Sweet Pea Containers
An Old Favourite Made New
Sweet Peas, Lathyrus odoratus L. have been in cultivation for centuries.
They have a delightful fragrance and bloom in a rainbow of colours from white through pink to red, mauve and purple. They are annual flowers that grow typically as long climbing vines, with the blooms often used as cut flowers. There are a couple of cultivars that are short and compact and can be used for hanging baskets and other Sweet pea containers. Colour Palette and Window Box Cupid are two of these shorter varieties that I am growing as a trial.
Special requirements? I have tried the larger Sweet peas before with some success but their need for tall supports keeps them from becoming really popular. There are an amazing number of varieties that have resulted from years of breeding. Peas are one of the plants that the original geneticists worked with when exploring the role that genes played in determining a plants appearance. They like a good rich soil with lots of compost, are not tolerant of drying out and like to be in full sun. None of these requirements is difficult but in combination they tend to keep the Sweet Pea as a bit of a specialty crop but growing Sweet Pea containers can more readily give us their delights
When and How to Plant? They can be planted directly into the containers as soon as the soil can be worked, as the seedlings will not be affected by a light frost. To get earlier blooms they can be started indoors 4 - 6 weeks before they are to be planted outside. Indoors, sow them in 3" - 4" pots as they will develop significant root systems and they are not wildly enthusiastic about being transplanted.
Secrets? There are two secrets to growing good Sweet Pea seedlings. To get good germination, make a slight nick in the seed coat, with a nail clipper, before planting. This allows the impervious seed coat to let water penetrate more easily. When the seedlings have 3 -4 pairs of true leaves they need to have the top 1 or two pinched out so that it will branch out and produce a bushier, stockier plant. They do not need as much bottom heat to germinate as many seeds do, so start them in the cooler section of your germination area.
Growing Regimen? Sweet Pea containers will need to be fairly large and it would be a good idea to add some rich compost to the container’s usual light growing medium. Apply a liquid fertilizer every two weeks through the growing season. Whether in the ground or in a container, deadheading, (removing spent blooms to prevent seed set,) is recommended to extend the flowering season. After that, just enjoy the aroma; it’s worth the effort.
How Did They Do? At the end of the season I was somewhat disappointed with my Sweetpea containers. I was not in the garden as much as I usually am and as a result they did not get deadheaded very often. By midsummer they had set a nice crop of peas and had stopped producing flowers. They also did not grow very large and that may have been due to some competition in the containers both from the odd weed that thrived there and from the mixed plantings I had tried. Maybe I'm too lazy a gardener to grow Sweetpea containers.
return from Sweet Pea containers to Annual flowers main page