb upon,
  • to receive as much sun as possible, and
  • regular watering.

The biggest concern regarding how to grow sweet peas is that you sow the seeds after the last frost of winter. I’ve lost a few sweet pea seedlings because I planted too early in spring, and the seedlings couldn’t survive an early April hailstorm. Because I’ve been tricked thinking “threat of frost” has passed, only to have a few days near freezing, I’ve started using a mini greenhouse for my seedlings. Sweet peas can be planted in the spring for summer blooms or in the fall for early spring blooms.

sweet peas growing tall and strong with (inedible) peas developing in pods
The sweet pea will always reach for the sky, all summer long! Note these seed pods are ready to be picked and enjoyed! Image by skepticalview on flickr.

For maximum bloom during the summer months, deadhead regularly. (Deadheading is when you pinch off growth that looks brown or dying. Deadheading reroutes energy away from “lost causes” and redirects it to new, healthy growth.) Sweet peas are easy to grow and make a beautiful addition to any garden. With the right care, you can have a garden full of fragrant sweet peas in no time!

Do Sweet Peas Need Full Sun?

Ideally, your sweet peas should be planted in a part of your garden or container that gets as much sun exposure as possible. Sweet peas won’t grow to their fullest, height or width, flower or pod production if they’re receiving only part sun exposure.

sweet pea pods growing on vine
Pods growing out, and now is the time to pinch these off if you want more blooms. Let the pods grow if you want seeds/peas. Image by author
sweet pea flowers budding
Sweet Pea flowers beginning to grow, they look a little different than the pods. Image by author

What To Do With Sweet Peas When Finished Flowering?

When sweet peas flower, you have a few options.

  • Allow nature to take its course, leave them alone, and see how many pea pods the plant can create. The seeds that develop at the end of the Summer growing season will turn into seeds you can harvest to plant for sweet pea plants the following Spring.
  • To maximize sweet pea blooms, pinch off all the pods that you see developing. When you pinch them off, the energy that would have gone to developing a seeded pod will instead go towards making more blooms.

I personally prefer a mixed strategy. I snip about half of the pods off after their flowers drop off. I love blossoms, their perfume and beauty.

pea pod of the sweet pea inedible
Sweet pea pod. This isn’t quite yet ready to be picked. Do not eat peas from sweet pea pods. Image by ChicBee on flickr.

When is the Ideal Time to Plant Sweet Peas?

Sweet peas can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked and the threat of frost has passed in early spring. To ensure success, choose a sunny spot with well-drained soil and slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.0-7.0. Plant the seeds directly into the soil, two or three seeds together, about 1 inch deep and 3 inches apart.

Remember, they’ll grow vertically but they’ll also send out tendril runners horizontally. The tendrils will search for things to attach to and support itself as it gains in height. If left to their own devices, the vines will grab onto one another, or neighboring plants if they have to. This isn’t a problem, but make sure to have a wire trellis for them. Tomato cages work quite well – I’d recommend attaching two together end to end for maximum height.

sweet pea flower bouquet easy to grow
Thanks to the prolific blooms sweet peas give, you can have beautiful, fragrant bouquets like this all summer long. Image by Rob Corder, flickr.

You can also consider using a greenhouse or mini greenhouse to start your sweet pea seedlings. Starting seeds in a greenhouse serves an important benefit of assisting in hardening of the seedlings. Hardening off means acclimating the young seedlings from their warm nursery environment to their normal outdoor garden bedding. Usually, small individual containers (“Jiffy Pots” or fiber egg cartons) are used for just a few seeds. This makes transplanting after hardening very easy.

Download this FREE Sweet Pea: Sow and Grow Guide and see

all types of easy-to-grow sweet peas available!

How Often Should They Be Watered?

To ensure your sweet peas thrive, it is important to provide them with the right amount of water. As seedlings, sweet peas should be watered deeply and consistently. Do not allow the soil to dry out. After germination and sprouts are visible above the surface, aim to keep the soil evenly moist, but not soggy.

To promote healthy growth and lots of blooms, make sure to water the sweet peas regularly to keep the soil moist. When the pods are full and the seeds are just beginning to show, it is time to harvest the sweet peas. Enjoy their delightful scent and flavor in salads and as a garnish!

fragrant blossom of sweet pea growing in garden
The little green pod atop these flowers is a pea pod growing. You can pinch it off for more blooms, or save for seed harvesting at the end of Summer. Image by Sue Thompson on flickr.

Water growing sweet peas thoroughly, once or twice a week, depending on soil type and weather conditions. Make sure to water the soil, not the foliage, as wet foliage can cause fungal diseases. To check soil moisture levels, simply dip your finger into the soil and see how it feels. If the soil is dry, it’s time to water your sweet peas.

Buy Sweet Pea Seeds from Me!

buy sweet peas seeds directly from the grower

Buy Home Grown and Nurtured Seeds that are naturally harvested from heirloom, open pollinated plants. I’ve been growing *these* sweet peas for a few seasons, they never disappoint. 

Buy Sweet Pea Seeds from my Etsy Store

Buy Sweet Pea Seeds from my EBay Listing

How Should I Support My Sweet Pea Plants During the Growing Season?

Sweet peas will need some support to climb on like a trellis or netting. They will strive to climb up further and further all throughout the growing season. Note that you should use trellis of a thin enough gauge that their little tendrils can grasp them! Take care to stake or support tall varieties to prevent them from drooping or breaking in the wind.

support sweet pea vines to grow using netting
Sweet peas are climbing vines and natural perfume factories.
Image by Satrina0 on flicker.

Bird or lattice Netting

use netting for supporting sweet pea climb
Petunias also like to climb using netting. Image by Amazon

Sweet peas can grab and climb on netting very ably. I’ve found that while netting makes a great trellis for supporting and growing sweat pea vines, netting has its drawbacks. Keep in mind that it’s somewhat difficult to remove the vines when growing season ends. If you wish to re-use netting, you can leave last year’s (old, brown, dry) vines on the netting to reuse. It just might not look as good as fresh netting.

Tomato Cages

I use tomato cages frequently to allow my sweet peas to grow and climb. You can get them in unfinished galvanized metal, or in bright colors.

support sweet peas to climb using tomato cages together
Secure one tomato cage to the top of the first one to get double height for your climbing sweet peas! Image by author

And, I have a tip: you can strap two tomato cages end-to-end to make an even taller climbing tower. Secure the two round ends together, end to end, using wire or 4 zip ties. Bend the bottom cage prongs inwards to they’re not poking up dangerously. Now, you’ve got a climbing tower twice as high as you did with just one tomato cage!

secure two tomato cages end to end to create a double tall sweet pea support
Secure the to wide ends of tomato cages together to make a climbing tower for sweet peas! Image by author

Stringing Wire or Twine

using stakes and twine to support sweet peas climbing
Image https://www.pinterest.com/pin/58195020163967132/

This is probably the cheapest method, and is a good hands-on project. This takes a little crafting and pre-planning. Firmly anchor two or more vertical sticks or gardening stakes into the ground where you’re going to plant your sweet pea seeds (fiberglass stakes will last a lot longer, though.) You can also use trimmed tree branches. Then run thin wire or twine in between and around the two (or more) vertical sticks, creating a cat’s cradle appearance. To keep the lines taut, use a zip tie to firmly secure the line around the sticks.

How Tall do Sweet Peas Grow?

Sweet peas come in a large variety. There are dwarf variations, and there are the tall vigorous growers. If you opt for the tall vigorous growers, then be able to provide a supporting trellis or something for them to climb up to at least 6 feet. The more you give them, the higher they’ll go, if given the right circumstances: full sun, regular moisture, and a little fertilizer.

What’s the Best Soil Type for Planting Sweet Peas?

When planting sweet peas, consider the type of soil they will be growing in. Well-drained, loose soil with a neutral pH of 6.5-7.0 is the ideal soil type. Sweet peas also prefer soil that is rich in organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure. Adding a balanced fertilizer (Miracle Grow for example) to the soil before planting can help ensure the plants get the nutrients they need for healthy growth.

Really, though, Sweet Peas aren’t terribly fussy about their soil requirements. Not many plants do well in clay-like soil that doesn’t drain. Water-logged roots are death for almost every kind of home garden plant. But adding peat moss to cruddy soil will help a lot. Peat moss isn’t expensive and you get a lot.

Another lovely simple rustic sweet pea bouquet in a glass
Sweet peas make a charming classic cut flower for display in a vase.
Image by Andrew Coombs on flickr.

Sweet peas should be planted in full sun for the best results. The soil should be kept evenly moist, but not waterlogged, to encourage thriving growth. If the soil is too dry or too wet, the sweet peas may not be able to absorb the necessary nutrients or survive. It is important to monitor the moisture level of the soil, especially during hot, dry periods, to make sure the sweet peas are getting the water they need.

Check for pests and diseases regularly and remove diseased plants immediately to prevent the spread of the disease. Provide ample sunlight for optimal growth and prune back dead leaves and stems to promote a full, bushy plant. With a little bit of patience and TLC, you can enjoy a beautiful sweet pea display all season long.

Wrapping It Up

I hope this article has both instructed you about how to grow sweet peas. But really, I hope you’re inspired to get an inexpensive packet of fragrant sweet peas to grow!

Few plants in any garden, as easy to grow as sweet peas, provide prolific, colorful, fragrant blooms all summer long!

What’s been your experience with Sweet Peas? Let us know in the comments below!

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Author

After years of denying it, Donald finally admits one passion in life is gardening. More specifically: growing seeds, plants, flowers and edibles and helping them to be the best possible. Neighbors call him a Green Thumb. He lives in Western Washington with his wife of 24+ years and three cats.

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