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sweet-pea

Guide toSweet Peas

If you are looking for a sweet summer gift that keeps on giving, then look no further than the delightfully, delicate flowers of sweet peas. Firstly they are extremely easy to grow – perfect for beginner gardeners. Secondly, as a growing plant, they will proudly display their beauty and you can enjoy the colourful flowers from wherever you are in the garden.

If that’s not enough to convince you, they are also magical. ‘Why is that?’ we hear you ask! That’s because the more you pick these flowers, the more they grow. With all these reasons to make you smile, it’s no wonder they are one of the most popular cottage garden flowers!

Read on and we’ll explain everything you need to know about growing and looking after sweet peas.

The different types of sweet peas

Before you head outdoors to plant your sweet peas, you need to be aware that there are two very different types of sweet peas.

The first are annuals which basically means you plant them, then they grow that year and then don’t come back. Don’t be too disappointed because what they lack in longevity, they certainly make up by delivering an incredibly sweet scent. The second lot are the perennial or everlasting sweet peas. As their name suggests, these ones last and will come back year after year. The only problem is, they don’t have the fragrance of the annual varieties. Both share the same beautiful colour choices – white, pink, coral, blue, purple or red, so either variety is guaranteed to add some sunshine to your garden.

Now, if you’ve ever seen sweet peas growing in a garden, you’ll recognise these flowers for their amazing ability at being able to climb. But if you fancy something a little bit different you could also try the dwarf varieties. This lot stay low to the ground by forming a clump of colourful flowers with almost no tendrils. That means they don’t need support to grow up and are ideal for filling pots or providing ground cover to your garden.

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When do sweet peas flower?

The peak time for seeing sweet peas is during the summer months and you’ll see an abundance of flowers throughout June and July. However, plant the seeds a little earlier and, if the weather is kind, it is possible to see these blooms coming through as early as May. Again, if the weather is warm and you look after the sweet peas by regular deadheading, it is possible to see the flowers coming through even into autumn.

The one important thing to remember about sweet peas is that you need to keep a check on them. By picking their flowers you are actually encouraging the plants to keep producing flowers, so you need to keep on top of them. Every couple of days you need to remove the seed pods otherwise the sweet pea plant will put all its effort into going to seed rather than producing flowers.

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Sweet pea meaning

Sweet peas have been favourites for many years and were extremely popular during the Victorian era. During this time, they were often used at weddings and given as a sign of goodbye or saying, ‘thank you for a lovely time’. In floriography, the language of flowers, sweet peas symbolise bliss, pleasure and a positive experience.

If you want to be more specific on the message you’re sending then consider gifting a bunch of these flowers in white, which stands for innocence, purity and peace – the perfect gift for someone who has recently had a baby. Or why not take a cue from the Victorians and give a bunch of these in red to someone getting married – they stand for love and romance – or some pink sweet peas which represent happiness.

For someone who has recently started a new job, why not give them the perfect pick of sweet peas in purple. Not only is this colour absolutely stunning but it can also wish someone good luck and success. It also stands for royalty – just in case you have a King or Queen coming to visit!

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How to grow sweet peas

Sweet peas are very easy to grow and combined with their long flowering season, you couldn’t choose a better flower to add in height, colour and fragrance to your garden.

  • Timing: There are two main ways to grow your sweet peas. You can either pop some seeds into containers from October and keep somewhere frost-free until spring arrives. Somewhere like a greenhouse or cold frame is perfect. Alternatively, plant your sweet pea seeds directly into the ground in April or May.

  • Growing sweet peas indoors: Always remember when growing the seeds in containers that they need space for their roots to grow down. Get some 9cm pots, fill with compost and pop in your seeds. Cover the seeds with more compost and give them a gentle water. Before planting out, you should harden them off during the daytime and then return them to the greenhouse at night.

  • Growing sweet peas outdoors: If sowing outdoors into the ground, prepare your soil by digging a trench about 2 inches deep. Then sow the seeds thinly along the trench, keeping them about 2 or 3 inches apart. Cover the seeds with soil and water gently. Plant sweet pea seedlings outside from late May onwards, this will avoid any late spring frosts.

  • Location: Sweet peas love a bit of sunbathing, so choose a sunny spot with well-draining soil. They will need some space to climb or bush out, depending on the variety. Sweet peas also love rich soil, so add compost to your beds before planting them out.

  • Maintenance: As the seedlings appear, keep an eye on them. You can pinch out the tendrils or side shoots of young plants when they reach around 10cm in height, this will encourage bushier growth and more flowers. You should also start to train them to climb up your support structure and gently tie them in if necessary. Of course, don’t forget to deadhead!

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What to do with sweet peas after flowering?

Once you’ve enjoyed your beautiful sweet pea flowers for the summer months, you can leave them to go to seed. Collect the seed pods and let them dry out for a month, then store them in an envelope in a cool place, ready to plant for the following year.

If you want to keep enjoying the beauty of your sweet pea flower, you could press or dry the blooms. Just remember, that sweet pea flowers are fragile and become even more so when dried. You might want to consider using them in potpourri or as decoration on any craft projects you are working on.

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Sweet pea facts

Can you eat sweet peas?

Don’t be fooled by the name of this flower. Despite being two things we love – sweets and peas – you should NEVER eat these flowers. They are, in fact, highly poisonous. Definitely ones to keep out of reach of any small children who may be tempted!

Where are sweet peas native to?

Even though we think of these flowers as English Country Garden classics, they are actually native to Sicily, Southern Italy and Cyprus. It’s thought that a Sicilian monk sent the first sweet pea seeds to the UK in the 17th century.

How tall do sweet peas grow?

Get ready to go tall, these sweet pea plants generally climb to around 2 metres tall! If you prefer to keep things a bit lower, go with the bushy variety that only gets up to about 45cm.

Do pollinators like sweet peas?

Absolutely, their sweet scent and colourful petals will attract honey bees, bumble bees and other wild bee varieties. They are rich in nectar and pollen, making them the perfect choice for pollinators. Unfortunately, they’re not so great for hay fever sufferers – sorry!

Where does the name sweet pea originate?

This one is all down to their Latin name - Lathyrus Odoratus. Lathyro derives from the Greek word which means pea (they are from the legume family) and the Latin word Odoratus, meaning fragrant. Quite fitting for these beautiful blooms.

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Looking for something sweet? See our range of fresh, seasonal flowers to send some happiness by post.