Fabulously Fragrant Sweet Peas

Fabulously Fragrant Sweet Peas

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For so many of us the divine fragrance of Sweet Peas triggers wonderful memories of time spent in the garden as children.  Maybe your grandma grew them or a beloved aunt or uncle.  Either way, Sweet Peas smell just like love.

In Tucson the best time to plant Sweet Peas is at the end of September or the beginning of October, depending upon how hot it is.  Wait until the daytime temperatures have dropped into the mid-90’s.  Even though Sweet Peas are planted in the fall, they will not bloom until spring.  Depending upon variety and weather, they may begin to bloom as early as February.  One good way to help extend their bloom in the spring is to plant them in a spot that gets afternoon shade.  (By the way, the seedlings don’t need covering during a normal Tucson winter.)

There are basically 3 types of Sweet Peas you can grow.  The shortest grows to only 8 or 10 inches and is great in a hanging basket.  The second is a dwarf climber that grows to about 3 feet which also makes it good to grow in a pot.  The last type is your tall garden variety that will reach to about 5 feet tall and need support.

One of the challenges with Sweet Peas is breaking through the hard outer shell of the seed so germination can happen.  One method that we have found successful starts with a plastic container that has a tight fitting lid.  Fold 2 paper towels so that they cover the bottom of the container.  Place your seeds on top of the flat paper towels and add water to the container.  The water level should only come halfway up the seed.  You don’t need to cover the seed with water.  Put the lid on the container, making sure it has a tight fit.  Leave the seeds in the container for approximately 24 hours.  When you uncover the container the following day you will notice that some seeds have swelled, absorbing water.  These seeds are ready to plant.  You will find that some seeds in your container did not swell and will either need more time in the container or they may need to be ‘nicked’ and returned to the container overnight.

For planting in a container use a rich, well-draining, potting soil such as Black Gold.  When planting, place 3 seeds together every 6 inches.

Before planting in your garden, it is best to add mulch to your existing soil.  Your final planting bed should consist of ½ mulch and ½ existing soil with this soft mixture being about 12 inches deep.

Sweet Peas need to be buried about 1 inch deep, whether in a pot or in the ground.  Water your seeds every day until the weather cools.  As temperatures cool, check the soil to make sure it is not still wet before watering again.

In the spring your Sweet Peas will give you more bloom if you cut blooms regularly.  Then fill your home with the fabulous fragrance and color of Sweet Peas.

Your grandma will be proud.

Harlow Gardens
5620 E. Pima Street
Tucson, AZ 85712

1 Comment
  • Hello! And thank you for writing up some information on how to plant and grow sweet peas in the desert. Having recently relocated from San Diego, being a new desert-gardener in Tucson has been challenging, to say the least! I will try to follow your suggestions as closely as possible and hope for the best.

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