What are sweet peas?

What are sweet peas?

It’s easy to get caught up in the types, forms, and different growing methods for sweet peas but let’s go back to basics – what are sweet peas?

Sweet peas are flowering plants known for their fragrant and colourful blooms.

These plants are annuals, meaning they complete their life cycle within one growing season. They are relatively easy to grow from seed and for many gardeners they are the only flower that they will grow from seed. Why is this? It’s probably got a lot to do with the fact that the seeds are large enough to be easy to handle!

They are popular in gardens for their charming appearance and sweet fragrance, and their scrambling nature make them a cottage garden favourite. The flowers come in a variety of colours, including shades of blue, pink, purple, white, orange and red, but never yellow (that’s a story for another day). 

Sweet peas are scrambling climbers - they’ll cling on to fences, trellises and supports and when the weight of the plant causes them to bend or fall, they just start sprouting new shoots. For a tidier appearance they can be tied in.

The botanical name, in latin, for sweet peas is Lathyrus odoratus.

They are commonly planted in the spring, though they can be planted any time from mid-late October. Sweet peas prefer cool weather and can be sown directly into the ground or started indoors and later transplanted. Regular deadheading (removing spent blooms) encourages continuous flowering.

The tall growing types are best known, but they come in all sizes from 8ft giants to the dainty "Cupid" types which grow to 30cm tall. 

Apart from their aesthetic appeal, sweet peas are also known for their pleasant fragrance. Many cultivars have been developed, each with its unique colour and scent variations. The flowers are commonly used in floral arrangements, adding both beauty and a delightful scent.