Sweet Pea

The sweet pea is a flowering plant in the genus Lathyrus in the family Fabaceae, native to Sicily, southern Italy and the Aegean Islands. The botanical name of sweet pea is Lathyrus odoratus. It is an annual climbing plant, where suitable support is available. Hundreds of varieties of sweet pea have been developed and are grown as garden ornamentals or are grown commercially for the floral industry. The plant is sometimes confused with the closely related everlasting pea (Lathyrus latifolius), a perennialspecies.

The vine like stem and bears alternate compound leaves with two oval leaflets and a terminal tendril. The flowers, commonly white, pink, red, violet, or purple and up to 5 cm (2 inches) across, are borne singly or in clusters of two to four. The fruit is a hairy pod about 5 cm long; the seeds are not considered edible. They are spring and early summer flowers with beautiful blooms and make excellent cut flowers. The flowers resemble fringed butterflies, while their stems appear to be folded. Luckily, the stems are sturdy enough to hold up their profuse blooms.

Table of Contents


6 - 10 feet

Width-Circumference (Avg)

null - 8 feet

Approximate pH

7.0 - 7.5

Growth Nutrition of Sweet Peas

Sweet peas need moisture; dry conditions cause bud drop. They also like plenty of nitrogen for growth and potash for flowers.

Types of Sweet Pea

Air Warden

A striking flower, its dark red petals are certain to catch the attention of anyone who comes near it, and its strong stems and fantastic aroma add to its beauty and charm. It blooms heavily, grows up to six feet in height, and it looks fantastic in vases, containers, and window boxes.


With petals that are raspberry red with white streaks, the America has a unique sweet, almost fruity fragrance, and its long, airy stems perfectly complement the beautiful blooms. Introduced in the late 1800s, this flower is an English heirloom and is perfect for anyone who loves the colors red and pink.

Apricot Sprite

Like its name implies, these flowers are apricot-salmon in color, and many are bi-colored pink blooms as well. They are stunning and come with an amazing scent, and their long-lasting ability makes them perfect as a cut flower.

Crimson Ripple (Lathyrus odoratus)

With a wonderful fragrance and large wavy petals that are colored in crimson and white, this type of sweet pea grows up to eight feet tall and has long, beautiful stems. It blooms from spring to fall and looks extraordinary in vases and containers. It prefers full sun or partial shade, and it is attractive to butterflies and bees. Deer-resistant, this sweet pea also looks great in borders and even window boxes – anywhere that allows you to show off its colors.

Cupani (Lathyrus odoratus)

One of the most fragrant varieties of the sweet pea plant, this flower has deep crimson and violet petals and is very heat-tolerant. A self-seeding plant, the Cupani remains in your soil where it grows year after year, and it is a deer-resistant plant as well. Not a lover of too much heat or humidity, this sweet pea blooms from spring to fall and can grow up to eight feet in height. It is attractive to bees and butterflies, and looks beautiful as a border and even in window boxes.

Cupid Pink

A dwarf plant, the Cupid Pink is a bushy plant that blooms massively and grows up to two feet high. Its one-inch, bi-colored petals come in beautiful shades of pink and white, and they are perfect for edgings, containers, vases, and even hanging baskets.

Erewhon (Lathyrus odoratus x belinensis)

With light pink upper petals and beautiful rich blue lower petals, this sweet pea truly stands out, and it makes for a beautiful summer garden, not to mention beautiful vases and containers. Growing up to eight feet high and twelve inches wide, the plant is heavily scented and is therefore a very popular option whether you are planning to keep it inside or outdoors. The flowers bloom from spring to fall, and they are not tolerant of conditions that get too hot or humid.

Fire and Ice (Lathyrus odoratus)

This flower is quite unique, with deep pink and white markings, along with purple blue lower petals, which give it a truly stunning look. Growing up to six feet in height, this plant does best in climates that are dry and cool, and it blooms from spring to fall. Best when planted in full sun or partial shade, the Fire and Ice does best when you apply mulch to the soil to keep its roots nice and moist. It grows in zones 2-11, and you can pinch off the plants once they reach six inches in height in order to keep their growth under control.


What makes this flower so unique is its varieties of colors and designs. It includes flowers that are striped, bi-colored, and solid-colored, coming in just about every color you can imagine. They are a vigorous plant with strong stems, and they grows up to six feet tall. They are also one of the most fragrant types of sweet pea flowers, which makes them perfect for containers and vases, not to mention window boxes.

Henry Eckford

With bright orange-red petals that fade to salmon-colored, this is a stunning and eye-catching flower indeed. It is an heirloom sweet pea introduced in the early 1900s, and its vines grow up to eight feet in height. When the afternoon shade arrives, the petals almost glow, and since they contain four blooms per stem, they are an absolutely beautiful plant and a favorite of gardeners.

King’s High Scent

The King’s High Scent is likely the sweetest-scented sweet pea available, and it consists of large petals that are creamy white in color and trimmed in violet. Growing up to six feet tall, the plant is perfect around open windows and porches, and alongside any outdoor sitting area. Their scent is so fantastic that they can scent your entire home, and they also make a spectacular landscape.

Mammoth Mix

In colors that include different shades of salmon, rose, lilac, white, and pink, this type of sweet pea is sturdy and very heat-resistant, and you can even train them on trellises, strings, and nets. They get up to six feet in height and are very fragrant, and whether you place them outside or indoors, their amazing scent is there to please.


These petals are very dark and consist of petals that are deep red at the top and violet on the bottom. Their color is unique, and they have a wonderful fragrance as well, making them perfect for containers and vases. They reach up to six feet high and are a favorite of many gardeners, and they are perfect for nets, trellises, and strings.

Melody Mix

With large flowers, long stems, and a variety of colors, you can find them in many shades of maroon, red, pink, lilac, rose, violet, and lavender. Many of the petals are bi-colored, so the mix is quite stunning. They are extremely fragrant and last a very long time, and they are beautiful when placed in a vase or container.

Miss Willmott

This sweet pea has a beautiful color of blended orange, apricot, and pink, making it quite striking and eye-catching. They grow up to six feet in height and have only been around since the early 1900s. The Miss Willmott is an heirloom sweet pea and is perfect for containers and vases.

Mrs. Collier

This variety of sweet pea is extremely fragrant and grows three blooms to each stem. They are lime green in the beginning but fade to a clear cream color as they age. An heirloom sweet pea, it has only been around since the early 1900s, and it can grow up to ten feet high. It is free-blooming, and is one of the most popular of all heirloom sweet peas.

Mrs. R. Bolton

With large, ruffled petals that are almond-pink in color, this variety of sweet pea grows to six feet in height and looks spectacular when planted alongside sweet peas that are violet-blue in color. The flowers sit atop sturdy, long stems and look beautiful in vases and containers.


With petals that range from white to deep purple to ink-blue, they boast streaks, picotee edges, and specks of additional color. They grow up to eight feet tall and have a magnificent aroma, making them perfect for vases and containers. Their stems are long and straight, and they are very hardy and vigorous plants.

Noel Sutton

With ruffled petals that come in vivid violet-blue, the Noel Sutton has strong, sturdy stems that grow quite long and a wonderful aroma. Because of these things, the flowers look great in containers and vases.

Old Spice

In beautiful colors such as creamy white, violet, pink, and deep purple, among others, this plant has a lot of fragrance and is very tolerant of the heat. If you live in a warm climate or simply want to plant something beautiful in the summer months, the Old Spice is one plant you’ll want to consider.

Oxford and Cambridge

This sweet pea is extremely fragrant and consists of two beautiful heirloom flowers, including the Oxford, which is dark blue, and the Cambridge, which is sky blue in color. It grows up to seven feet in height and makes a striking-looking display regardless of where it is planted.

Perennial Sweet Pea (Lathyrus Latifolius)

Also called the Everlasting Pea, this plant ranges in color from medium pink to almost-white. The flowers span one inch across, and they usually climb on nearby vegetation or ramble along the ground. They are easy to grow, have won several international flower awards, and are a self-seeding type of sweet pea. Butterflies and bees love them, but deer do not, and they look great as groundcover along slopes or banks.

Prima Ballerina

A dwarf sweet pea, these start out a rose-cream color then fade to lavender-white as they age, and their magnificent scent is enough to make anyone want to grow them. They are compact and only grow up to 32 inches tall, and they are both long-lasting and graceful.

Promise (Lathyrus odoratus)

With large eye-catching petals of pink and white, they can grow up to six feet tall and twelve inches wide, and they are both reliable and very showy. Great for arbors and arches, the Promise has long sturdy stems and a wonderful fragrance, making them noticeable wherever you plant them. Contrary to what some people believe, sweet peas are not edible, because they can cause severe discomfort if you eat them. If you pick them, they continue to grow, and if you’re looking for something to go in containers or window boxes, you’ll find these are perfect.

Southbourne (Lathyrus odoratus)

With lovely light pink petals tinged with soft white, these sweet peas are sturdy and very fragrant. They bloom best in climates that are mild and cool, and they can grow up to eight feet in height. Butterflies and bees love them, and they prefer soil that is well-drained and has a medium amount of moisture. They are beautiful both indoors and outdoors, and they bloom from spring to fall.

Spencer Mix (Lathyrus odoratus)

This is one of the most popular and commonly found types of sweet peas, mainly because it comes in colors that include violet, lavender, rose pink, light pink, white, and creamy yellow. They have large petals that truly highlight your summer garden, and they look beautiful in beds and borders, not to mention containers and window boxes. With low to average watering needs and a low-maintenance aspect, the Spencer Mix variety can reach up to six feet high and is very attractive to butterflies and bees.

Strawberry Sundae

These flowers are exceptionally fragrant and come in pastel colors such as pink, white, and a rose bi-colored petal. The combination of the colors is quite exquisite, and it is both heat-resistant and easy to grow. They grow up to six feet tall, and they look beautiful in vases and containers.

Swan Lake

This type of sweet pea has large, pristine white petals on long, sturdy stems, not to mention a wonderful aroma. Vigorous and heavy-blooming, the Swan Lake grows up to six feet tall and is therefore perfect for cutting and placing in containers and vases.

Turquoise Lagoon

In shades of beautiful rose pink that fade to lavender and aqua blue when they age, these flowers are stunning and look exquisite in vases and containers. A hybrid plant, the Turquoise Lagoon grows up to six feet tall and has a wonderful scent, so it is easy to show them off to anyone who comes near them.

Planting Sweet Peas

When to Plant Sweet Peas

  • In most locations where frosts occur regularly, sweet peas should be planted in very late winter or early spring as soon as the soil is dry enough to work. (Do not wait until last frost to sow! It will likely be too late.)

  • If you garden in mild winter climates, plant sweet peas in the late fall (November) so they can develop and bloom in late winter and early spring. To get the best display, dig a trench and fill it with well-rotted manure or compost 6 weeks before you sow the seeds. Sweet peas are greedy plants and need a good boost of nutrient rich matter to thrive.

Sowing Sweet Peas Indoors

  • In the coldest parts of the country, get a jump on the season by starting sweet peas indoors in a seed tray. Sow in seed-starting containers in early spring about 6 to 7 weeks before the last frost date, then plant out as soon as soil can be worked; sweet peas can handle light frosts.

  • Soaking the seeds overnight first softens the outer coating and aids germination. Lightly scoring the outer shell with a nail file can help, too.

  • Sow the seeds about half an inch deep in individual cells of a seed tray—2 seeds to a module is fine, but be aware that their long roots have a tendency to tangle and can make separation difficult.

  • Once they are showing their first pea-like leaves, gently scoop them out and put them into a larger pot to harden off. The advice I had from one of the most respected sweet pea growers was “to treat the seedlings how I would my husband: stick them in an unheated greenhouse, ignore them, and they will thrive.”

  • As soon as the soil can be worked, plant them outside.

Sowing Seeds in the Ground

  • Sweet peas are happiest with their heads in the sun and their roots deep in cool, moist soil. When possible, plant low-growing annuals in front of them to shade their roots.

  • Choose a well-drained site. Alkaline soil is best; sprinkle some powdered lime on the surface if your soil tends to be acidic.

  • Prepare a rich soil by mixing in generous amounts of compost or well-rotted manure to a depth of 2 feet.

  • Prior to planting, you’re going to want to dig a nice deep “compost” trench of about 4 inches in depth.

  • After you dig the trench, make holes with a pencil, drop in the seeds, and press down on the soil to firm it and shut out any light.

  • Before planting, soak the seeds in water for 24 hours. Then nick the seeds with a nail file before planting to speed sprouting. You do not need to soak seeds in a temperate climate.

Sweet Pea Care


Sweet peas thrive in full sun, although in warmer climates they do well in a location that receives a bit of shade in the heat of the afternoon.


Sweet peas prefer rich but well-drained soil. A slightly alkaline soil pH (about 7.5) is ideal. Add compost to improve poor soil.


Sweet peas need weekly watering, to keep the soil moist during the growing season. Check the soil by placing your finger an inch into the soil. If it's moist, no need to water; if it's dry, time to give the plants a drink.

Temperature and Humidity

Because sweet peas originated in the Mediterranean, they can handle a rare chill but do best if they're planted after the last frost and in warmer temperatures in USDA zones 3-8. Sweet pea seedlings can tolerate a light frost, but the plants dislike extremely hot temperatures. Plant early to enjoy the blooms before they wither in the heat.


During the growing season, sweet peas require steady, regular feeding and watering. Feed them monthly with a fertilizer high in potassium, such as a tomato fertilizer. Adding a bit of blood meal to the soil is thought to help keep the stems long and suitable for cutting.


To increase branching, which produces more flowering stems, pinch the growing tips back 1 inch when the plant reaches 4 inches tall.2 Most sweet pea varieties will begin blooming in late spring or early summer. The more you cut the flowers, the more blooms you should get, so don't hesitate to bring some bouquets indoors. Deadhead the spent flowers to encourage continued blooming.

Potting and Repotting Sweet Pea

Sweet peas can also be potted into planters and be placed indoors. With just a few steps, you can have a brand new sweet pea plant for your home.

You have to remove the nursery plant from its container and then brush off the excess soil from its roots. Feel free to tease the roots if they are clumped together. After most of the excess soil is shaken off, place the plant into a bigger planter and repot the soil back into it.

When you're placing the soil back into the planter, be sure to press down the soil to press out air bubbles for maximum growth.

Pests and Plant Diseases


1. Aphids

The common aphid on sweet pea is the pea aphid, but the potato aphid sometimes infests sweet pea. Spraying with insecticidal soap, ultrafine horticultural oil or malathion, which are among the compounds registered for control of this pest in Connecticut, will control this pest. Imidacloprid may also be useful as a systemic to be taken up by the roots. Consult the label for dosage rates and safety precautions.

2. Corn earworm, Helicoverpa zea.

The larvae, when abundant, feed upon sweet pea and many other plants. The moths, with a wingspread of about 1.5 inches, are tan with darker markings. They arrive in Connecticut each season from more southern areas after which they lay eggs singly on various plants. After hatching, the caterpillars feed on the leaves, eventually reaching a length of up to 2". Their color varies from brown, tan, green, or pink with light and dark longitudinal stripes. The head is golden brown and the body has small bumps and spines, giving it a rough texture. There can be two or three generations in a year, depending on when the adults arrive on winds from the south. Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (Bt) and spinosad are registered for control of this pest in Connecticut. Consult the label for dosage rates, safety precautions, and preharvest intervals.

3. Celery leaftier.

This insect feeds upon sweet pea.


1. Anthracnose

Glomerella cingulata.Symptoms first appear as whitish lesions on leaves, shoots, and flower stalks. Heavy infection results in extensive loss of leaves and shoot tips may wilt and die. Infected tissues are frequently covered with salmon-colored spore masses after periods of wet weather. This is the same fungus that causes bitter rot of apples.

Efforts to maximize plant vigor by fertilizing and watering are helpful. However, watering should be done early in the day to give the foliage a chance to dry before nighttime. It is also helpful to pick and remove symptomatic leaves as soon as they develop and after the tops have been killed by frost. This disease may also be prevented by using healthy seed and by planting in clean soil. Although not usually necessary, applications of fungicides can be made when new growth emerges in the spring. Among the compounds registered for use in Connecticut are maneb and thiophanate-methyl. Consult the label for dosage rates and safety precautions.

2. Root rot

The above-ground symptoms of this disease are usually nonspecific and include a general wilting, decline, and collapse of the foliage and the entire plant. This general droopiness or flaccid appearance is often accompanied by browning and rotting of the roots and the crown. Darkened or discolored lesions can develop on the main stem near the soil line. Yellowing and death of the outer leaves follows, until finally the entire plant is dead.

Control can be difficult once plants are infected so prevention is important. It is helpful to avoid overwatering, especially in heavy soils, and to avoid watering directly into the crown area of the plant. Highly symptomatic plants can be rogued and removed since recovery is unlikely.

3. Powdery mildew

White powdery spots or patches develop on leaves and occasionally on stems. Symptoms often first appear on the upper surfaces of the leaves and are usually most pronounced during hot, humid weather. Heavily infected leaves turn brown and shrivel.

Disease can be minimized by avoiding overcrowded spacing of plants and by carefully picking off affected leaves as soon as symptoms are evident. Symptomatic leaves can be placed into a plastic bag in order to avoid spreading the spores of the fungus to other plants. Use of fungicides is usually not necessary. However, applications can be made as soon as symptoms are visible. Among the compounds registered for use in Connecticut are horticultural oil, sulfur, potassium bicarbonate, and thiophanate-methyl. Consult the label for dosage rates and safety precautions.

4. Spotted wilt, virus, Impatiens Necrotic Spot Virus (INSV)

Initial symptoms of infection appear as a mottling of the leaves. Purple spots then develop on these leaves and stems. This virus is transmitted by the western flower thrips.

Control of this disease is focused on prevention since once plants are infected, they cannot be cured. It is important to eliminate and remove infected plants as soon as they are recognized and to eliminate other symptomatic plants since this virus has a very broad host range. It is also critical to manage the thrips population.

Benefits of Sweet Pea Leaves

Rich in antioxidant properties:

We know that antioxidants are very important for our health. They can help in the fight against free radicals and preventing oxidative stress in the cells. The best way to prevent some type of cancer is to eat foods rich in antioxidants. Sweet pea leaves are having toxic effects but also they have antioxidants so you should consult with your doctor before you start using them as your natural treatment against cancer.

Source of plant-based protein:

There are many different plants that are an excellent source of plant-based protein. We know that animal protein is good for our health. But you should know that the animal-based protein is also a source of cholesterol. In the plant-based protein, the cholesterol level is relatively low. This is a reason why the sweet pea plant is used as a famine food.

Potent antifungal properties:

There are some studies in which are said that the sweet pea leaves may have potent antifungal properties. You can use this plant to fight externally against fungi. Also, you can use it to fight against skin problems which are caused by fungi but you should be careful if you are allergic to sweet pea. You should talk with your doctor about the possibility of being allergic to this plant.

Used as famine food:

In some countries, especially the poor regions of India, the sweet pea leaves are consumed as a famine food, especially during the drought season when the food source becomes limited. The reason why the sweet pea leaves are used as famine food is due to their rich protein content.

The protein content is eligible to fight against hunger problems and malnutrition, especially in children. Also, the seeds and flowers of sweet pea are edible and not just the leaves of this plant.

Natural fragrances:

In traditional medicine, the sweet pea flowering plant was used as an ornamental plant in the gardens or in a vase. It has a beautiful appearance but also has natural fragrances. The flowers of a sweet pea can be used as an aromatic herb and also it has many health benefits which are amazing for people. You can use the fresh flowers and leaves as a natural air freshener because it has a strong and sweet smell combined.

Also, the dried flowers and leaves can be used because they offer a more spicy and herbal fragrance to the room. Also, there are some perfumes that are using the extract of sweet pea flowers and leaves as their main signature of aroma. Also, in the cosmetic products are used sweet pea plants. The toxic effect of this plant is less when it is used externally.

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