Friday, 10 March 2017

How to choose which sweet peas to grow for your garden

Sweet pea varieties, lathyrus odoratus Green Fingered Blog
There are hundreds of varieties of sweet pea 
Sweet peas are a must for your garden. Easy to grow, they bring colour and fragrance to the garden in summer, and make great cut flowers, so you can enjoy that fragrance indoors too. In fact the more you cut them, the more flowers they produce. But there are so many varieties, how do you choose which ones to grow?

How to choose sweet peas

For colourful scented flowers in summer, it's time to sow sweet peas about now. There is a bewildering choice of sweet peas on offer at the garden centre, and even in supermarkets. You might already have your favourites, and if you've grown a variety before and liked it, then by all means grow it again. But if you're not sure which to go for, how do you choose?

They have two main attributes: colour and fragrance. You should think about how important these are to you.

Choose sweet peas for fragrance

My top priority is fragrance. Sweet peas smell fantastic anyway, but if it's a really good strong fragrance you're after then check the tag lines on the seed packets. These give away the ones that are stronger scented. Look for varieties sold with phrases that specifically mention that they are highly scented or fragrant, rather than ones that only mention the colour.

I always grow at least one extra fragrant variety each year, and have them in pots in the front garden so I can smell them as I go in and out, as well as being able to pick them regularly and bring the scent inside the house too.
Sweet peas on the windowsill Green Fingered Blog
Pop sweet peas on the windowsill and you'll
smell them as soon as you walk in the room!

Choose sweet peas for colour

There are all sorts of shades of sweet peas, from deep purples, through dark and pale blues, to pinks and reds. There are also many white varieties, often tinged with pink or purple around the edge of the petals. You can of course choose whichever takes your fancy, or just grow your favourite colour, but if you want to get a bit more sophisticated about it, here are some suggestions:

Choose a colour to match the container they will grow in. If you are using a bright blue pot, go for a bright blue sweet pea to match. Or choose a contrasting colour that works. If you have a dark purple coloured pot, a light pink shade of flower is likely to look good.

If you are growing them in the ground rather than a container, think about where you are planning to put them, and what is growing nearby. Choose a colour that will create a great combination with plants around them. Is your bed full of pinks and lilacs and pale blues? Then go with this theme, there is a sweet pea to match. Or maybe a rich velvety sweet pea will stand out against more subtle planting around it. If you want them to be the show stopper, then find a bright and powerful shade.
Sweet pea "Beaujolais" Green Fingered Blog
Sweet pea "Beaujolais"

GREEN FINGERS TIP: For good combinations, choose colours that are either next to each other on the colour spectrum, or ones that are opposites. Pairs of colours that are neither of these will tend to clash (with some exceptions). Putting it simply, red and blue will both go well with purple, but less well with each other.  

If you really can't make your mind up, there are many sweet peas sold as mixtures to give you several different colours at the same time. 

In case you were wondering, I am growing "Blue Velvet" and "Singing the Blues" as deep blues to go into pots that are partly the same colour. I am also growing "Beaujolais" to slot into the red to purple section of the main garden bed which has a particular colour scheme running through it, and "White Supreme" for the scented white themed bed. Two of these I have grown before, and two are new to me. The first batch are all sown. Now we just have to wait...

Which sweet peas are you growing this year? Have you sown them yet? Why did you choose them? Please use the comment box below to tell me why you chose a specific variety, or contact me on twitter @GreenFingerBlog, it would be great to hear from you.



  1. Some great advice here. I started growing sweet pea's last year and grew a few different ones to try. This year I'm growing Turquoise Lagoon by Mr Fothergills which turn colour over maturity. Good luck with your sowings ☺️

    1. And good luck with yours too! I like the sound of Turquoise Lagoon, might need to seek those out. Thanks, Paul.