How to grow sweet peas


DIY and how-to

Hands planting small green seedlings into soil in an outdoor garden.

Sweet peas are the best way to herald in the spring season: delicately and sweetly scented, sweet pea flowers burst into colour as the weather warms up. Learn how to get yours off to a good start in autumn, with the promise of success in spring.  

How to sow or plant your sweet peas  

  • Sweet peas need to be sown or planted by April at least to ensure they flourish in spring.  
  • Choose a sunny, wind-free spot in your garden. If sowing or planting climbing sweet peas, prop a net-covered support up in a north- or south-facing direction, or secure wire mesh to a north- or south-facing wall.  
  • Dig a 40cm-deep trench along the length of the wall or support. Test the drainage of the trench by filling it with water to see how quickly it drains. If it does not drain easily, dig deeper and add a layer of pebbles or gravel at the bottom of the trench before topping with a layer of soil. 
  • Mix the top soil with compost, superphosphate and bonemeal before returning it to the trench. 
  • Soak the sweet pea seeds in wet cotton wool overnight before sowing 10cm apart. Water regularly with a fine spray to keep the soil moist. 
  • If growing from seedlings, plant these 15cm apart and water regularly to keep them moist, until established. 

Maintaining sweet peas for successful growth 

  • Train first shoots up the wire or netting to encourage upright growth. 
  • When the sweet pea plants are about 15cm tall, pinch off tips to encourage better branching and, ultimately, lusher growth. The more you pinch the plant, the more it will flower. 
  • Feed your sweet pea seedlings weekly with a foliar feed such as Multifeed Classic and keep the soil well mulched with compost.  
  • Tie any sweet pea growth that hasn’t attached itself to the support structure with some basic gardener’s twine.  

Sweet peas will burst into life in late winter or early spring, and make excellent cut flowers that last for up to two weeks in water, spreading their lovely scent in the rooms of your home.   

Did you know? If you pinch your sweet pea plants (pinching is a pruning method generally used on young plants to encourage branching), then the plants will be shorter and bushier. If you leave them, they will grow taller.  

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