Beedazzled Gardens Blog

Gardening Ruminations and Germination

Starting Sweet Pea Seeds


Successful Seed Starting
If you are new to starting seeds, nothing could be simpler than trying Sweet Peas (Lathyrus Odoratus). BB-pellet sized seed capsules are large, round and easy to handle. Sweet peas respond well to a stratification process. In the fall garden, vines produce pea pods that pop open and disperse their seeds. Gentle Pacific Northwest rains eventually remove the seeds earthy brown winter overcoat. This process preps the seed to sprout when the soil warms to over 50 degrees.


To mimic nature, I soak purchased seeds for 24 hours in ramekins on the kitchen countertop. Viable seeds will sink to the bottom. Seeds that may not sprout will float to the top. To promote a succession of blooms and to harvest into fragrant bouquets throughout spring and summer – plant seeds every two weeks.



Cultural Requirements
Native to:





Eastern Mediterranean region

Fabaceae (legumes: pea)
Full sun to light afternoon shade
Regular water

USDA Zones 5 – 9

Planting Recommendations
Planting Time:



Germination Days:

February – April

1″ inch
2 – 3″ inches apart
12 – 28 days

Depends on variety. Vines can reach 6′ – 8′ ft tall

Maintenance Tips

  • Protect young seedlings from birds, snails and slugs.
  • Keep container sweet peas well-watered.
  • Fertilize plants regularly every two weeks.
  • Deadhead spent flowers regularly.

Sowing Seeds

Seeds can be started in flats in a greenhouse or directly sown in the ground. They appreciate a little nip of cold. They can be sown 6-7 weeks before the last frost date. In Portland, I use April 15 (tax day) as a date benchmark. As an experiment, I planted seeds directly in the ground, containers, window box and peat pots in our unheated greenhouse. The seeds planted in the window box and containers sprouted first.


Since the Solexx® covered greenhouse does not have heat or water yet, the seeds were dependent on my watering and efforts to keep them warm. Seeds started in the ground Thursday, March 26 are now 6″ tall as of May 6, 2009. When seedlings have 3-4 sets of leaves, remember to pinch off the top set to encourage side branching which results in a bushy plant.


Henry Eckford, cross-bred and developed the sweet pea. He turned a rather insignificant – albeit sweetly scented flower – into the Victorian era floral sensation. In Victorian times, certain flowers had specific meanings due to flower selection limitations. People used symbols and gestures to communicate their feelings which otherwise could not be spoken in words. In the popular Victorian Language of Flowers, sweet pea meaning ranged from shyness, good-bye, departure, blissful pleasure, to thank you for a lovely time.


Author: beedazzled

BeeDazzled Gardens creates specialized perennial beds and containers that attract beneficial insects, birds, and butterflies.

6 thoughts on “Starting Sweet Pea Seeds

  1. Of course, your growing instructions are local. My last spring frost is usually the last week in May or the first week in June. Last year, my first growing sweet peas, I started some inside per the directions in Graham Rice’s book. I had some soaked seeds left over, so I thought, what the heck, I’ll stick them in the ground. The seeds started indoors did germinate sooner, but both kinds of plants bloomed about the same time. So this year I’m just starting them in the ground tomorrow. That will be 2-3 weeks before our last expected frost. Last year, we had a mild summer, and the sweet peas bloomed right into fall.

    • Kathy – Nice to hear from you. Yes, we are a little ahead of you as far as frost. I do write everything from a local perspective to Beaverton, Oregon.

  2. Thanks Dawn – I’ve always wanted to try sweet peas- I appreciate the easy to follow directions and pictures. I need all the help I can get!

    • Jen – Thanks! I try to post on a weekly basis. The greenhouse is almost up and running now. The electrical is in, now waiting for the water/plumbing so I can really start ‘producing’ flower and veggie starts. Keep posted to this site for the latest and greatest happenings in my garden and the local garden scene. – Dawn

  3. Hi Dawn !
    Is it too late to start sweet peas from seeds? Where should I plant them? Would they be ok with afternoon sun? :-)))

    • Yes, they will be ok with afternoon sun. I would plant them in front of the roses near the road and let them drift over the hill down to the road area you have. Or they would look great sumbling up and through your lilac grove near the garage.