How to Grow Sweet Peas
Sweet peas resemble garden peas, but are grown for their colorful blooms and sweet fragrance. This old fashioned flower is ideal for brightening corners of the yard or for creating a quiet area for rest and relaxation. According to Irish legend, sowing sweet pea seeds before sunrise on St Patrick's Day will produce bigger, more colorful and more fragrant blooms. That may be a bit difficult here in Maine, but give it a try if you can and you may be rewarded with an abundance of sweet pea blooms.
- Long Day vs Short Day: Sweet peas bloom according to the day length. For northern areas that means choosing a variety labeled as long day, while short day sweet peas are better suited for southern areas. The height, color and intensity of fragrance of your sweet peas depends on the cultivar. As a rule, smaller flowers have the most intense fragrance as larger varieties have been bred for the size and shape of the bloom and have lost some of the fragrance. Read descriptions carefully when choosing sweet peas for your garden.
- Location: Sweet Peas prefer full sun, with cool growing conditions. A location that provides shelter during the hottest part of the day and direct sun in early morning and late afternoon is ideal. Otherwise, mulch the plants to keep the soil moist and roots cool.
- Soil: Amend the soil with generous amounts of organic matter, such as compost or aged manure, as sweet peas prefer rich, friable soil that drains well. Even though sweet peas prefer moist soil, they will suffer if soil remains soggy.
- Preparation: Soak sweet pea seeds in lukewarm water for several hours before planting. This causes the seed to swell, preparing it for quicker germination.
- Planting: Plant sweet peas in early spring as soon as the soil has dried. Sow seeds to a depth of ½ to 1 inch spaced four inches apart in rows. If you are growing tall sweet peas, erect your fence or trellis first and plant the seeds two inches from the trellis.
- Watering: Keep the soil moist until seedlings emerge in 7 to 10 days. Reduce watering to once or twice a week, depending on the weather and soil conditions, or whenever the soil feels dry to the touch 1 inch below the surface.
- Mulch: Mulch sweet peas with grass clippings to maintain moisture and keep the soil cool. Mulch also creates and effective weed barrier if applied to a depth of 2 to 3 inches.
- Deadheading: Deadhead spent blooms as soon as they begin to fade to keep your sweet peas blooming for an extended period.
Sweet peas make delightful cut flowers to fragrance the home. Consider a small vase in the bedroom to promote relaxation or set the mood for romance, or display them in the kitchen and bathroom to spread summer cheer.