Annual. Native to Sicily, first domesticated around 1699 when amateur botanist and monk Father Francis Cupani shipped seed for the variety that bears his name to a hothouse grower in England. In the late 1800s extensive breeding work, especially by Henry Eckford, expanded the range of available colors. Around 1900 Silas Cole, gardener to Earl and Countess Spencer, found a sport with much larger ruffled flowers but less scent than Eckford’s varieties. It created a sensation when it was exhibited in 1901. From this variation derive all modern strains including Spencer, Cuthbertson, Knee-High and Mammoth. As interest in fragrance revived, Bodger Seeds Ltd. obtained as many of the pre-Spencer varieties as possible and created Old Spice Mix in the 1970s.
Culture: Soak seeds for 12–24 hours prior to sowing. For earliest blooms, sow indoors 2 months before setting out, or sow direct in spring. Need darkness for germination, which takes 10–21 days at 60°. Old catalogs recommended sowing in a 4–5" trench and filling in as the peas grew. To reduce root fungal diseases, always select well-drained locations and rotate them from year to year. Likes full sun and moist rich soil, but many perform poorly in heat, so mulching is recommended. If you are growing for cuts, avoid windy locations, as exposure will make plants stockier and stems shorter. Requires support. We use Trellis Netting. Harvest flowers frequently to keep blooms coming. Last only 3 days in the vase, but perfume the air incomparably. Give your love a bouquet of these! ~10 seeds/g.
Click here for Perennial sweet pea.
All flowers are open-pollinated except where noted.
Days in parentheses after a variety indicate days to first bloom.
For the latest results of our germination tests, please see the germination page.