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A picture of a Sweet Pea

Sweet Pea

Lathyrus odoratus

Also known as

Queen of The Annuals, Vetchling, Pronkertjies (Afr.)

Lathyrus odoratus Paris by Dinkum (CC0)

Full Sun
Moderate care
Moderate watering


USDA zone


Minimum temperature

Expected size








3 months to reach maturity


  • spring
  • summer
  • autumn
  • winter

This plant has a strong fragrance

More images of Sweet Pea

A close up of some colourful Lathyrus odoratus flowers
A photo of Sweet Pea

Sweet Pea Overview

Lathyrus odoratus is an annual species from the Fabaceae family. It can reach 2m in height, climbing through the use of tendrils. Commonly known by the names Sweet Pea, Vetchling and Queen of The Annuals. Grow in full sun, in moist, well-draining soil, in pots or in the ground. Prone to damage from slugs and snails. This annual is well known for the enchantingly scented and beautiful flowers in varying colours including white, pink and purple shades. The flowers measure around 3.5cm across. There are several varieties including climbing (which are grown up canes), as well as bush and dwarf and many cultivars have been produced for garden use. Many self-cling through the use of tendrils, growing best with ample support, some may need tying on. The Sweet Pea gained wide popularity in the Victorian era and it still makes a charming addition to spring and summer gardens. It is also a long-lasting and lovely cut flower. Sweet Peas can be sown in the autumn or spring, they will need to be kept above freezing temperatures. Most seed purchased nowadays has been bred to germinate easily, however you can enhance germination by soaking seed overnight and / or nicking the seed coat. Avoid damaging the eye of the seed, by nicking on the opposite side, this eye is a small circular bump or scar on the surface. Pinching for bushy growth and planting out should be done when seedlings are around 10cm tall, usually mid-spring when the threat of frost has passed. Harden off seedlings grown indoors, to aclimatise them gradually to colder weather, place outside during the day, bringing them in at night for a few days. Be sure to water regularly, in hot conditions they can easily dry out, resulting in bloom drop. After flower buds have formed, you could fertilise with something containing potassium for improved flowering, such as tomato feed, which contains high potash. To encourage more flowers, its key to harvest those it does produce. Trimming the blooms can encourage branching and promote more flowers to form, so be sure to pick regularly. They make beautiful cut flowers for the home, with a delicate sweet scent.

Common problems with Sweet Pea

Sweet Pea Companion Plants

Plant with spring annuals and small shrubs.

How to harvest Sweet Pea

Pick flowers regularly in spring and summer. This will encourage the plant to produce more blooms.

How to propagate Sweet Pea


Sweet peas are best sown in autumn or spring. To help them germinate, soak the seeds overnight to soften their outer coats. In the UK, direct sow outdoors in April and May. It is vital to prepare your soil well. Turn the soil over to a depth of 30cm and add plenty of compost. In the well-prepared soil make holes 2-3cm deep and about 10-15cm apart. Drop seeds in and press down firmly on soil. Keep moist until they start sprouting. Alternatively you can start indoors, from autumn-spring. Sow around 5 seeds into 5cm pots, lightly cover with compost. Water after sowing, but not again until after the seedlings have emerged. Maintain the pots between 10 and 15°C (50-60°F). Plant out after the risk of frost has passed.

Special features of Sweet Pea

Attracts useful insects

Bees are attracted to the flowers.

Attractive flowers

Other uses of Sweet Pea

Climbing, ornamental, fragrance, containers


This is a must for any spring garden, beautiful flowers with strong fragrance and long lasting in the vase.

Cut flowers

Varieties have been bred as cut flowers, with longer stem lengths.

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