Kew Pollination Collection Perennial Sweet Pea
The perennial sweet pea, Lathyrus latifolius, is a pretty climber that returns year after year.
The purple-pink flowers are unscented but popular with bees. They may not be quite as showy as those of annual sweet peas, but this resilient plant will happily ramble about without becoming a nuisance in perennial borders or balcony tubs. Perennial sweet pea is brilliant when trained through evergreen shrubs or allowed to sprawl down tricky slopes and embankments. Here where I live, it cascades down the chalk cliffs to meet the azure sea below.
- Sow under glass September and October or outdoors March and April
- Height: 200cm. Spread: 100cm
- 1 packet contains approximately 10 seeds
- Self-clinging but will welcome some support to get going
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Sow sweet pea seeds indoors during September and October for transplanting outdoors in spring, or direct sow outdoors from March until April.
For autumn sowings, sow 3 seeds per 7.5cm pot at a depth of 1cm in free-draining, peat-free, seed sowing compost. Place in a propagator or seal the container inside a plastic bag at a temperature of 18-20C until germination takes place. This may take 7-21 days. Once germinated, grow seedlings on in cooler conditions before transferring to a cold frame for overwintering. They will need some protection from frost.
Spring sowings can be made outdoors directly into drills at a depth of 2.5cm and a distance of 7.5cm. Pinch out the growing point of each stem once the second pair of leaves has opened to encourage bushier growth.
In spring, plant out sweet peas at a distance of 25cm apart in any well-drained garden soil in full sun.
Feed and water sweet peas regularly throughout the growing season. Deadhead faded blooms to prevent seedpods from developing. This will encourage more blooms and extend the flowering period throughout summer. Cut back old stems to ground level when they begin yellow in autumn. Perennial sweet peas will start to grow again from ground level each spring.
A great many of our favourite garden plants can be harmful if eaten or handled without gloves. This is rarely a cause for concern but it's always good to know what you are dealing with.
In the case of perennial sweet pea, the seeds are not sweet! They are harmful if eaten by humans, cats, dogs and other small animals.