By growing your own sweet pea plants from seed you can grow a wide range of colour and type. Choose between bush types that need little support to tall varieties that twine around your trellis. Get earlier blooms in spring by sowing now and overwintering young plants in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse. (Otherwise, sow from January to April.)
Lathyrus odoratus is a fragrant annual, and latifolius is the non-fragrant perennial. Many of the variety names are linked to its history. In 1695, Francisco Cupani, (https://justseed.com/products/hswe021) in charge of the botanical gardens in Misilmeri, Sicily, recorded the sweet pea in the wild and sent seeds to collectors all around the world. By 1900s, Henry Eckford, head gardener to the Earl of Radnor, was responsible for the introduction of 115 new varieties. He later moved to Wem, Shropshire where he bred and trialled ‘Grandiflora’ types. Sweet peas continued to gain in popularity, new varieties and hybrids proliferated giving us the huge range and selection today.
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The hard seed coat of sweet peas can make them more difficult to germinate. Soften the seed coat before sowing. Don't soak the seeds, but place seeds on a layer of moist vermiculite or kitchen tissue in an airtight container in a warm room. As soon as they swell or begin to sprout, sow in individual pots of compost, covering with 1 cm layer of compost. Water in, cover the pots with clear lid such as polythene or glass sheet and keep at about 15°C (59°F). As the seeds germinate and the seedlings emerge, remove the covering
Transfer the young plants to a cold frame or unheated greenhouse to prevent the seedlings becoming leggy. Plant out from April onwards, spacing plants 20-30cm (8in-1ft) apart