Sweet peas are a favourite plant of many but they definitely are a bit tough to get going. You can purchase sweet peas as bedding plants or you can grow them from seed. I like to grow my sweet peas from seed as there are so many different kinds I can choose from. Sweet peas range in colour from pastels to the dark reds and purples shown above. I love the bicoloured flowers shown above. Many sweet peas are fragrant so read the seed package description to make sure your selection is what you want. Sweet peas can also range in height. Regular sweet peas can grow to about 5-6 feet high but you can also grow varieties that are dwarf and suited for container growing. Let’s take a look at what I will be growing this spring.
This sweet pea is called ‘Electric Blue’ and is suitable for containers although it does grow to 3′-4′ high. If grown in a container it will need a support to grow on. I am skeptical of the true blue colour that the package shows and the package says it will have some rosy throats so I bet this will be a deep purple. I will have to grow them to find out.
Sweet pea ‘Cupani’s Original’ is a bicolor which I love. It’s supposed to be heat tolerant and an heirloom plant. This plant has highly fragrant blooms in deep maroon purple and orchid-violet. I love fragrant flowers and sweet peas make such wonderful bouquets. I am also growing a ‘Scented Pastel Sunset’ which is a combination of pink, peach and almond colours. I find brides are always looking for pastel shades for bouquets so I am giving them a try.
Sweet peas are notorious for slow germination as their seed coat is very hard. I find when planting them in the greenhouse that often they don’t all germinate at once. Some don’t germinate at all. That can be frustrating when you pay dearly for a few seeds. If you look at the seed above its got a hard dark shell with a tiny line on the seed. This line is where the first growth will come out. I am going to soak my seeds inside moist paper towels to see how they germinate. Once they have germinated, I will plant them in seed starter mix until they can go outside. To further enhance germination I may take some sandpaper or a sharp knife and nick the seed coat. It’s important to not damage the white line on the seed if you use this method. It’s been said that the darker the flower the harder the seed coat is. This process is called scarification and is used on stubborn seeds to promote germination. So why go to all this work? I want every seed to germinate.
Lets look at how to soak your seeds first. Moisten a large sheet of paper towel and place your seeds in a line along the towel.
Wrap the towel up and place your bundle in a resealable bag in the fridge or on a counter and check on the seeds in a few days. This is a great way to check on germination rates. If you take ten seeds and only eight germinate then you have an 80% germination rate. Be sure to label your seeds!
The Sweet Pea ‘Electric Blue’ germinated in two days and the other sweet peas took a couple of days longer. Once I knew all the seeds were on their way I planted them up in clean pots using a seed starter mix. I will let them continue to grow in the greenhouse until it’s time to plant them outside. I love growing sweet peas and they can be direct sown in the garden once frost is past. They love the addition of well aged manure or compost to the soil before planting. I plan on getting my sweet pea seedlings outside some time in late March or early April. Check with your garden centres to see when your sweet peas can go outside. They are one of the first flowers to go outside so choose your seeds soon.
They can be slow to start but once they get growing they provide a beautiful supply of flowers all summer long. Be sure to pick the flowers continuously to ensure future blooms. If left to develop seed pods the plants will stop flowering and we sure don’t want that.