Few annual flowers have the lasting appeal and bucolic beauty of sweet peas. Twining lazily around a rustic trellis, they seem the very antithesis of our busy lives. With their seductive fragrance, sweet peas make great flowers for gardens and bouquets. See our Sweet Pea Growing Guide for information on how to plant and care for sweet peas!
About Sweet Peas
The sweet pea—Lathyrus odoratus—is an annual flower that is at home in a cutting garden, border garden, woodland, or twining on a trellis or an arch. The flowers are now available in a huge range of colors, from pearly white through ice cream pastels to ritzy magentas and inky purples.
Their dainty winged blossoms are matched only by their honey and orange blossom perfume. The combination of the delightful scent and the ability to produce so many blooms for the house over a long period of cutting has ensured their popularity.
Early sowing is one of the secrets to growing sweet peas! Despite their delicate look, sweet peas are quite hardy. In Zone 7 or colder, plant them in very late winter or early spring as soon as the soil is dry enough to work. (Do not wait to sow until last frost.)
The first sweet peas were introduced to Britain in 1699 when a Sicilian monk, Francis Cupani, sent seeds of this highly fragrant annual to Dr Robert Uvedale, a teacher from Enfield, Middlesex. They became hugely popular in North America, both as garden plants and cut flowers. By the late 1800s, California’s growers (including W. Atlee Burpee) shipped trainloads of sweet peas all over the country and developed many further varieties.
Some folks say that growing sweet peas is akin to making a pie crust. Some people have the knack, others don’t. This plant grows from large, easy-to-handle, pea-like seeds. Still, they’re a bit tricky because they are slow to germinate. It’s worth experimenting with different seeds each year.