About Sweet Pea

Sweet Pea Flowers

Genus

Lathyrus

Species

The sweet pea is one of the most commonly found garden plants - hence why it's also called the garden pea. It has around 110 species and belongs to the flat peas subfamily (Lathyrus). Therefore it bears its botanical name Lathyrus odoratus (sweet pea).

History

Originally, sweet peas come from southern Italy. Together with its relatives, the perennial pea and the spring flat pea, it is one of the top garden plants that decorate balconies and gardens with their flowers in midsummer.

These climbing plants grow large enough to offer the needed privacy on your balcony, terrace, or garden. They can grow up to two meters high and are, therefore, very popular for balcony railings. In England, you can see them growing on the fences of cottage gardens with their blossoming flowers and aromatic scent.

Sweet Pea Flowers

Appearance

The sweet pea can contain up to 30 individual flowers. They usually form racemose inflorescences. This is a type of flowering shoot characterized by the continuous production of new flower buds at the tip of the flower stalk.

Sweet peas also come in a wide variety of flower colours. The spectrum ranges from white to pink and lavender-blue to dark wine red tones. Some cultivated forms also have wavy or multi-coloured flowers between June and September.

The butterfly-like flowers, which appear from June to September, grow in clusters and have long stems. Without flowers, this climbing plant looks almost like a pea plant. However, when their colourful blossoms appear from June onwards, it becomes clear why the otherwise inconspicuous garden peas are one of the most popular climbing plants in our gardens.

Growth & Maintenance

The sweet pea is mainly found in the temperate areas of the northern hemisphere (Italy to northwest Africa). For a lush bloom, the sweet peas must be watered regularly and fertilized several times a year, as the plant needs a lot of nutrients for its strong growth.

Keeping the soil moist is an essential part of taking care of the sweet peas in the summer. As summer can get very dry, aim to water the peas regularly, but only moderately as this fragrant plant is sensitive to waterlogging. Also, the upper layer of soil should always be slightly damp but never wet.

Additionally, sweet peas require relatively high amounts of nutrients, as they often grow to over two meters high in just one vegetation period. It is best to work compost into the soil before planting. After that, it is sufficient to add conventional liquid fertilizer to the irrigation water every week during the flowering phase. This increases the flowering phase considerably and, depending on the species, can continue into autumn.

You can also sow the seeds of the sweet peas in pots from mid-April or with a hand's width apart in the open ground. To do this, you should water the seeds well overnight and then insert them about five centimetres deep. Also consider cutting the stems frequently, as this stimulates the formation of new flowers.

Read more from the Our Guide To Spotting Flowers series

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By Miles Warner 21 September 2020