Plant Now: Sweet Peas

Sweet Pea Patricia Ann

Now’s the perfect time to sow sweet peas, but bear in mind what type you’re planting. There are three types of sweet peas: winter-flowering, spring-flowering and summer-flowering, with the majority of varieties available in New Zealand being summer-flowering. Autumn is the best time to sow seeds of winter and spring blooming sweet peas, but summer-flowering types grow better if sown in short days (winter) and grown on into lengthening days. That means June to August is the best time to plant summer-flowering sweet peas, but sowings can, in fact, be made up until mid-October. In very cold areas it might be best to leave sowing until spring.

Sweet peas like a sunny spot in well-drained, humus-rich soil. You can sow them in pots to transplant later or sow them directly in the ground. If you start them off in pots, though, leave the containers outdoors, not in a greenhouse. Sweet peas germinate at low temperatures; strong plants result if grown in high light and cool conditions. Spindly, sprawling ones often result if grown in a greenhouse.

Some people soak their seeds overnight before sowing, but it’s not necessary, so long as you sow your seeds into a moist bed.

You can apply a fertiliser at planting time, but there’s no need to go overboard. Use a balanced fertiliser (I like Nitrophoska Blue), one that is not overly high in nitrogen. Scatter snail pellets around your seedlings too, as snails love the tasty young leaves that emerge.


  1. What are the names of some of the winter flowering varieties, please?

    • Hi Mary
      Sweet Pea breeder Dr Keith Hammett has winter and spring flowering sweet peas for sale on his website. Click here to go there. One of his most popular mixes is ‘Equinox’, which is a mix of winter and spring flowering blooms. Another winter/spring flowering type he has is ‘Lunar Sea’ which has lovely creamy, wavy petals.

  2. Sandie fisher says:

    You have the most fabulous name!

    Today I planted out sweet pea seedlings purchased from Canadian Tire who sell everything. They were so healthy and much less expensive. It was a warm sunny day and I was feeling less keep it could be a fun experiment. I’m using the tripods technique and wrapped the base loosely with clear plastic garbage bags. The top is open. I used a double thickness of plastic. I did mybest to give them everybody ng they will need.

    Sunlight I can’t provide nor warm nights. I will remind very plastic on nice days.

    My question is, do you think that there is achance that they will grow and thrive?? I’m wondering if should just do some seeds as the chances are so slim, being this early. We live in. Campbell River, Canada.

    Thanks for your input!,

    • Hi Sandie
      First of all, can you tell me what season it is in Canada, as I’m not familiar with your months v. seasons. For example, it’s early autumn here in NZ at the moment. Thanks. Jane.

  3. Sandie fisher says:

    Less exp naive than seeds that is! For $2.50 I got about 40 little plants. They pulled apart beautifully with lovely roots on each.

    This goes with a previews us email. Thank you, Jane!

  4. Suzanne O'Connor says:

    My sweet peas are tall and look healthy although there are few flowers? I pick them to instigate new growth. What is wrong.

    • Hi Suzanne
      When did you plant them? Often, in NZ, when we plant them in autumn, they grow rather tall and leggy. We don’t actually need to plant our sweet peas until June/July or even August in NZ. Also, are they getting enough light? They need 6 hours of sunlight a day. An overly rich soil will also result in tall, leafy plants with few flowers. You could try a fertiliser specifically for flowers, or a fertiliser high in phosphorus.

  5. Annie Magee says:

    I’d love to know the variety of Sweet Pea which features in the image above, please. The colours in it are stunning

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