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Info of Growing Sweet Peas

Sweet peas are thought to have their origins in Sicily, China or Malta. But the first seeds bought to England for cultivation were imported from Italy. They have been cultivated for hundreds of years and thus there are thousands of cultivars that have been developed through the centuries.
Henry Eckford is credited with the development of what we know today as Sweet Peas in the late 1800’s, having cross bred the original small and mainly purplish, sweet fragranced flowers to create a range of various colours with larger flowers. By 1900, he had introduced a total of 115 cultivars of Sweet Peas. Many people since then have tried their hand at breeding Sweet Peas, with amazing frilly or striped varieties being created. Unfortunately, this has often been to the detriment of the fragrance.

Sweet pea breeder Dr Keith Hammett did a lot of work in the 1990’s to retain the fragrance of Sweet peas while providing a range of bicolours, frilled and the ever elusive yellow Sweet pea.

His passion and perseverance paid off, with a range of his seed now being available through outlets that stock Yates Seeds. Most of the plain colour, old fashioned varieties have retained their fragrance and are available through most nurseries and garden centres now for planting. If you don’t have room for the tall climbing varieties, there are dwarf forms suitable for garden beds and pots. One of my favourites of the dwarf form is Bijou, I am particularly fond of the pale colour mix.


Being an annual, it is most commonly grown from seed. They can be planted either in mid autumn to mid winter or early to mid spring. Sow the seed directly into the open ground to a depth of around 1 to 2cm. You can aid germination of the seed if you soak it over night in luke warm water. Once you have planted them, give them a good soak, then water once every few days lightly until the seedlings emerge in around 7 to 14 days.


Sweet peas should be grown in soil enriched with organic matter in full sun with good drainage.
For climbing varieties, make sure that they have an adequate climbing support. They will also benefit from a liquid fertiliser while in growth, but make sure you don’t add a high nitrogen fertiliser around flowering time.

To extend flowering, dead head the old flowers before they set seed. Also ensure that they have adequate moisture.

They can be affected by a range of pests and diseases which can be easily controlled. The main culprits are slugs and snails on the new growth, aphids on flower buds and powdery mildew. To control the powdery mildew, avoid watering the foliage, and spray each week with a watered down chamomile tea.

If you haven’t tried growing Sweet peas before, you could be missing out on one of the darlings of the horticultural world. It’s not hard or expensive. You can pick up seed at your local nursery for around two or three dollars a packet, and once you have grown your own, you can collect the seed from them for the following year.

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