Sweet peas are fragrant beauties

Sweet peas come in lovely colors and smell fantastic. Photo courtesy of Alicia Cunningham

I adore sweet peas.

They smell delicious and the colors are unbelievable.

How unbelievable? When I bring bouquets into the house, my husband says the flowers  must be fake because colors like that don’t exist in nature.

And I tell him he’s wrong. Again!

Sweet peas are another of those flowers that look like they would be hard to grow, but really aren’t. Shhh. That’s our secret so we can impress family and friends.

There are really only two tricks you need to know:  The seeds must be nicked or soaked before planting and the seedlings should be pinched to encourage the plant to branch.

A while back, I asked Master Gardener Alicia Cunningham, who’s been starting plants from seeds, including sweet peas, for years, for step-by-step instructions:

  • Sweet pea seeds have hard coats so use sandpaper or nail clippers to nick the brown shell. That will allow them to a absorb water more quickly and speed up germination. Or you could soak the seeds in water overnight. Or do both.
  • Plant them about a half-inch deep in a well-prepared bed that’s been amended with organic material, such as compost. Bagged, store-bought compost is fine.
  • Provide something for the plants to climb on at planting time so you won’t stab developing roots later on. Keep in mind they climb by tendrils so whatever you use should be thin enough for them to cling to. Got a chain link fence? They were made for each other: the fence is perfect for tendrils to grab and the sweet peas will transform a boring boundary into a thing of beauty.
  • Water well and keep the soil moist, but not soggy.
  • Thin the seedlings to about 6 inches apart.
  • Pinch the top out  of seedlings when they are about 4 inches tall. Alicia knows you won’t want to do this because you think you will hurt your babies. Get over it. “It’s extra important to pinch the top. Instead of one spindly stem, it will branch.” More branches mean more flowers. Just do it.
  • Cut bouquets. “The more you cut, the more they’ll bloom,”  Alicia said.

You could do that, couldn’t you? Why not give  it a try this year.

Alicia recalled the advice given to her by Dave Creech, a horticulturist at Stephen F.  Austin University.

“Go for it. If they don’t come up, don’t give up. Keep trying.”

And if you  succeed?

“It’s a little miracle,” Alicia said.

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