Skip to main content

How to Grow Sweet Peas

I love to share my extensive gardening knowledge with readers so that they, too, can enjoy the wonders of all kinds of verdant plant life.

Sweet pea flowers.

Sweet pea flowers.

Why Grow Sweet Peas?

If you want to know how to grow sweet peas, whose delicate and colourful flowers can fill the garden with the most delicious scent, then I hope to bring you a tip or two on achieving the most wonderful display of these flowers in your garden. Not only will they make your garden beautiful, but they also make excellent cut flowers for the house.

No garden hardy annual is grown by both amateur and professionals alike as much as the sweet pea. Sometimes called the prince of hardy annuals, it is cultivated for both garden and home, and by professionals for exhibitions and public displays of excellence.

Often thought of as old-fashioned cottage garden plants, sweet peas evoke memories of summer, sunshine, and of a garden filled with fragrance and honey bees.

They are among the easiest of all garden flowers to grow, and the little work involved in planting their seeds and preparing a trellis support for them is repaid a thousand-fold in the scent and enjoyment you will receive from them.

They are also excellent for growing a living screen, offering summer privacy or separating the vegetable garden from the flower garden.

Colorful and highly scented sweet peas.

Colorful and highly scented sweet peas.

How to Grow Sweet Peas for Fun

  1. Choose a sunny spot in your garden and prepare the ground well by digging it in the autumn. Incorporate dung or a compound fertilizer to ensure the soil is enriched.
  2. In the spring, rake over the surface to remove any weeds.
  3. Sow your sweet pea seeds in double drills, about 10” apart, 1” deep with each seed planted 2” or 3” apart.
  4. Leave a space of at least four feet between pairs of drills.
  5. Plant the seeds in March or April, water in well, and leave well alone.
  6. Stake them as they grow, with either brushy hazel branches or a trellis or chicken wire support.
  7. Weed as necessary.

This will give you delicious blooms all summer long that can be cut for the house, or left in place to be enjoyed by all who visit your garden or yard.

Sweet peas keep blooming so long as you dead-head the flowers to stop them from going to seed.

Showy sweet peas.

Showy sweet peas.

How to Grow Sweet Peas for Exhibitions

The professional grower takes much more care of his seedlings when growing exhibition-grade sweet pea blooms.

  1. In early October, fill several small pots with top-grade seed compost, and plant two or three seeds in each pot.
  2. Water well and place the pots in a garden cold frame to germinate and grow.
  3. Water as required.
  4. At the end of the year, the plants should have grown a few inches, and the growing tip should now be nipped off, taking the plant back to 3” in height.
  5. Several side shoots growths will be made, and all but one should be removed.
  6. The plant is now allowed to grow with one side tip, and any others that start to grow should be removed as soon as they are noticed.
  7. The ground where the sweet peas are to be grown is dug deeply, with dung, bone meal and wood ash incorporated.
  8. A top dressing of sulphate of potash is added.
  9. The seedlings are removed from their protective cold frame and hardened off, ready to plant out at the end of March, start of April, as soon as the soil has warmed a little.
  10. From each pot of two or three seedlings, only the biggest and strongest looking is chosen, and each plant is planted out at least 9” apart, and provided with a seven-foot cane on which to support their future growth.
  11. Each sweet pea is kept to a single stem, and they are each trained to grow up their own cane.
  12. All side shoots, flowers and tendrils are removed.
  13. Once the plant reaches three feet high, or a few weeks before the first scheduled professional (or amateur) show, flowers may be allowed to start developing.
  14. Because the plant has not been allowed to expend any energy growing tendrils, side shoots, or even flowers up until this stage, all of its energies will be put into producing the most magnificent blooms.
  15. Exhibition sweet peas are fed throughout the growing season, starting in May with generous proportions of dried blood, liquid manure and compound fertilisers added at reasonable intervals.
  16. The expert grower watches his plants very carefully, and can quickly correct deficiencies or over-feeding symptoms as the plants grow.

The end result is each plant carrying four to six wonderful, show-stopping blooms on 12” stems.

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Dengarden

Sweet peas can also be started off inside a heated greenhouse in January, for show or simply for garden use the following summer.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


GardenExpert999 (author) from Scotland on February 08, 2014:

I prefer growing them up chicken wire fencing, which I have in the garden already. It's just easier than using canes or whatever!

Jill Spencer from United States on January 30, 2014:

Grew these last year and am looking forward to growing this year. Which staking do you like best?

GardenExpert999 (author) from Scotland on January 30, 2013:

What a super idea, and a great way to use up those empty loo tolls!

ray from the allotment on January 30, 2013:

started mine off already in used toilet rolls - works well for me - when its time to plant just put the whole roll in the soil

Kathy Sima from Ontario, Canada on July 05, 2012:

Oh yes, I do remember they smelled lovely. I look forward to smelling their wonderful fragrance again sometime.

GardenExpert999 (author) from Scotland on July 05, 2012:

The wonderful thing about sweet peas is their scent. You have probably forgotten it, but when you grow them you will be reminded!

Kathy Sima from Ontario, Canada on July 05, 2012:

My grandmother used to grow sweet peas on the farm, and I remember how pretty they looked both in the garden and in a vase on her kitchen table. I should try growing some myself. Thanks for sharing your growing tips!

GardenExpert999 (author) from Scotland on April 14, 2012:

I just planted mine out for this year, yesterday. It is a good idea to soak the seeds overnight before you plant them.

Debbie Pinkston from Pereira, Colombia and NW Arkansas on April 14, 2012:

I'm looking forward to growing sweet peas now!

moonlake from America on April 14, 2012:

I love sweet peas they smell so good. I want to get them to grow up my bottle tree with morning glories. Nice hub good information. Voted Up.

GardenExpert999 (author) from Scotland on April 14, 2012:

Cut sweet pea flowers last for ages in water in a vase, and their scent is simply wonderful and long-lasting, both indoors and out. You are going to love them :) Thanks for reading!

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on April 14, 2012:

I have never grown sweet peas, but after reading this hub, I am going to have to try! They look so beautiful and I love to plant fragrant flowers. Voted up, useful and sharing on my blog. Have a beautiful day! :)

Related Articles