- Lathyrus latifolius ‘Rosa Perle’
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- Sweet Peas
- How to grow sweet peas
- Great sweet pea varieties to grow
- How to grow: the everlasting pea
Lathyrus latifolius ‘Rosa Perle’
Do you sell perennial Sweet Peas? I was just looking at your Sweet Peas and noted that they are annuals and will only last for one year….. I used to have Sweet Peas, but having had building work done, they are now under a few tons of concrete in my new drive…….. however, they always came back every year and I never had to touch them with any sprays etc. Which Sweet Pea could it have been that came back every year? They were quite a strong pink in colour – any ideas as this is the one I want to buy? Many thanks, Maureen
Hello Maureen, The Lathyrus latifolius are the perennial peas, and we do have one that is a dark pinkish red – just click on the following link to go straight to it. http://www.crocus.co.uk/plants/_/perennials/lathyrus-latifolius-red-pearl/classid.3139/ I hope this helps. Helen Plant Doctor
What does ‘pinching out’ mean? I would like to buy some Sweet Peas however, I’m not sure what the term ‘pinching out the tips’ means. Any clues on how you would do this?
Ms Sau Min Chang
Pinching out, simply means removing the growing tip of the plant. This encourages the plants to produce lateral shoots, which will result in bushier growth. All you need to do is nip out the top two leaves and growing point of each plant using your fingers or a small pair of scissors.
Perennial Sweet Pea flowers
Perennial Sweet Pea flowers
(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)
Height: 8 feet
Spread: 3 feet
Hardiness Zone: 5a
Other Names: Sweetpea, Perennial Pea, Everlasting Peavine
This old-fashioned ornamental vine produces long-lasting clusters of flowers in shades of pink; not strongly scented like L.odoratus; prune before seeds form to keep under control
Perennial Sweet Pea features showy racemes of pink pea-like flowers along the stems from early summer to early fall. The flowers are excellent for cutting. Its oval compound leaves remain bluish-green in colour throughout the season. The fruit is not ornamentally significant.
Perennial Sweet Pea is an herbaceous perennial vine with a twining and trailing habit of growth. Its relatively fine texture sets it apart from other garden plants with less refined foliage.
This plant will require occasional maintenance and upkeep, and should only be pruned after flowering to avoid removing any of the current season’s flowers. It is a good choice for attracting bees and butterflies to your yard, but is not particularly attractive to deer who tend to leave it alone in favor of tastier treats. Gardeners should be aware of the following characteristic(s) that may warrant special consideration;
Perennial Sweet Pea is recommended for the following landscape applications;
- General Garden Use
- Container Planting
Planting & Growing
Perennial Sweet Pea will grow to be about 8 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 3 feet. As a climbing vine, it should either be planted near a fence, trellis or other landscape structure where it can be trained to grow upwards on it, or allowed to trail off a retaining wall or slope. It grows at a fast rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 10 years.
This plant does best in full sun to partial shade. It does best in average to evenly moist conditions, but will not tolerate standing water. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution. This species is not originally from North America.
Perennial Sweet Pea is a fine choice for the garden, but it is also a good selection for planting in outdoor pots and containers. Because of its spreading habit of growth, it is ideally suited for use as a ‘spiller’ in the ‘spiller-thriller-filler’ container combination; plant it near the edges where it can spill gracefully over the pot. Note that when growing plants in outdoor containers and baskets, they may require more frequent waterings than they would in the yard or garden.
One of the most romantic of all flowers is surely the sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus), with its frilly, butterfly-like blooms and heady fragrance, likened to honey and orange blossoms.
Native to the eastern Mediterranean region, it has been in cultivation since the 1600s when, according to legend, a Sicilian monk named Franciscus Cupani took note of its qualities and sent seeds to England. But it wasn’t until the late 1800s that a Scottish nurseryman, Henry Eckford, recognized the sweet pea’s potential and developed numerous varieties (some still on the market), launching this humble member of the Pea Family into garden stardom.
Now sweet peas come in every color except true yellow, from red to lavender to navy blue, some streaked and flecked. Most types trail for six to nine feet or so, but there are also shorter forms ideal for containers that are only eight to 20 inches tall.
While the sweet pea is considered an annual, there are a few perennial cultivars, but they lack fragrance. As does a related perennial species, the everlasting pea (Lathyrus latifolius). Since some breeding of sweet peas has actually favored blossom size over scent, be sure the ones you’re buying are scented if that’s an important factor to you.
Relatively easy to grow, the main thing to remember is that sweet peas like cool weather, requiring about 50 days of temperatures under 60 degrees to bloom well. In cooler climates, sow seeds outdoors in early spring as soon as the soil is workable. Seedlings can withstand a touch of frost, so don’t stress if the weather turns colder. Flowering will last from spring into summer, and even into fall in some regions. A thick layer of mulch will keep roots cool and extend the blooming as long as possible.
In the South, sweet peas (look for short-day varieties) can be sown outdoors in the fall, October to early November or even in late winter, January-February. They’ll produce roots but not much top growth until spring.
To speed germination, before sowing make a small nick in the seed coat with a knife, metal file, or sandpaper. This will allow the seed to take up water more easily. Plant seeds one to two inches deep.
You can also start seedlings indoors in a cool place, six to eight weeks before last frost date. But don’t let them entwine together into a tangled mess that’s hard to separate before it’s time to transplant into the garden. Before transplanting, pinch off any flower buds to encourage roots.
The best location offers full sun (except in really hot regions where late afternoon shade will be appreciated), rich soil, and good air circulation. Protect young plants from birds (with netting) and slugs.
Sweet peas will scramble up all manner of fences, trellises, and arbors, attaching themselves by slender tendrils. Supports should be small enough in diameter for the tendrils to easily wrap around. If you want to grow sweet peas up a thick support, you’ll need to attach netting or lengths of twine.
Sweet peas can also be used like clematis to trail through flowering shrubs, to offer wonderful floral combos or to bloom when the shrub is not. Since sweet peas are annuals, they won’t accumulate a mass of vines from year to year to overwhelm their shrub “host.” They can also be grown alongside perennial or woody vines to extend the season of interest.
Though not edible like their garden-pea cousins, when trained up bean teepees in the vegetable garden sweet peas add an element of beauty and also attract beneficial pollinators like bees, which will then visit your fruit and veggie plants.
Another benefit of growing sweet peas is they make excellent, long-lasting cut flowers. A clutch of them in a small vase brings their heavenly scent and the romance of the cottage garden indoors. And by regularly cutting flowers from the plant, you’ll be encouraging more blooms.
How to grow sweet peas
We all associate sweet peas with bunches of sweetly scented blooms that offer flower after flower in summer. However, the genus offers perennial types as well as the familiar annuals (Lathyrus odoratus) that are grown for picking.
More expert advice on growing sweet peas:
- 10 sweet peas to grow
- How to sow sweet pea seeds
- How to sow sweet peas in pots
- Best sweet peas for cut flowers
- Best sweet peas for scent
- Grandiflora sweet peas to grow
- How to prolong sweet peas
Perennial varieties may be unscented but they are hardy and reliable garden plants.
Picking continuously will encourage more flowers and prevent plants from setting seed. Lathyrus odoratus ‘Starlight’
Where to plant sweet peas
Annual sweet peas should be planted in an open, sunny position in a well-drained but moisture-retentive soil.
Perennial types, such as the non-climbing hardy perennial Lathyrus vernus, prefer a position of dappled shade.
Perennial climbers, such as the everlasting sweet pea (Lathyrus latifolius, Lathyrus rotundifolius and L. grandiflorus), require a support to scramble up and a position of sun or light shade. They’re ideal for growing up an old tree stump and they will tolerate very alkaline soils.
The perennial types prefer to be grown in the garden, whereas annuals can be grown in pots if planted in a good compost with a slow-release fertiliser mixed in.
Lathyrus odoratus ‘Lady Turrell’
How to plant sweet peas
Annual sweet peas can be grown from seed or bought as plug plants in spring. Avoid planting them in the garden until the danger of frost has passed. Plant them under a support, such as a wigwam made of bamboo canes. Annual types will grow to about 2m in height. Water in well until they’ve put on good growth. Space them about 20cm apart.
As with the annual types, perennial sweet peas should be planted in a humus-rich soil. Water in well until established.
Sowing sweet pea seeds
How to propagate sweet peas
Annual sweet peas are easy to grow from seed in either November or spring. A propagator will encourage even germination. If sowing in November ensure you have the room to grow them on in a frost-free place until spring.
To help activate germination nick the seed coat with a knife, avoiding the ‘eye’ area. Either sow seed in 9cm pots (3 to a pot), in root trainers or trays. Sow the seed in a good quality seed compost. Rub out the lumps from the compost. Seeds need to be covered with 0.5cm of compost and watered so it’s damp and not wet. Then place the seed tray or pots in the propagator and keep at about 15°C. If growing without a propagator cover the pots or trays with a sheet of glass until you see signs of germination.
Watch Monty Don’s video guide to growing sweet peas from seed:
If seeds have been sown in pots or root trainers then they won’t need pricking out. Plants shouldn’t be planted out in the garden until all danger of frost has passed. Before planting harden them off by putting them out in the day and returning them to a frost-free place at night. Seeds can be sown directly into the garden in late April as an alternative. However, when you grow your sweet peas, pinch out the top of seedlings when they reach about 10cm to encourage bushy growth.
Sweet peas: problem solving
Young seedlings are prone to slug and snail damage when first planted into the garden. Try beer traps, copper bands, or the biological control, Nemaslug. Find out more about keeping slugs and snails away.
Lathyrus odorata ‘America’
Looking after sweet peas
Perennial sweet peas require very little care and are simply cut right back in autumn. Annual sweet peas require training up a suitable support and can be grown as cordons.
Watch David Hurrion’s No Fuss video guide to tying in sweet peas:
Picking continuously will encourage more flowers and prevent plants from setting seed. Water annual in very dry weather.
Saving sweet pea seeds
Seed can be collected in early September. Leave the seed pods on the plants until they have turned a paper bag colour. Collect them on a dry day, remove them from their pods and store in paper bags in a dry place until you a ready to sow them.
Lathyrus odoratus ‘Lipstick’
Great sweet pea varieties to grow
- Lathyrus vernus ‘Alboroseus’ – a hardy perennial bush-forming sweet pea that has tiny pink and white flowers in April. Reaches 35cm in height and spread
- Lathyrus latifolius ‘White Pearl’ – perennial climber with pure-white flowers from June to late August. Reaches a height of 2m
- Lathyrus odoratus ‘Matucana’ – hardy annual that is hugely popular and fondly known as the old-fashioned sweet pea. It has scented two-tone purple flowers in summer and is ideal for picking
- Lathyrys odoratus ‘Lipstick’ (pictured) – a wavy-edged, Spencer type with good scent
- Lathyrus odoratus ‘Lord Nelson’ – hardy annual grown for picking. Blue flowers with a highly rated scent in summer. Plants reach 2m
- Lathyrus odoratus ‘Painted Lady’ – hardy annual grown for picking. Bi-coloured blooms of pale and dark pink. Highly scented old-fashioned type. Great for early flowers
Find more great sweet pea varieties to grow here
How to grow: the everlasting pea
Lathyrus rotundifolius is the Persian version of the everlasting pea, with small, unscented flowers. A combination of half pink and half brick-red turns the flowers terracotta and its rounded leaves are pretty. There are several variations, so this may be one to choose in flower from a nursery. The roots can wander, but it is frail compared with L. grandiflorus. I have combined it with roses and it has never become too dominant.
Lathyrus belinensis is the new favourite. I would like to keep its copper and yellow flowers a secret for a little longer, but it has been so much admired in the garden this summer that I am obliged to share it. It is a cinch from seed. Some growers say it is perennial, but it is so new that most have not yet made up their minds what it can do. It will flower all summer if dead-headed.
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All these lathyrus, except for Lord Anson, are strong growers, so they do not need cosseting. ‘White Pearl’ could be given a little encouragement, because it is less invasive. Try hard with Lord Anson: good soil, water if needed, and shade. This pea can end the summer with mildew if it is unhappy. It is not called L. nervosus for nothing.
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Grow the rampant L. grandiflorus in a place where you will not mind if it gets the upper hand. Put ‘White Pearl’ at the back of a border, behind a delphinium. It will flower at the same time as Japanese anemones and Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ and bring a tired garden to life. The terracotta L. rotundifolius looks good with copper-coloured roses such as ‘Crepuscule’, or as a background to blue perovskia. Grow L. belinensis with brown mimulus and nasturtiums.
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Where to buy
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You can also purchase the everlasting pea online from our retail partner Crocus.co.uk at the special price of £4.95. .