About the Sweet Pea
Though a relative of the edible pea, the sweet pea does not produce plump flavorful seeds make a delicious soup. The seeds from a sweet pea plant may actually be toxic. Instead, it has been bred for its flower. The flower of a sweet pea vine is vastly larger than other pea varieties and significantly more aromatic.
Cultivars range in color from traditional pink to violet and ruby red; there are even bi-colored options. These towers of blooms can be cut and added to arrangements, or just enjoyed in the garden.
Though the sweet pea isn’t an edible pea, it is still a member of the pea family and a nitrogen-fixing garden plant. All peas have a special relationship with soil bacteria that allows them to source nitrogen from the air. In doing this, they leave behind nitrogen-rich nodules in the soil for other plants to utilize.
Planting Sweet Peas
Plant sweet peas in the spring as early as the soil can be worked. There is no need to wait until the last frost, peas are very cold hardy. In USDA zones 6 and below, start sweet peas in a greenhouse or indoors to get an early start.
Plant them somewhere with rich well-draining soil and plenty of sunlight. They will grow in partial shade but not as well, peas like their heads in the sun and their feet in the cool moist soil.
Dig a trench 4 inches deep and as long as you would like your sweet pea row to be. Plant your peas every 3 inches and fill in the trench. They can be slow to germinate and may not pop out of the soil for a week or more.
Sweet Pea Planting Checklist:
- Rich Well-Draining Soil
- Partial to Full Sun
- Alkaline Soil (Amend with Lime if Needed)
- Support Trellis
- Soak Seeds Overnight for Faster Germination
Sweet Pea Flower Care
When plants are a few inches tall, thin them to 5 inch spacings. When plants are about 6 inches tall, pinch the tops to encourage more bushing and flower production. This process can be repeated anywhere you’d like the plant to branch out.
Sweet peas need something to climb. This can be anything from bamboo garden stakes to sections of wire fencing, they aren’t picky. Some climbing varieties can reach 9 feet in height, check the seed packet to know how tall to build it. Pick out dead flowerheads to maintain new blooms all season long.