Annual Overview: Sweet Pea


Don’t let the size of the flowers fool you.  They may be delicate but their impact in the garden is anything but.  Layer after layer, they create a splash of color against their vibrant green backdrop.  Available in a wide variety of stunning colors, this versatile plant comes in both bush varieties as well as climbing vine varieties.  Quick to mature, the sweet pea may be one of the first blooms to welcome in spring.


Sweet Pea Garden Guide

In this guide you will find:
Starting from Seed
When to Plant
Where to Plant
Plant Spacing
Care and Maintenance


Sweet Pea at a Glance

Botanical Name: Lathyrus odoratus

Common Name(s): Sweet Pea

Height: Up to 6 feet, vining, upright habit

Bloom Time: Spring and summer

Soil Conditions: Well-drained, rich, and moist soil

Sun: Full sun or light shade

Soil pH Conditions: 6.4-7.6


Notes: Sweet peas come in both climbing and bush varieties.  The climbing varieties can grow up to 6 feet and will require support.  The bush type generally do not grow taller than 2 feet.  Sweet pea does not tolerate extreme heat well so should be planted in the cooler weather and established before the summer heat hits.

Starting Sweet Pea from Seed

In warmer climates where summer heat hits early and hard, you may be better off planting sweet pea indoors at least four to six weeks prior to last frost to ensure that it is established prior to the hot summer heat.

Soak  seeds overnight to aid in germination.

Plant in peat-moss pots or similar commercial garden medium.

Plant several seeds in each pot—do not thin.

Allow the plants to germinate at 60°-70°F

They will need to be hardened off prior to planting.

When to Plant

Plant as soon as the soil can be worked following the last frost.

Where to Plant

Sweet pea requires fertile, moist soil that is well-drained.  They should be planted in full sun or light shade.  Because sweet pea stems and foliage are delicate, plant in a location where there is some protection from damaging winds.  Mulch lightly in late spring to help the soil retain moisture.

Plant Spacing

Space transplants twelve inches apart to allow for adequate air circulation in full grown plants to discourage disease.

 Care and Maintenance

Once established, sweet pea requires very little maintenance.  To encourage flowering, pinch spent flowers.

Do not top water late in the day to discourage disease.


Ascochyta blight, downy mildew, fasciation, leaf spot diseases, pea enation mosaic, pea mosaic, pea virus, powdery mildew, root and crown rot, rusts and tomato spotted wilt virus.


Aphids, foliage feeding caterpillars, leafminers, root know nematode, snail and slugs, spider mites, thrips

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