Growing Sweet Peas for the first time – start here
Have you tried to grow Sweet Peas before but found they did not made the mark? Or perhaps this is your first year? Our founder and flower farmer Rosebie Morton has been growing Sweet Peas in our specialist Sweet Pea nursery for more than twenty years. Here she shares her tips to get you started.
How much space do I need to grow Sweet Peas?
Rosebie always says that if you have space for a pot then you can grow Sweet Peas. If you are growing in a pot then choose one that is at least 40cm in diameter and 40cm in depth. If you are growing in a flower bed then place your plants about 20-30cm apart. Our Sweet Pea seedling pots are designed to be planted in clusters so they can go straight in the ground or into a pot without dividing them.
When is the best time to sow my Sweet Peas?
You can sow under cover any time from October right through to April. However, October, November, February and March are best, avoiding mid-winter if you can. If you have space and time to nurture your Sweet Peas then sowing early produces strong, earlier-flowering plants but if you have left it until later then it is still worth giving it a go. Rosebie sowed some for her garden in late April one year and they still flowered.
What is the best way to sow Sweet Peas?
Sweet Peas need a long root run – that means space for their roots to spread out. They do not like root disturbance so Rosebie always recommends sowing the seeds in root trainers or the cardboard centres of loo rolls. Fill the root trainers or loo roll centres with damp peat-free multi-purpose potting compost. Sweet Pea seeds are large and easy to handle. Despite popular belief, Sweet Pea seeds do not need to be soaked.
- Push the Sweet Pea seed down about 2-3cm below the surface of the compost.
- Leave to germinate on a sunny windowsill or in a greenhouse.
- Do not let your seeds dry out. Watering from below is best.
- Mice love Sweet Pea seeds so use holly to protect your seeds if needed.
- Sweet Peas usually start to sprout in a couple of weeks
For the first time this year we are offering Sweet Pea seeds direct from our West Sussex Sweet Pea nursery. You can shop our Sweet Pea seeds here.
Where is the best place to plant my Sweet Peas?
If you can, choose a sunny place with at least six hours of sun a day.
Should I pinch out or trim off the side shoots?
This depends on whether you want a more rambling, natural display or Sweet Peas with longer stems for picking. For a natural display you can just let your Sweet Peas do their thing but if you are growing Sweet Peas for picking and want long straight stems then trim off the side shoots, leaving the central stem. Rosebie loves to use these Okatsune Thinning Scissors for taming Sweet Peas.
Should I take off the tendrils?
This depends on the type of display you want to create. If you want to grow Sweet Peas with long stems then Rosebie suggests snipping off the tendrils using a good-quality pair of Thinning Scissors. By doing this you will avoid the tendrils tangling and producing bendy short stems. However, if you want a natural display or are time poor then you can just leave the tendrils to develop.
How do I encourage my Sweet Peas to produce more flowers?
Rosebie recommends feeding each week using a granular fertiliser such as Vitax Q4. Even more important is to prevent your Sweet Peas from going to seed during the flowering season, so make sure you keep deadheading or picking the flowers.
How often should I water my Sweet Peas?
When your Sweet Peas are still seedlings it is important not to let them dry out, so keep the compost moist. Rosebie suggests watering your pots from below by placing them in a tray of water for an hour or two until they feel heavier and the compost on the top looks moist but not waterlogged.
When you plant out your Sweet Peas you will also need to water them regularly. Rosebie suggests giving them a good water every few days (depending on how hot and dry it is) rather than a light drizzle more regularly.
How should I protect my Sweet Peas from slugs?
If you find that slugs are enjoying your Sweet Peas then Rosebie suggests trying copper bands, beer traps or the biological control Nemaslug.
As a final note, it is not cheating to buy Sweet Pea seedlings or plug plants! It can take a lot of the hassle out of growing Sweet Peas and reward you with lots of beautiful blooms this summer.