Sweet Pea Plants
No Garden Is Complete Without A Few Sweet Pea Plants
Sweet Pea plants are often one of the first flower plants introduced to young gardeners. Like their vegetable counterparts, the Sweet Pea seeds generally germinate quickly, grow rapidly, and produce colorful blooms with only minimal care. Like most any flowering plant, they love full sun, good soil, and also need to be kept moist. Unlike some summer flowers though, Sweet Pea plants do better in cool rather than hot weather.
If You Build It, They Will Climb - Knowing Sweet Pea plants are climbing vines, first time growers will often plant them the same way that peas are planted, in a row with strings attached to stakes for the vines to climb on. While there's nothing wrong with this, and while a row of sweet peas can make an excellent backdrop for other plants, they look even better planted around a trellis or post, where they can be trained to climb. Sweet Pea vines have tendrils which will grasp anything within reach. This makes climbing easy if the tendrils have something to hang on to. Otherwise the vines will grab on to one another, or trail along the ground, grabbing hold of nearby plants, and you'll have a tangled mess on your hands. In short, while the vines are growing, their growth patterns need to be monitored and managed.
Dead Heading Is Key - Keeping the vines under control is about the only chore you'll have to attend to in growing Sweet Pea plants. They require regular watering of course, but not too much fertilizer. Excess fertilizer is good for the plant, if you like plenty of green foliage, but too much fertilizer will result in lots of foliage and fewer blossoms. Most varieties will bloom for several weeks, even for a couple of months, but only if the spent blossoms are removed. Once a blossom dies back a seed pod, looking very much like a regular pea pod will start to form. It's best to remove the pod before it gets too large or it will take excessive nutrient from the plant and blooming may come to a halt. At the end of the season you can let a few pods mature if you want to save seeds for next year. Just make sure that the variety you've planted allows this. Some hybrids will produce seeds that will not produce the plants of blooms expected the following year.
The climbing varieties, which make up the bulk of Sweet Pea varieties, will often grow to a height of 6' or more, sometimes as much as 9'. There are also several dwarf varieties of sweet Pea plants on the market. The blossoms are every bit as attractive on these little guys, and besides making nice border plants they are extremely attractive in planters or pots, either alone or with suitable companion plants. If you have a very small garden, or nothing for the standard climbers to grow on that looks good, consider a few of the dwarf varieties for your garden, or window sill.
Don't Ignore The Wild Ones - Sweet Pea plants do grow in the wild in many areas and one can even purchase seeds of these wild varieties. Some tend to have very heavy foliage and the blossoms are often no more than half the size of the garden types, but wild Sweet Peas can be very attractive on a trellis. Like their "tame" counterparts, they will grow on whatever they can reach, but are easily trained. Also they need to be dead headed to prolong the blooming period.
Spencer, Cuthbertsons, And Royals Top The List - The type of Sweet Pea known as the Spencer, named after England's Earl of Spencer, is the most common type found in seed packets today. The Spencer type is characterized by large blossoms and comes in a wide range of colors. The Spencers tend to be later blooming than some other types, and that may need to be taken into account depending upon where they are to be grown. Cuthbertsons and Royals are two other favored types, with the latter being particularly noted for its long stems, hence is very much in demand in the cut flower market. Irrespective of type, the vast majority of Sweet Pea seeds produced in the United States come from the coastal area of central California, where the cool coastal climate is ideal for growing Sweet Pea plants.