Plant Sweet Peas Now For Blooms All Summer Long
- Idaho Preferred member Colleen Taugher, owner and producer, Melliflora LLC
“Here are sweet peas, on tiptoe for a flight, with wings of gentle flush o’er delicate white…” – KEATS
As the days start to get noticeably longer, my mind is on flowers. If you too are lost in dreaming for the new season, I highly recommend that you consider growing some sweet peas this year. They are some of the loveliest and most romantic old-fashioned flowers you can grow. Because they were a feature in many of our Grandmothers’ gardens, they evoke love and nostalgia like no other bloom. With a few tips and tricks, you can harvest abundant handfuls of super fragrant blossoms for most of the summer.
If I’ve convinced you to give sweet peas a try, now is the time to get seeds because the best varieties sell out pretty fast. There are a number of sources for seed listed at the end of this article for beautiful fragrant blooms and extra-long stems that make designing easy.
Another reason to get moving on your sweet pea plans now is that they like a long, cold start. I typically direct seed mine the first week of March at our farm in Troy Idaho (USDA zone 6b). Some people start sweet peas under lights indoors. You can absolutely do that. But because they are so hardy, and direct seeding ensures stronger healthier plants, I feel it is more trouble than it is worth. However, if you’re set on starting your plants indoors, skip the heat mat because sweet peas do better on the cooler side.
Unlike many other flowers, you can’t just pop the sweet pea seeds in the ground. They greatly benefit from an overnight pre-soak. Be sure to keep each variety in its own water container to keep them separate and labeled correctly when it is time to plant.
Sweet peas are climbers and will need some support. At Melliflora, we tie cattle panels to T-posts to make a climbing fence. But you can use any support that works into your own garden design. Pop the seeds right into the ground where you have a place for them to climb and just wait. They will emerge as soon as the soil warms up later in the spring and can handle some pretty terrible weather including frosts while they are getting started. Just keep the area free from weeds and they will reward you all summer.
While sweet peas are climbers, they usually need some help. I tie mine to their supports periodically throughout the season to keep them holding tight to their fence.
Those of us who love to make gorgeous arrangements with our cut flowers put a premium on long strong stems so that we have something to work with. Even though sweet peas are extra tough, they don’t like wind and will produce shorter stems if exposed to too much. We grow sweet peas in an enclosed area on the farm where we can zip tie tarps to their fence as a windbreak. If you’re integrating yours into a garden design, you can come up with something more decorative or plant them in a protected place where they still get plenty of sunlight.
After all of that, caring for your sweet peas is very easy. Keep them watered, weeded and keep picking. As long as you continually harvest the blooms and don’t allow them to go to seed, they will reward you with abundant blossoms until frost. They may peter out a bit when the weather gets hot later in the summer, but they will still produce.
At the end of the season, let the flowers go to seed and dry on the vine to harvest the seeds for next year’s sweet pea crop. While they are likely to cross-pollinate and probably won’t come back exactly true the following year, you’ll still get gorgeous blooms as part of a surprise grab bag of crosses that you produced yourself, with the help of Mother Nature.
I hope you give sweet peas a try this summer and would love to hear your stories once you harvest your first flowers.
Floret has very special varieties that all have nice long stems. They are a small operation, however, and sell out fast. If you can’t get the variety you want, you can ask to be notified when it is available https://shop.floretflowers.com/collections/sweet-peas
Owls Acre Seed in the UK ships to the United States and has an excellent selection along with great information on different sweet pea types and more growing tips
Adelia Farm has many varieties to choose from and they specialize in sweet peas https://www.ardeliafarm.com/collections/sweet-pea-seeds
Sweet Pea Gardens does all sweet peas all the time https://sweetpeagardens.com/
About the Author:
Idaho Preferred member Colleen Taugher has her hands in every part of the 85-acre Mellifera farm in Troy but admits she’s really all about the flowers. Melliflora is her creative passion and a way to bring art, design, and agriculture together in a way that makes people happy and helps them honor and elevate the most important moments in their lives.