Lathyrus odoratus (Sweet Pea)

Scientific Name

Lathyrus odoratus L.

Common Names

Sweet Pea

Scientific Classification

Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
Tribe: Vicieae
Genus: Lathyrus


Color: Purple
Bloom Time: Spring to fall


Lathyrus odoratus is an annual climbing plant that grows up 6.7 feet (2 m) tall where suitable support is available. The leaves are pinnate with two leaflets and a terminal tendril, which twines around supporting plants and structures, helping the plant to climb. The flowers are purple and up to 1.4 inches (3.5 cm) wide in the wild plant. They are larger and very variable in color in the many cultivars.

Lathyrus odoratus - Sweet Pea
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It is grown as an annual plant, so it has no USDA hardiness zone.

How to Grow and Care

Sweet Peas are best sown in a full to part sun location directly in the ground on well-drained, compost amended soil in spring. Plant climbing Sweet Peas along a fence, trellis, or wire. Bush varieties can be planted in containers.

Nick the seeds with a nail file and soak them overnight in warm water to hasten germination. Plant once your ground has dried out, spacing the seeds 6 inches (15 cm) apart. In cold areas, to get an earlier flowering crop, consider starting Sweet Pea seeds indoors in pots 4 to 6 weeks before your last frost date.

Since Sweet Peas are a Legume, they need little additional fertilizer. They do grow best on a neutral pH soil, so add some lime. If your soil is acidic, keep the soil evenly moist for good germination and growth.

Sweet Peas may dry up and die in mid-summer in warmer areas. Enjoy the early summer crop and consider planting a crop in mid-summer for fall. See more at How to Grow and Care for Sweet Peas.


Native to Sicily, Cyprus, southern Italy, and the Aegean Islands.


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