Growing Sweet Pea Flower: Identify Types of Sweet Pea Vines, Care Tips

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Gardening | April 1, 2024

Man holding a potted sweet pea flower, smelling it after learning how to identify sweet pea types by color, how to grow sweet pea flowers indoors, outdoors, and care tips for planting sweet peas.

The Sweet Pea flower is an enchanting climbing vine that gives your garden a beautiful rainbow of colors as the flowers bloom.15

It’s perfect for outdoors and inside, where you can plant it in a pot or hanging basket and let it flow out and trail as it pleases.10

Besides the beautiful display in your garden, the Sweet Pea flower is known for its distinct fragrance that offers a sweet aroma.

Thankfully, the Sweet Pea is a plant with few needs. So, you can plant it in your garden and let it thrive as you gently guide its trail in whatever pattern you desire.

This complete guide has all the information you need to start growing Sweet Peas, both indoors and out.

Sweet Pea

(Lathyrus odorata)

Sweet Pea flower in oval frame on green background.
  • Characteristics: A hardy, climbing vine that does well in moderate climatic conditions, blooming into radiant and strongly scented flowers.
  • Family: Fabaceae
  • Genus: Lathyrus
  • Leaf: Waxy, two-lobed, alternate, about 1-inch long
  • Seed: Big, rounded seed
  • Blossoms: Strongly scented, grows singly or in clusters of two or three, blooms in purple, pink, white, red, and orange colors
  • Native Habitat: Sicily, Southern Italy, and the Aegean Islands
  • Height: 8-10 feet
  • Canopy: 8-10 feet
  • Type: Annual
  • Native Growing Zone: USDA zones 2-10

Image Credit: Alicja (_Alicja_)29

How To Identify Sweet Pea (Pictures of Sweet Peas)

When people hear of the Sweet Pea, their minds quickly jump to the edible green peas they are used to. No wonder you hear remarks like ‘How can peas be ornamental?’

However, these types of peas are different. So, you should know how to identify Sweet Peas and understand their role in ornamental gardening.6

First, the Sweet Pea has the name ‘pea’ to it because of its seeds that appear like pea pods, although they are not edible.

If you are a first-time gardener and would love to have this plant in your flower collection, here are some pictures of Sweet Peas along with their distinguishable characteristics to help you identify them.

Sweet Pea Leaves

The Sweet Pea leaves are two-lobed. This means that one leaf is divided into two parts around the stalk and then joined together at the base.

These unique leaves make it easy to spot a Sweet Pea plant even before you look at other features.

Sweet Pea Flower

The Sweet Pea flower is a beauty to behold. That’s why you can harvest the blooms as cut flowers for placing in vases.14

They bloom in white, red, blue, pink, and purple flowers. Once they bloom, the garden fills with a radiant burst of colors and a strong fragrance from the flowers.

Sweet Pea identification chart showing a full grown Sweet Pea plant and Sweet Pea leaves, Sweet Pea flower, and Sweet Pea seeds images along with a color-coded map showing the best sweet pea growing zone.

If you are looking for plants that attract hummingbirds for planting in your garden, Sweet Peas are what you need. They have it all: the bright colors, the nectar, and an irresistible fragrance.

Sweet Pea Seeds

The Sweet Pea seeds appear in hairy pods after the flowers wither away. Although inedible, they play a significant role in ensuring that the annual Sweet Pea plant grows in the next season.

Therefore, you can harvest the seeds and wait for the next planting season to sow them.

Sweet Pea Vine

All pea plants are climbers, thanks to their hook-like tendrils and winding vines. The Sweet Pea is known for its climbing art as its sturdy vine holds on to any plant or structure near it, trailing around the garden.1

To care for the plant, ensure you provide a trellis where the Sweet Pea vine can go around without invading other plants.

Sweet Pea Flower Colors

Sweet pea flower colors vary widely. The native Sweet Pea plant only blooms into white, red, purple, blue, and pink flowers.

However, some cultivars of the Sweet Pea plant may have other types of flowers blooming in different colors.13 Yellow is the only color you may not find among the Sweet Pea blooms.

White Sweet Pea Flower

The different types of white flowers from the Sweet Pea plant are bold and radiant. They are the purest varieties of Sweet Pea flowers, and gardeners love them for their reliability in terms of growth and quality.

Close-up shot of a White Sweet Pea Flower showing pristine white petals attached to a stalk with a blurred tree bark on the background.

(Image: AlbanyColley20)

White Sweet Pea flowers represent innocence and purity. No wonder brides love them as bouquets for their weddings.

Blue Sweet Pea Flower

The blue Sweet Pea flower is a symbol of calmness and clarity.

Close-up shot of a Blue Sweet Pea Flower showing vivid blue petals.

(Image: miradja21)

Having these blue flowers in your garden gives it a sense of calmness and relaxation.

Purple Sweet Pea Flower

Most people know that purple is the color of royalty. You may introduce a touch of royalty in your garden with purple Sweet Pea flower.

Close-up shot of a Purple Sweet Pea Flower showing bright purple-violet petals attached to their stalks with leaves on the background.

(Image: Bluesnap22)

Even pollinators like hummingbirds, songbirds, and different types of butterflies may find their way to your garden for a taste of it.

Pink Sweet Pea Flower

Pink is always associated with children because of their happy and bubbly nature. The pink Sweet Pea flower is the same. It introduces a bright and bubbly feel in your garden, symbolizing happiness.

Close-up shot of a Pink Sweet Pea Flower showing bright pink petals sprinkled with drops of water.

(Image: YvonneHuijbens23)

Even butterflies and hummingbirds come there to enjoy your bright garden. That’s a plus for you because you can watch the wonder birds right from your yard.

When To Plant Sweet Peas and When Do Sweet Peas Bloom?

When to plant Sweet Peas depends on your local climate and the specific variety of sweet peas you’re growing.

Sweet peas prefer cooler climate areas and die during the hot summer. So, if you’re wondering, “when do Sweet Peas bloom?” refer to the following:

  • If you live in an area where the summer is cool and bearable, your Sweet Pea may bloom in late spring and early summer when the sun is not too strong.
  • Warmer regions where winter is not too cold may have their Sweet Pea plants blooming in winter and early spring.

Exposure to the sun is a key factor for blooming. You have to let the Sweet Pea plant enjoy as much sun as possible throughout the day.

How To Grow Sweet Peas

In order to learn how to grow sweet peas successfully, it’s important to learn the correct process and recommended conditions for planting them, mainly providing them with well-draining soil, support structures, and regular watering to ensure healthy and abundant flowering.

Sweet peas grow from big, easy-to-handle seeds that you can sow directly into the ground without worrying about transplanting. They are also excellent for a potted garden, so you can sow them in pots and place them outside.3

How To Prepare a Sweet Peas Garden

Sweet peas thrive in well-drained, fertile soils that have an alkaline pH. Therefore, find a space in your garden that meets these conditions and mark it for planting Sweet Peas.2

If the soil is acidic, sprinkle some powdered lime on its surface to neutralize it and make it more alkaline. Since Sweet Peas love their soil fertile, part of your preparation for your Sweet Peas garden should include adding a generous amount of manure and mixing it thoroughly to a depth of 2 feet.

Ensure that the manure is well-rotten to release the nutrients faster into the soil.

Dig planting holes, at least 4 inches deep, where you drop the seeds when planting. The holes should have the proper spacing of about 4-6 inches apart.

Growing a Sweet Pea From a Seed

Once you’ve prepared the ground for your Sweet Pea seeds, wait until the temperatures are right for outdoor planting.19

Sweet peas grow well when the ground is a little warm and not too wet.

Top shot image of Sweet Pea seedlings in a container.

(Image: camerazn24)

If the temperatures outside do not favor direct sowing, plant your seeds indoors and then transplant them when the conditions are right. Here’s a complete guide to growing a Sweet Pea from a seed.

  1. Soak the Sweet Pea seeds in water for at least 20 hours to soften the seed cover for faster sprouting. Another option is to scarify the seeds using a rough object like a nail file to weaken the seed coat.
  2. Drop your ready seeds into the holes and press them into the soil before covering them. Drop 2 or 3 seeds per hole for a better chance of germination.
  3. After sowing the seeds, water them generously as often as needed to keep the soil moist enough until they germinate.
  4. If you kick-started the seeds’ germination in a pot for transplanting, your seedlings are ready after the first shoot.
  5. After germination, it’s important to pinch back any developing buds to encourage the development of a stronger root system before letting it continue to grow. Pinching back also encourages side shoots that increase the plant’s vegetative growth and more flowers when it blooms.

When To Provide a Sweet Pea Trellis for Climbing Sweet Peas

Vine plants like Sweet Peas have tendrils that work as hooks to hold onto anything around them for support. Therefore, providing a trellis for your climbing Sweet Peas is important to help them climb up and follow their trail.12

You can design your Sweet Pea trellis in such a way that it creates a pattern that you want your Sweet Peas to form. For example, if you want to have them go around your porch, you can create a trellis that goes around the porch for the Sweet Pea Vine to follow.

The best time to provide a trellis for your Sweet Pea plant is before you plant the seeds so you don’t disturb their root system after germination.4 However, you can put them in the trellis right after germination, but place them a foot away from the roots and then hook their first tendril on it.

Planting Tips for Sweet Pea

The planting process for the Sweet Pea flower is easy. But you need to know all the planting tips for Sweet Peas to get the best results.12

How Far Apart To Plant Sweet Pea Vines

Sweet peas are quite vegetative and tend to intertwine as they find something to hold on to for support. Therefore, if you are planting them in your garden, about 4-6 inches between each planting hole is the ideal space for how far apart to plant sweet pea vines.5

Fortunately, you can lead each vine on a different trail so they don’t knit together into a bush.

When To Plant Sweet Pea for the Best Yield

The best time to plant Sweet Peas depends on the variety you want to plant. For example, long-day Sweet Peas that bloom in late spring and early summer require you to plant them late in winter, just before the last frost.

These do better if planted indoors and transplanted when the frost season has passed.10

Image showing a flower bed and sweet pea trellis against a wall.

(Image: artfulblogger25)

On the other hand, short-day Sweet Peas that bloom in late fall and early winter are hardy and do well when planted late in the summer. This variety can withstand the rain and bloom in the cold, mostly in areas where the winter isn’t too cold.

With that in mind, choose a variety that fits well in your local climatic conditions as you consider when to plant Sweet Pea for the best yield.

Companion Plants for Growing Sweet Pea

Although Sweet Peas are toxic to humans, this doesn’t stop them from making friends with many other plants. Other climbing vines like the clematis vine, climbing rose, and jasmine are their favorite plants because they can share the trellis and bloom together.11

Planting the Sweet Pea flower with other climbing vines is an excellent way to create a stunning flower bouquet in your garden and get a blended scent from all of them.

Besides the vine plants, Sweet Pea has a good growing relationship with other plants, especially those that benefit from its nitrogen-fixing ability. Such plants do well when planted with Sweet Peas, including calendula, pansies, and sweet asylum.

Some vegetables also flourish as companion plants for growing Sweet Pea. However, you must be careful not to harvest Sweet Peas among other vegetables because of their toxicity. Such vegetables include cucumbers, spinach, lettuce, and pole beans.

Best Growing Conditions for Sweet Pea

As a gardener, you want to have an easy time dealing with Sweet Peas. So, you must know the best growing conditions for Sweet Pea flowers and ensure that you provide them.18

For example, you should know how much water Sweet Pea plants need at every stage of their growth so that you don’t underwater or overwater them. A simple mistake like that can kill all your plants before you even realize it.

Here’s a guide to a Sweet Pea’s best-growing conditions.

Watering Needs for Sweet Pea Plants

Sweet peas are water-lovers and do well in soils that have good moisture all the time. This means that the soil must drain the water properly so there is no water-logging, but it should be compact enough to hold on to enough moisture.

Therefore, if you’re considering the specific watering needs for Sweet Pea plants, you can set up a drip irrigation system that delivers water intermittently to the plants’ roots or ensure that you water them deeply at least two times a week. If the weather is hot, water the plants more to keep the moisture levels consistent for them to thrive.

How Much Sunlight Does Sweet Pea Need Each Day?

How much sunlight does sweet pea need each day depends on the climate and local conditions, but generally, they thrive in full sun.

Sweet peas love having their roots in the cool, wet soil but enjoy the sunlight on a bright day. The spring/summer bloomers need at least six hours of sunlight in the day to bloom well.8

One thing to note is that the Sweet Pea plants may not withstand the strong summer sun. That’s why they do better in early summer before the sun is too hot.

Different-colored sweet pea vines and flowers bathe in sunlight at the top of a trellis.

(Image: cultivar41326)

Sometimes, your Sweet Peas may continue blooming into the hot summer. Your best bet to keep them alive is to provide some shade for cooling.

Sweet Pea Growth Rate (How Long It Takes To Grow Sweet Pea)

The first thing to understand is that Sweet Peas are annual plants and only live for one growing season. Therefore, you need to plant new seeds every year to have the Sweet Pea plant in your garden throughout.5

After planting the seeds, they germinate in 1-2 weeks, depending on how well you prepared the seeds and the soil. Once they begin to vine and climb up, they may take up to six weeks before blooming.

How long it takes to grow Sweet Pea and how fast they bloom depends on how well you take care of them. Generally, the amount of time Sweet Peas take between planting and flowering is about three to four months.

Remember that Sweet Pea growth rate may vary depending on the seed variety you plant and the climatic conditions they are exposed to during their growth.

Growing Zones for Sweet Pea (Where To Grow Sweet Peas)

Before planting Sweet Peas, it’s important to determine your Sweet Pea growing zone to ensure they are well-suited to your local climate and will thrive in your specific region.

The Sweet Pea vine may appear delicate and incapable of surviving difficult climate conditions. But you should note that it’s a hardy plant that can survive the summer heat to some extent and a bit of cold weather.

If you are wondering whether you can plant Sweet Peas in your area, here’s what you need to know. Sweet pea thrives in USDA Hardiness Zones 2-10,16 depending on the variety you choose to plant.

Any place cooler or hotter than the planting zones 2-10 could be too hot or cold for the Sweet Peas to survive.

Always remember that understanding the growing zones for Sweet Pea (where to grow Sweet Peas) is crucial for selecting the right climate conditions to cultivate these beautiful flowers successfully.

Sweet Pea Plant Care

It’s one thing to plant Sweet Peas, but it’s another to care for them and ensure they are disease and pest-free. While the plants don’t require so much care, it’s important to know the common pests and diseases that attack Sweet Peas and how to deal with them when they attack.7

Proper Sweet Pea plant care involves how to prevent these attacks from happening so that you can have healthy plants all through their growing season. Remember that some of these pests and diseases may affect their companion plants, leading to a much bigger loss.

Common Pests of the Sweet Pea

Aphids love any vegetative plant, especially one that has large, juicy leaves. The Sweet Pea plant is no exception. It attracts the pea aphid, potato aphid, fox glove aphid, and black bean aphid, all to one plant.9

Since aphids come to suck out the sap in the leaves, they may be quite hazardous if not controlled as soon as possible.

Other common pests of the Sweet Pea plant include leaf miners, thrips, and spider mites, which focus on the plant’s foliage.

Therefore, you should deal with these pests quickly before they cause significant damage to your garden or spread to other companion plants near the Sweet Pea.

The quickest way to kill the pests is to use the recommended pesticides for the pests in your garden. Ensure you mix the right amounts of pesticides, following the manufacturer’s instructions so you don’t kill the plant.11

The most important thing when controlling pests is to catch them early. For example, if only a handful of pests are in your garden, you can easily eliminate them through non-chemical methods. A hose pipe with water is a good method.

Think of it like this. The water under high pressure can dislodge pests like aphids and clean the leaves. After dislodging them, it may take a while before they attack again.

Natural Pest Control for Sweet Peas

The special qualities of Sweet Peas, such as their strong odor and striking blooms, are precisely what attracts much of the pollinator community. Many of these pollinators naturally prey on common pests such as aphids & thrips.

Planting their favored magnet plants (marigold flowers and fennel for lacewings and ladybirds) will help attract them into your garden. When you have these helpful insects already present in your garden, they will do some cleaning for you, eating the predators that attack the Sweet Pea plants, leaving them well-fed and disease-free.5

You may apply neem oil control for aphids, too, as natural pest control for Sweet Pea. If your Sweet Pea garden is afflicted with aphids, you need to make up a neem oil spray solution and saturate the affected plants.

If you don’t have neem oil, you can use insecticidal soap to kill aphids. It’s instant feedback, you spray, and within 10-20 minutes or so, you start seeing them die off.

Sweet Pea Disease Prevention: How To Stop Sweet Pea Disease

Sweet Pea diseases are either fungal or viral.17 Unfortunately, they don’t give you a heads-up before they attack. That’s why you must be prepared to deal with them in case they find their way to your plants.

First, you need to educate yourself on the causes of these diseases, their signs, and the possible damage they can cause to your plants. With that knowledge, you are able to know where to start when you spot any disease-like signs.

Close-up shot of a wilted sweet pea flower.

(Image: Pussreboots27)

Besides treating and stopping the diseases, the most important thing is to understand Sweet Pea disease prevention. How to stop Sweet Pea disease includes all the measures you can take to keep your garden pest-free.

Make sure you know some of the most common Sweet Pea diseases, which could include the following.

  1. Root Rot: Rhizoctonia solani is the fungus responsible for this. It appears when the Sweet Peas get too much water or are planted in heavy, wet soil. The name itself reveals that it is the beginning of rotting roots, killing the plants.
  2. Powdery Mildew: another common fungal disorder characterized by the formation of white spots on leaves and stems. Its spores, carried on the breeze, travel from one plant to another. Powdery Mildew attacks your plants at will- particularly during dry, hot periods.
  3. Spotted Wilt: A viral disease producing purplish spots on the plant’s foliage and stems. It is transported by thrips.

The initial part of dealing with and preventing Sweet Pea disorders is recognising the specific problem you have in situ. Then, you can decide whether to treat them with a fungicide or pull up your problem plants!

For instance, if plants show symptoms of leaf spots or spotted wilt, take out the sick plants right away and manage the population of thrips in your garden for good.13

And sometimes, you have to yank the entire Sweet Pea plant to get it out, especially if it’s trailing way off into the rest of the garden. If that’s true for your infected snap peas, a fungicide will soon have you out of the woods.

Powdery mildew is different. You can probably control it without using fungicides. Simply remove any contaminated plants and dispose of them.

That’s why it is not good to plant Sweet Peas near each other. Once a disease such as powdery mildew gets established, it’s hard to control.

Dig up your plant as well as you can. Otherwise, clear everything out and start a clean new planting area with no diseases.

But how do you deal with the root rot?

The only way to prevent root rot is to ensure that your Sweet Pea plants get enough water for their required moisture level and nothing more.

If the soil doesn’t drain properly, consider transferring them to a space with well-draining soil. Of course, the fungi cannot affect the plant if there is no water to propagate its spreading.

Sweet Pea Facts (Lathyrus odoratus)

A special plant, the Sweet Pea (Lathyrus odoratus), has numerous fascinating details. If you’re just starting to discover about the Sweet Pea plant, then here are some Sweet Pea facts you should probably know:

  • Originally from a hillside, the Sweet Pea was discovered by a Franciscan monk when he went for walks in the woods. It was in the 17th century. He was so captivated by this beauty that he brought it and transplanted it into his own home garden.
  • Though their flowers are breathtakingly beautiful, Sweet Peas are seen as “dated.” Its charm lies in providing an antique look for the garden.
  • Sweet peas should be handled with care. They contain high toxic levels and can be dangerous if taken in large amounts. Given that you can’t tell exactly how much of it could harm you, why not just keep your distance and abstain altogether from eating it?
  • Sweet Pea plants come in an array of different types, with colors varying, heat resistance, fragrance intensity, plus more growth behavior. Some may have 2 or even more flower colors from the same plant.

Are Sweet Peas Perennials?

“Are sweet peas perennials?” is a common question among gardeners, but the answer is no, they are not; sweet peas (Lathyrus odorata) are actually annual plants. If you want to have them in your garden every year, you have to re-plant them when the planting season comes.

However, there is a different species of Sweet Peas (Lathyrus latifolious), also known as everlasting pea, that is a perennial plant. Most people easily confuse the everlasting pea for the Sweet Pea, yet they are different.

Image of a house garden dominated by sweet pea flowers on a sunny day.

(Image: cultivar41328)

Prior to planting your Sweet Pea seeds, locate ones that demand a bit less maintenance, can thrive within your region’s environmental conditions, and will provide optimal returns.

The Sweet Peas have not been unknown in the decorative scene. Therefore, if you are just starting off with the Sweet Pea plant, it is proven enough to make a great addition to your garden.

Whether you’re new to gardening or just looking to expand your flower repertoire, the Sweet Pea flower is an excellent and versatility choice.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sweet Peas

Are Green Peas and Sweet Peas the Same?

Although green peas and Sweet Peas have similar characteristics, they are not the same. Green Peas are edible and are usually grown as a vegetable for consumption; on the other hand, Sweet Peas are grown for ornamental purposes and cannot be eaten because of their toxic nature.

What’s the Ideal Sweet Pea Growing Zone for Planting Sweet Peas?

Sweet peas thrive in USDA planting zone 2-10. If you live in any zone within that range, make Sweet Peas your friend and enjoy having them in your garden.


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24Sweet peas Photo by camerazn / Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) . Cropped, Resized and Changed Format. From Flickr <>

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26Corona del Mar, Sherman Gardens – Rose Garden, Lathyrus odoratus cvs Sweet Peas Photo by cultivar413 / Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) . Cropped, Resized and Changed Format. From Flickr <>

27Wilted sweet pea Photo by Pussreboots / Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) . Cropped, Resized and Changed Format. From Flick <>

28Corona del Mar, Sherman Gardens – Rose Garden, Lathyrus odoratus cvs Sweet Peas Photo by cultivar413 / Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) . Cropped, Resized and Changed Format. From Flickr <>

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