Sweet Peas totally steal the show with their amazing scent. I just love bringing bunches of them inside my house, especially after a long winter. Their fragrance can sweep away the winter blahs like magic.
Now, let me tell you, I had my fair share of struggles growing these beauties. I failed year after year and questioned my ability to grow anything because of my inability to grow sweet peas. What I learned: Stop following the package instructions and them way earlier (at least in East Tennessee)!
I started by trying to figure out what sweet peas like and don't like. There are so many factors that can't fully be explained on the back of a seed package, especially when you are taking different zones and microclimates into consideration. When I learned that sweet peas can handle cold much better than they can handle heat, I made a huge adjustment to my planting schedule.
Sweet peas grow best with the following temperatures:
- 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit for germination
- 35-50 degrees Fahrenheit to put on growth (don't fret about drops in temperature- sweet peas can handle dips into the 20's just fine!)
- 45-68 degrees Fahrenheit for flowering, and then they begin to fade with temps in the 70's.
If they take 14-28 days to germinate and then another 4-6 weeks after visible vining, I need to look at temperatures in my area. When are they consistently in the 70's? In an average
year, I should be averaging
66 degrees by May 9 (and averages aren't even helpful anymore but that is a different story for a different day). You can go to weather.gov
to check information for your area.
Based on a mid-60's temp average beginning May 9, I need to count back at least 6 weeks for growth and another 2-4 weeks for germination. May 9 minus 10 weeks would put a start date as February 23, 2024. This isn't the last possible start date, but it is nearing the end of if I want to actually enjoy the blooms! Knowing that they prefer cooler temperatures and I actually want to enjoy them, I prefer starting a few weeks earlier. In 2023, I actually started some in the fall with zero protection to see how they would overwinter and I just pinched them this week.
If you're struggling with a particular plant, it helps to dig in and really study what that plant needs. I'm working on a checklist to help you build your own plant profiles - I'll link back here when it's ready. Back to sweet peas...
Let’s talk about the good stuff and the not-so-good stuff about growing Sweet Peas for bouquets.
The Good Stuff:
- Wide range of amazing colors
- Super sweet scent that can't be matched (but some are unscented)
- They're super classy
The Not-so-Good Stuff
- Starting them from seeds requires a little bit of understanding about what they DON'T like
- Messing with their roots? Not a good idea
- They hate hot weather
- Don’t expect them to last long in a vase
- Harvest can be a little messy
- They need something to climb on
- They're toxic AF, so keep them away from kids and pets
Picking Sweet Pea seeds can be overwhelming or super fun (depending on your personality). If you love the thrill of the chase, try to find King's Ransom. It always sells out. Then, if you find it, please mail some to me.
When it’s time to plant, make sure you do it when things are still cool and moist. If you skipped everything I shared above, you really should read it because temps are critical for sweet peas. Other quick facts:
- Do not let these suckers dry out. They’re picky like that.
- Don't crowd them, either. 6" is probably about as close as one should go.
- They’re thirsty little things. Keep them watered.
- Pinch the main stem when they are 6-8" tall so they will make more branches and ultimately more flowers.
- Harvest when a few blooms are open on the cluster. You’ve got options: the clean single stem or the wilder stem-with-leaves look. After all that hard work, keep them away from any ripening fruit. Seriously, they’re sensitive!
Stick ’em in rooms where the sweet scent can really shine. Sweet Peas might be bougie in the beginning, but they are so worth it.
Here are the varieties I'm growing this year that are still in stock at the time of publishing:
(I bought from Floret but it's available at Johnny's)
bought from Floret but available at Select Seeds
The most beautiful collection of sweet peas on the face of the earth can be found at The Farmhouse Flower Farm
. They are sold out for spring 2024 but check back in early fall. Don't forget, if you get King's Ransom, reward me for telling you about it (kidding, not kidding). This image is from their shop and I'm sure you can see why its a big deal!