From My Garden to Yours
Sweet Peas on Fence Sweet Pea with Carpenter Bee
Sweet Peas on Fence

Sweet Peas

These colorful and fragrant beauties are one of my favorite climbers! Sweet peas are easily grown from seed or small nursery six-packs. They don’t like summer heat, so they are best started well in advance of spring weather. In warmer zones (7 or higher), sow in the fall. In cooler zones (6 or lower), you can start the seeds indoor (about 8 weeks before the last frost).

Sowing Seed

To maximize germination, soak the seeds overnight or for a couple of hours. Don’t stress over this as this is a method to boost germination, but is not required. I’ve planted plenty without soaking in advance.

Instead of soaking seeds, some gardeners prefer to nick the seeds with a nail file or roll on sand paper to reduce germination time. This is called scarification.

To plant the seeds, use a stick or a pencil to poke a hole in the soil, then drop in the seed (about 1″ deep) and firmly press the soil over the seed. Keep the soil moist; seedlings should emerge in about 10-21 days.

Sweet peas like to germinate and get established during cool weather and can withstand temperatures well below freezing. In my yard, I typically sow them in November and blooming will begin in March.

Preparing the Site

Conventional gardening wisdom says sweet peas need rich soil with lots of compost and well-rotted manure. I put off planting them for a long time because I didn’t have the time to prepare a special bed for them. I was really missing out because I finally found that sweet peas are actually pretty adaptable. They’ve done well plopped into clay soil and even in an area that is mostly decomposed granite with clay soil. No amendments whatsoever. However, sweet peas do favor alkaline soil and that definitely describes my heavy clay soil.

If you have acidic soil, you may want to amend the soil with powdered lime to reduce the acidity.

Growing Sweet Peas

Although sweet peas are gorgeous climbing fences and trellises, you can also just let them sprawl. I’ve also grown them in containers. Last year, I planted them in a galvanized bucket with a homemade bamboo trellis. Be sure to place them where you can enjoy their glorious fragrance!


Although sweet peas are self-pollinating, that doesn’t stop the pollinators. In my yard, they are a favorite of the carpenter bees (Xylocopa violacea).

Seeds & Trellises

Seeds and pods.
Soaking seeds; floating seeds usually are not viable.
Planting around willow trellises.
Latin Name
Lathyrus odoratus
Bloom Season

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