How to grow and care for sweet pea flowers

How to grow and care for sweet pea flowers

Common name: Sweet peas, perennial peas, everlasting peas
Zoya life can be appreciated: Scented brick
family Fabaceae family
Plant type: Annual, Fine
Mature size: 5-8 feet tall
Sun exposure: Complete, partial
Soil type: Moist but well-drained, loimi
Soil pH: Alkalinity (7.0 to 7.5)
Bloom time: summer fall
Flower colour: Red, pink, orange, blue, purple, white
Hardiness zones: Zones 3-8 (USDA)
Original area: Europe, Mediterranean
Poisoning: Toxic to pets, toxic to people



Sweet pea care

Sweet peas are easy-to-grow, hardy annuals. If you live in USDA zone 7 or a warmer area, plant them outside in late fall. Elsewhere, plant them from late winter to early spring. Seedlings can tolerate light frost. The climbing nature of this plant makes it invasive in some areas.


a light

Sweet pea flowers thrive in full sunlight. In areas with hot, humid summers, sweet pea flowers benefit from partial afternoon sunlight. In particular, Southern gardeners should plant sweet peas in an area that provides enough afternoon shade, so the flowers don’t wilt.


Soil

Sweet peas need well-drained, humus-rich soil with a neutral to alkaline pH. Add compost to amend your soil if necessary. For best results, amend the soil in the fall before planting. Support sweet peas in the garden with netting, twine or staked trellises so the fast-growing vines don’t pull them down.


water

Water regularly if rainfall is insufficient. Keep the soil moist during the growing season. Check to see if the soil is moist with your fingers by reaching about an inch into the ground or container.


Temperature and humidity

Sweet peas thrive when planted after the last frost of winter. While seedlings will tolerate light frost, mild to moderate temperatures are best for this plant. Extremely hot, humid temperatures and extremely cold climates will harm sweet peas’ growth potential.


Fertilizer

Mulch sweet peas to help retain moisture in the soil and keep their roots cool. Fertilize with liquid fertilizer every two weeks or as directed on your product, especially during the growing season. Blood meal can also help increase the lifespan of your sweet pea until you can propagate the plant through cuttings.



Types of sweet peas

  • ‘Henry Eckford’: This heirloom with salmon-orange-red flowers dates back to 1904.
  • “Old Spice”: Choose this color combination for its honey and orange blossom fragrance.
  • ‘Cupani’s Original’: Sweet peas love cool weather, but some are more heat tolerant than others, like these purple and blue ones.
  • ‘Strawberry Sundae’: Very fragrant flowers in pastel pink, rose and white.
  • ‘Flora Norton’: These soft blue flowers are great for cutting. Vines grow to six feet tall.
  • ‘Bijou Mix’: These short, dense sweet peas blend lavender, pink, purple, blue and white.
  • ‘Sugar and Spice’: Enjoy these solid, two-colored blooms on dwarf plants in hanging baskets. Seven inches long and wide, you don’t need to pinch.
  • ‘Cupid Pink’: White and pink flowers bloom on this dwarf plant.



pruning

Unlike pinching, sweet peas don’t need a lot of pruning. Deadhead them often and remove dead or dying leaves. Sweet pea vines naturally die when temperatures rise. Pull them out and compost them if they are not diseased or infested with pests.

If your sweet pea plant is very tall, cut the top of the main vine just above the shoots or buds.



Propagating sweet peas

One easy way to propagate sweet peas is through cuttings. For best results, take seedlings to plant in early summer before temperatures get too hot.


  • Start by using young sweet pea seedlings to take cuttings. Side shoots will replace the cuttings.
  • Use a sharp knife or shears to cut off a portion of the stem above the leaves, usually about five inches long.
  • Dip the stems in the rooting hormone solution, then transfer the cuttings to a bowl of water. Place the container in partial sunlight.
  • You should see new roots growing in about two weeks. Once roots are established, move the plant to a pot filled with soil.
  • After moving the container into indirect sunlight, continue watering for about six weeks until the cutting has more developed roots for transplanting outside.



How to grow sweet peas from seeds

Indoors, plant sweet pea seeds four to six weeks before the last frost. Some can take a long time to germinate. Soak them overnight in water to soften their hard seed coats, or scrub them with sandpaper. Then sow two or three seeds per pot in biodegradable pots of fresh potting mix. Cover the containers with clear plastic bags to create mini greenhouses and keep them in a cool, bright place in your home. When the seedlings rise, remove all but one seedling in each pot. Two weeks before the last spring frost, plant the pots directly in the garden or in outdoor containers so as not to disturb the long tap roots.

Pinch off the growing tips when the seedlings are about four inches tall, so they form side shoots. Plant them in rows, six to eight inches apart, in a location with partial sun. You should see flowers four to six weeks after the vines start growing.



Potting and replanting sweet peas

Sweet peas, when grown in containers, also need something to climb. Choose short varieties so they don’t need tall supports, and containers at least six inches deep filled with a good potting mix. Pinch off the growing tips of seedlings when they are four inches tall. Otherwise, caring for sweet peas in containers is the same as caring for sweet peas outdoors, although you may need to water them more often.



winter

Although sweet peas are relatively cold-tolerant, there are ways to protect the plants during the winter. Move sweet peas indoors when temperatures drop below freezing when growing them in containers. In late winter, prune dead or diseased leaves and flowers to the ground to make room for new growth. To help protect the plant’s roots, cover them with burlap or bubble wrap.



Common plant pests and diseases

Pests such as aphids, miners, spider mites and thrips can attack sweet peas. Slugs and snails also pose a danger to sweet peas. Try to get rid of the pests with a strong stream of water from your hose. Keep sweet peas weeded, so pests can’t hide nearby. When possible, spray with insecticidal soap or neem oil to kill pests, rather than chemicals. Use snail or slug-specific baits or traps.


Possible diseases include powdery mildew, leaf spot, rust, viral diseases, root and crown rot, and rust. Remove severely infected or diseased foliage to prevent problems from spreading. Help prevent disease and rot by giving plants good air circulation – water with drip irrigation or soaker hoses to keep the foliage dry. If diseases persist, look for a fungicide labeled for your specific problem.



How to get sweet peas to thrive

During late spring and early summer, sweet peas bloom the fastest. To help increase flower size and longevity, use aged compost or dried manure. Fertilizers with a higher percentage of phosphorus than nitrogen will also improve flower production.



Common problems with sweet peas

Bud drop

Sweet peas sometimes drop their buds when they get too dry or nighttime temperatures are below 30 degrees F. Cut off shoots that threaten to fall off at the base of their stems so the plants can continue to grow. Excessive fertilization can also lead to bud drop. Stop feeding until the flowers are fully in bloom.


Not enough buds

Too much nitrogen can promote leaves rather than flowers. Switch to tomato fertilizer if your produce seems to contain too much.

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