IATMRUS – sweetpea

Hardy annuals and herbaceous perennials that are enjoyed for their colourful and sometimes fragrant, pea-like flowers. Most are climbing plants that cling with tendrils to netting, trellis and cane supports.

Suitable site and soil. Plant in fertile, well-drained garden soil in full sun, with cane or netting support if necessary.

Cultivation and care. Pick or dead-head to encourage flowering. Cut back perennials to ground level in autumn.

Propagation. Sow annuals in pots to overwinter in cold frames or direct in spring. Sow perennials into pots in a cold 112 frame in spring for planting out in autumn. If necessary allow seed to sprout and soak it overnight before sowing.

Recommended varieties. Annual sweet pea (L. odoratus) is the most widely grown and there are hundreds of garden varieties. Spencer varieties are the tallest, reaching 3m – 10ft. They flower in summer with several blooms per stem. ‘Princess Elizabeth’ is orange-pink; ‘Air Warden’ is scarlet. Lower-growing, self-supporting sweet peas include ‘Bijou’, ‘Knee-Hi’ and ‘Little Sweetheart’. Everlasting sweet pea (L. latifolius) comes in white and pink forms. Also perennial is L. vermis, a non-climbing species that spreads about 30cm – 12in. It suits a sunny rockery or patio container.

Pests and diseases. Slugs destroy seedlings in winter and early spring. Plants may be affected by mildews and moulds. In a wet spring grey mould may rot buds and flowers.


Use tall-growing sweet peas as a curtain of colour. Dig a trench and add well-rotted compost. Erect a netting support fixed to tall canes. Set plants in trench and pinch out when three pairs of leaves appear.

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