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December 28th 2019

Success with Sweet Peas

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Floret

When I was a little girl, I spent summers in the country and a lot of time with my great-grandparents. One of my jobs was to keep fresh flowers by my Grammy’s bedside table. She had a number of beautiful bloomers growing in her garden, but the ones I remember most are the tangle of rainbow-colored sweet peas climbing up her carport posts.

When we bought our first house, the very first thing I planted was a huge tunnel of sweet peas right in the center of the garden. That spring, as the first flowers opened, their scent transported me back in time to the summers of my youth and the happy memories of picking flowers in Grammy’s garden.

Sweet pea patch

Sweet peas in vasesOver the years I have conducted numerous sweet pea trials, growing and testing close to a hundred different varieties, including both heirloom and hybrid types. While all have been beautiful, I do have favorites, and there are a handful I just can’t live without.

This post lists my current favorites, including many new varieties we’re offering for 2020, grouped by color.
Sweet pea seedlingsSoaking sweet pea seeds

Sweet pea potsIn warmer regions (zone 7 and above) where winter weather is relatively mild, sweet peas can be sown in fall. Everywhere else, sow in late winter/early spring.

Soak the seeds in water for 8 to 10 hours before sowing. This softens the seed coat and speeds up the sprouting process. For specific seed sowing information see our resource, How to Grow Sweet Peas.
Lavender sweet peas in greenhouse

Once the vines begin producing flowers, keeping up with the harvest can be tricky. I comb the rows every other morning so I catch flowers at their prime.

For the longest vase life, pick stems that have at least 2 unopened flowers at the tip. While they can be picked when more open, their vase life won’t be quite as long. Sweet peas are a short-lived cut flower, lasting at best 4 to 5 days in a vase. Adding sugar or flower preservative to the water makes a big difference and will add a few extra days.

Please note that unlike garden peas, sweet pea seeds are poisonous if ingested. Use caution around children and pets.

White sweet peasWHITE
One of the most fragrant whites we grow, ‘Memorial Flight’ (pictured above, left) boasts large, ruffled creamy-white flowers with a green undertone. Great for wedding work.

A reliable performer and one of the very best whites you can grow, ‘White Frills’ (above center) has thick, robust foliage and a strong growth habit. Large, clean white flowers are ruffled and especially fragrant. A true garden workhorse!

Winner of numerous awards for good reason, ‘Jilly’ (above right) is a lovely shade of soft cream and is one of the finest varieties available. Long, strong stems and a wonderful fragrance make it an excellent cut flower.
Blush pink sweet peasBLUSH PINK
‘Anniversary’ (pictured, above left) has romantic, fragrant white blooms softly edged with blush-pink on tall, strong stems.

‘High Society’ (above center) has a lovely feminine quality and is one of the most fragrant varieties we grow. Creamy flowers are edged in a warm candy-pink. Great for wedding work.

‘Pearl Anniversary’ (above right) features creamy white petals with cerise-pink streaking. Fantastic for wedding work. Unfortunately, this variety did not produce enough seed for 2020; it will be available for the 2021 growing season, and we’re excited to offer it.
Bright pink sweet peasBRIGHT PINK
Daily Mail’ (pictured, above left) is a showstopper featuring large, bright cerise-pink blooms that ride atop long, strong stems. Great for cutting.

‘Carlotta’ (above center) is a beautiful, old-fashioned variety has stood the test of time. Its saturated carmine-pink blooms stand out in the garden and the vase. Long stems and a strong fragrance make it a real winner.

‘Dynasty’ (above right) is a reliable grower and an all-around wonderful cut flower, featuring vivid, hot pink blooms on long, strong stems. Paler top buds have a cream underside, giving it a multidimensional quality. A total winner!

Champagne sweet peas

PEACH/CHAMPAGNE
‘Piggy Sue’ (pictured above, left), a new favorite, has spectacular coloring and glows in the garden. Highly-scented, cream-colored petals are gently edged in blush, giving it a vintage, romantic feel.

A new favorite, ‘Castlewellan’ (above center) is a long-stemmed, sweetly scented beauty that boasts large, glowing peachy-pink blooms with creamy undertones. Its soft appearance makes it great for wedding design. A must-grow!

‘Marjorie Carrier’ (above right) boasts the most beautiful large, frilly salmon-pink blooms on long, strong stems. Its spectacular coloring and lovely scent make it a flower arranger’s dream.Peach sweet peas

‘Bix’ (pictured above, left), a new variety bred by Dr. Keith Hammett, has vintage charm. Blooms are cream-colored, brushed with apricot-pink and are one of the earliest varieties to flower. Tall, abundant stems have an average of five blooms. A great option for wedding bouquets.

The large, creamy, ruffled blooms of ‘Jill Walton’ (above center) have the softest peachy-pink blush around the outer edge, giving them an ultra-feminine quality. One of our top five favorite varieties.

One of our very favorites on the farm, ‘Mollie Rilstone’ (above right) is a sure bet. Very fragrant, cream-colored blooms are edged with the softest apricot-pink. Flowers fade to a pure cream, giving this variety an antique, Victorian quality. Extremely popular for weddings.
Orange sweet peasCORAL/ORANGE
‘Geoff Hughes’ (pictured above, left) is one of our all-time favorite varieties. This large-flowered sweet pea has cream blooms with with coral streaking. Abundant flowering and great for cutting.

‘Edith Flanagan’ (above center) is a stunning new variety raised by Andrew Beane. It boasts large coral blossoms on long, strong stems. Its fantastic scent and eye-catching coloring make it a real winner.

‘Florencecourt’ (above right) is a sweetly scented variety featuring large glowing coral flowers that fade to white in the center, giving them a multidimensional quality. A real winner!

Coral sweet peas‘Happy Birthday’ (pictured above, left) is an eye-catching variety featuring striking orange-red petals with a white throat. Flowers ride atop tall, strong stems, making it excellent for cutting.

‘Raspberry Flake’ (above center) is a fitting name for this attention-getting variety. Cream-colored flowers are painted with deep, almost metallic raspberry streaking. Flowers have varying levels of saturation, so no two are the same.

The cheerful blooms of ‘Restormel’ (above right) practically glow in the dark. Warm coral-red flowers almost look artificial and remind us of maraschino cherries. This fragrant variety is one of our all-time favorites. A must-grow!
Purple sweet peasPURPLE
Enchante’ (pictured above, left) is an amazing tricolor variety, a brilliant blend of cherry pink, white, and lavender bred by Dr. Keith Hammett. It’s lovingly nicknamed the “unicorn sweet pea” at Floret. It is truly exquisite and ranks high on our must-grow list.

An all-time favorite, ‘Erewhon’ (above center) is a hauntingly beautiful reverse bicolor with dark lavender-blue and soft pink standard petals. Great for cutting, it boasts tall, strong stems. A must-grow!

‘Blue Shift’ (above right), bred by Dr. Keith Hammett, is an incredible bloomer that goes from mauve-pink to an iridescent blue-turquoise as it ages. It’s like nothing else on the market.Purple sweet peasWe’ve trialed hundreds of varieties, and ‘Nimbus’ (pictured above, left) is still a top favorite of mine and the best flake variety available. Inky gray blooms are deeply streaked and rimmed with dark eggplant coloring. A real conversation starter with everyone who visits the farm. If you haven’t grown this gem, you’re in for a real treat!

White blooms striped with vivid lilac make ‘Sir Jimmy Shand’ (above center), a novelty variety, a new favorite. Tall stems, wonderful fragrance; makes an excellent cut flower.

‘Richard & Judy’ (above right), a long-stemmed, super-fragrant variety, is a must-grow if you love purple. Warm, grape-colored flowers are multidimensional and seem to glow in the garden. A standout variety in the sweet pea patch!
Maroon sweet peasMAROON
‘Suzy Z’ (pictured above, left), a must-grow for the color alone, has a striking metallic gray base with deep maroon veining. Similar in appearance to the ever-popular ‘Nimbus’ but more chocolate-maroon in color.

‘Chocolate Flake’ (above center), bred by Dr. Keith Hammett, is a unique brown-red flaked variety that looks as if it has been dusted with cocoa powder.

Stunning in the garden, ‘Windsor’ (above right) is a richly hued beauty with warm, chocolatey maroon blooms that make a real statement. Flowers are quite fragrant and ride atop long, strong stems, making it a fantastic variety for cutting.

I would love to hear your experience with sweet peas. Do you grow them or plan to add them to your garden this coming season? If so, what are your favorite varieties?

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36 Comments

  1. TD on

    I am in southwest Ontario where it gets super hot and humid. We often have spring end of April/ May
    What would you recommend
    I grew up in Alberta with great sweet peas but they are hard to grow here for some reason.
    How should I amend my soil?
    Thank you

    Reply
  2. Sarah on

    I am also very curious about how to grow these beauties in our hot, humid Virginia zone 7a climate. We have a short spring- often going from winter to summer in a matter of a few weeks. When I visited Washington state I noticed sweet peas growing along the road- they looked as if they were growing wild! This will be our first year trying to grow them and I would love to know which varieties do the best with heat and humidity, or perhaps if I should expect them to simply grow earlier like March/April and finishing by May.

    Reply
  3. J C Herz on

    There are definitely varieties that do better – and much worse – in hot and humid climates. Floret is blessed with a Pacific Northwest climate where any sweet pea will thrive, but in the South and Mid-Atlantic certain varieties (particularly Spencer) are not a good bet – they’ll croak. It’d be helpful if you could list heat/humidity tolerant varieties that perform reliably in steamy clients.

    Reply
  4. j on

    When do you start your seeds? Im in central TX (zone 8) and I’ve had luck with starting sweet peas in fall :)
    They like cooler weather and are a hardy annual to zone 7.

    Reply
  5. Susan Long on

    Please help! I have planted sweet peas for the past two Springs in my garden and although they grew strongly, they did not bloom. They received six-eight hours of sun daily but no direct morning sun. Could this be the problem? I am trying again this year and have ordered from Floret.

    Reply
  6. LaJuana on

    This will be the third year for me to try sweet peas after two unsuccessful attempts. I live in the Columbia River Gorge where springs are usually cool and wet. Only about 15% of my sweet peas have come up each year, and those have not done well despite plenty of rich organic mulch incorporated into my healthy soil. I’ve ended up with no more than a single handful of flowers all season from 60-70 seeds. All my other Floret flowers have thrived here, so it must be something specifically about sweet peas that’s the problem. I have tried everything I can think of to help them thrive. This year I was lucky enough to find some mushroom compost to incorporate in the bed, so that might help. I’m considering avoiding the super wet ground by sewing them in my greenhouse in 8″ long “root trainer” pots that open like a book, and then transplanting very carefully outside once they have gotten established. I would really appreciate any ideas about what unknown issue might be keeping my sweet peas from flourishing. I am not giving up!

    Reply
  7. Margaret L. West on

    The sweet pea stems look like they would be curly and all over the place, but in your bouquets the stems are straight. Are they straight when cut, or do you somehow straighten them?

    Reply
  8. Jacky on

    Hi! Thank you for sharing. I love your book. I have had wonderful success growing your seeds here in Los Angeles in zone 10. I am Moving to zone 7b this year, on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, elevation 4,100’ and would appreciate anyones tips for growing there. Would I direct sow in seed in Fall? Or Spring? How many weeks before last chance of frost? I am told they get late frosts there. High temperature differences between day and night too, and very intense sunlight. Anyone else growing under a high mounted light shade cloth for longer stems and better color? Thanks!

    Reply
  9. susan stump on

    I grow sweet peas in my garden in Iowa. I plant as early as the soil can be worked in the spring as they seem to like cool weather best, but often continue to bloom all summer if I keep them watered. My favorites are Old Spice, Cupani’s and King Edward’s because of their intense fragrance. I am excited to try some of your varieties!

    Reply
  10. Nanette Clare on

    I grew hot pink sweet peas in a SE MI -zone 6 garden
    I got a twisted mass of vines and they did bloom but we wanted them out (I selected a bad place) we had a horrid time digging out the roots 3 years old
    Are your sweet peas herbaceous? Will they create a tangled mess if I plant them? Are they easy to yank out if I need to control them? Did I grow a perennial type?
    Thanks
    Nanette

    Reply
  11. Cherridah on

    I have two balconies with morning sun and soft light the rest of the day here in San Francisco, zone 10. I’ve had success with herbs, tomatoes, geraniums, impatiens and ferns. Could I cultivate sweet peas in pots

    Reply
  12. Batb on

    Thanks for the article and the great pictures ! I have a request though, would you consider sometime creating a mixed seed packet of some of those varieties for those of us without a lot of space? That would be awesome!

    Reply
  13. Michelle Sych on

    How dense can these be planted in raised beds for a lush planting without smothering each other?

    Reply
  14. Renee on

    Never planted but going to this year Enchante ,Anniversary,Jilly,Memorial flight so excited!

    Reply
  15. vivian gerard on

    I love sweetpeas I always buy a mixed color variety I don’t think you ship to bc I don’t have much room in my flower beds

    Reply
  16. Rebecca on

    I am trying sweet peas for the first time this year. I am a vegetable gardener and dipping my toes into the flower world! I am excited and hopeful that flowers will grow for me. I’m hearing over to read your sowing tips next!

    Reply
  17. Shirley on

    I am also interested in Blayr’s post and your response. I am in central OK. I grew sweet peas in Colorado during a short stay there but have not had luck here. When would be the optimal time to plant here, and could/should they be sown indoors for transplant out? Thank you!

    Reply
  18. Jonathan on

    Would sweet peas grow well down here in Costa Rica? they seem like a lovely flower. Though, I didn’t really had much success the time I tried to plant them. My seedlings did not get very tall and withered afterwards…
    Well, I love your site and Instagram page. It makes me so happy to see you doing what you love, so well!

    Reply
  19. Blayr Gourley on

    I tried some last year (not Floret variety, my Floret sweet peas should arrive here today) and I got them to sprout and get about 2′ tall, but they didn’t do anything after that. They didn’t bloom and didn’t thrive. We live in northeast Oklahoma. We get about 20-30″ of rain annually, but we also get really hot summers. I’m not growing them for cuttings, but rather garden appeal. What do sweet peas love? I’ve notice some plants that say “full sun” don’t need full Oklahoma sun. Thoughts?

    Reply
  20. Megan on

    Thank you so much for your planting guides! My second year ordering from you and I always read your resources about the seeds I buy. Wondering how high you trellis sweet peas?

    Reply
  21. Beth Timmer on

    Last year was my first encounter with sweet peas. The big box store packets grew wonderfully for me in zone 5b/6a.
    I have been told sweet peas don’t like hot summers. We have hot and humid summers here, temps 80+ and long stretches in the 90s. So my question is: was it just beginners luck or are there certain varieties that do best in hot/humid climates?

    Reply
  22. Setina on

    I would like to order these but wondered if they would do well in our climate? We live in Austin TX
    zones 8-9.
    I’m new to the area so I’m unfamiliar if these will do well here. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!

    Reply
  23. Karen Lethbridge on

    My uncle Joff was a grower of all things sweet peas. He used to plant two long rows of sweet peas in his garden every year. He tried unsucessfully for years to create a black sweet pea. Close but never the right “black” for him. He thought that one day, that sweet peas would come into their own and everybody would want them. I wish he was around to see how popular they are now.

    Sweet Peas are late summer/early fall flowers in Central Alberta (zone 2) We are always so jealous of the zones that can grow them as early spring flowers. Quite often they bloom most after the first frost in September and it’s a race to harvest and use! Happy Planting!

    Reply
  24. Janet Johnson on

    I live in zone 9 and like you, sweet peas remind me of my grandmother. I am in charge of the garden club at my elementary school. We have 4 big raised beds where we plant a variety of veggies, but my favorite thing to grow is the sweet peas that we plant all along the chain link fence around the garden. We encourage the students to pick the flowers and take them home to their families

    Reply
  25. Dixie Swanson on

    No discussion of sweet peas would be complete without mentioning the Spencer varieties. Developed by the gardener at Althorp (Princess Diana’s family estate) around 1900, they are quintessential English varieties.
    Garden trivia to be sure …

    Reply
  26. Rebecca on

    I’ve never grown sweet peas before, so I’m trying one variety – Ethel Grace. Ethel was my maternal grandmother’s name, so I thought I’d have some good luck with that one.

    Reply
  27. barbara on

    hold a seed in your fingers and use a large nail clipper to nick a little of the brown coating off of the seed being careful not to get into the white part..it takes a little practice but it is quick and easy…the large clipper is easier to use than the traditional small one…..some people us a single razor blade to do this but I find it is too easy to cut too deep…this allows the moisture to get into the seed and speeds up germination….then put the seeds in a wet not soggy paper towel until they tail….hope this helps….barbara

    Reply
  28. Deborah Schmitz on

    Thank you for the great information! I have received my seeds for spring planting and can’t wait to get them in the ground! My question is- I live in South Texas. If I order sweet pea seeds now and save them to plant in the fall, will the seeds still be good? Also, should I plant poppies in the spring or fall here? Thank you!

    Reply
  29. Mary's Garden Grows on

    Just found your website and placed my first order. GORGEOUS stuff! Looking forward to exploring your blog more too. Lots of snow and cold here in northern Wisconsin so dreaming of spring.

    Reply
  30. Laurie on

    I’m reading all your entries, back through the archives. THANK YOU for so much valuable information. Question: Do you use the 3′ or 4′ hoop bender in most of your outdoor tunnels? I appreciate your guidance on this.

    Reply
  31. Paulette Walker on

    Hello, and Happy New Years. I live in Ontario, zone 5b, right on cold Georgian Bay, we have heavy cold winter with plenty of snow and frozen ground sometimes into May. How warm does my small three season green house have to be to get my sweet pea seeds started? Also can you explain Barb’s reply regarding “nail clipper” the seeds?
    Thank you Paulette

    Reply
  32. Margie Walls on

    Do you plant new every year if in a hoop house? We live in south central Indiana, zone 5. Here it is New Years Eve 2019. I have not pulled up all of the sweet pea plants as we have had very strange weather this fall. I was just in our hoop house and we have the thermometer set to close up the louvers if the temps get below 70 degrees. I will see them open sometimes in the middle of the day when the sun is out. Then as soon as it drops they close up. But we still have some very green sweet pea vines up there. Should I pull them up and just replant in March or April? We are not watering and haven’t watered since the end of October.

    Reply
  33. Kaeli Campbell on

    I live in a zone 4b area. How early can I plant sweet peas. With garden peas, I have planted them as early as April 1st, but I don’t know about sweet peas. I would hate to plant them and have them destroyed by cold weather. Thank you! Kaeli Campbell, Worland, Wyoming

    Reply
  34. barbara on

    I find I have better germination if I knick the seeds with a nail clipper then layer them in wet paper towels and put them in a plastic bag until they tail, about 5 days, then plant them in 2 inch containers and put them on a sunny window sill until the weather settles so they can be planted out. Note: they don’t all tail at the same time so check back daily.

    Reply
  35. Ragna Shollenberger on

    I have yet another question: do you recomend planting the sweet peas directly into the ground after soaking them in water?
    I have always done it the small pot ways first, but find it difficult to transfer the plants to the ground and keeping their shape..
    One of my favorite is White Frills.

    Reply
  36. Ragna Shollenberger on

    I love your sweet peas and have a new plan for 2020!
    Our chickens are gone and I am now thinking of tilling the ground filled with chicken manure kindly deposited by our chicken friends.
    Looking for advice as to planting in that type of soil and what additional nourishments I need to add. Thank you kindly. Ragna Shollenberger, Canby, Oregon

    Reply

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