How to Plant, Grow, and Care for ‘Perfume Delight’ Sweet Peas

Perfume Delight sweet peas are known for their large, heavily fragrant flower spikes and attractive, soft, green foliage. Read on to learn how to care for these pretty plants in your garden.

Close-up of blooming perfume sweet peas plants in a sunny garden. These climbing annuals produce long stems adorned with clusters of large, ruffled flowers in shades of pink, ranging from soft pastels to vibrant hues, with a delicate white or cream-colored base.

Contents

‘Perfume Delight’ sweet peas have large, heavily fragrant flower spikes and attractive, soft green foliage. Just a few stems of these rainbow blossoms can fill an entire room with a nostalgic perfume.

Whether you have a decorative trellis or a knack for floral arrangements, you can easily grow these pretty flowers in your garden

Overview

Close-up of flowering 'Perfume Delight' sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus) plants in a sunny garden with green grass in the background. Perfume Delight sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus) are characterized by their lush foliage, slender stems, and enchanting flowers. The leaves are compound, consisting of multiple leaflets arranged alternately along the stem, providing a verdant backdrop for the blooms. The flowers, borne on long stems, feature large, ruffled petals in shades of pink, purple, coral.
Plant Type Frost-tolerant annual
Family Fabaceae
Genus Lathyrus
Species Odoratus
Native Area Italy
Exposure Full sun to partial shade
Height 5’-6’
Watering Requirements Moderate to high
Pests & Diseases Root rot, powdery mildew, spotted wilt, slugs and snails, aphids, thrips, spider mites, botrytis
Maintenance Moderate
Soil Type Rich, loamy, moist, well-draining
Soil pH 7.0-7.5 alkaline

What are ‘Perfume Delight’ Sweet Peas?

Close-up of blooming multi-colored sweet peas. The 'Perfume Delight' Sweetpeas are known for their delicate and elegant appearance, featuring clusters of small, fragrant flowers in varying shades of pastel colors such as pink, lavender, and white. Each flower possesses a distinctively ruffled petal structure, adding to their charm and allure.
These blooms offer intense fragrance and heat tolerance, blooming longer into summer.

Sweet peas are members of the legume family known for their attractive and fragrant flowers. ‘Perfume Delight’ is a gorgeous heirloom blend beloved for a particularly intense and wonderful scent. The plants produce flowers in a wide variety of hues. In addition, they have better heat tolerance than other varieties, which means a longer bloom period in warm climates.

Sweet peas are cool-weather plants that tend to stop blooming as soon as temperatures begin to rise in the summer. With ‘Perfume Delight,’ you can enjoy the beauty and fragrance longer into the summer than the average cultivar. Let’s discuss growing and caring for these beautiful, showy garden flowers.

History

Close-up sweet pea flowers against blue sky. Sweet pea flowers are characterized by their petite yet vibrant blooms that grow in clusters along slender, climbing stems. Each flower boasts a distinctive butterfly-like shape with gently ruffled petals that come in a myriad of hues ranging from soft pastels to bold, rich tones of purple, coral and burgundy.
Cultivation of sweet peas began in the 17th century, leading to modern varieties with diverse colors.

Sweet peas were first cultivated as garden flowers in the 1690s by Francisco Cupani, a Sicilian monastery gardener. Cupani decided to share his beloved sweet pea seeds with other like-minded plant lovers by sending seeds of different varieties to other gardeners he knew would enjoy growing the plants. 

In the late 1800’s, a Scotsman named Henry Eckford worked on improving the plants that were available at the time. His work led to plants with a wider array of colors, as well as larger and more fragrant flowers

But the most noteworthy achievement in sweet pea breeding was accomplished by Silas Cole, a gardener working for the family of (Princess) Diana Spencer. His plants, known as “Spencer” sweet peas, became known for extra large, fragrant flowers with eye-catching, ruffled petals.

Native Area

Close-up of blooming multi-colored flowers the garden on a blurred background. Colorful sweet peas are characterized by their strikingly vibrant blooms adorning tall, slender stems intertwined with delicate tendrils. The flowers showcase a rich palette of hues, ranging from deep purples and burgundy to bright and soft pinks. Their foliage consists of lush, green, compound leaves that provide a lush backdrop for the dazzling display of blossoms.
Native to southern Italy and Mediterranean islands, these flowers were first cultivated in Sicily.

Sweet pea plants are native to southern regions of Italy and surrounding islands in the Mediterranean. They grow wild in Sicily, where they were first cultivated as garden flowers, as well as in the Aegean Islands and Malta.

There is speculation about their native appearance in China and Sri Lanka, but the plants were first recorded in Italy, so this is generally accepted as their native range.

Characteristics

Close-up of multicolored flowers in a sunny garden near a fence made of branches. The plant is characterized by its graceful, vining stems adorned with clusters of delicate, butterfly-shaped flowers. These blossoms come in a variety of colors, ranging from soft pastels to vibrant hues. The plant's foliage consists of lush, green leaves that complement the colorful blooms.
These seeds are an heirloom “Spencer” type known for diverse colors and strong fragrance, with sturdy stems.

‘Perfume Delight’ sweet peas are heirloom seeds, so they have been around for quite a while and have earned themselves a reputation for their wide array of colors and extra strong fragrance. They are of the “Spencer” type, with large flowers that have beautiful ruffled petals appearing in groups of five to ten blooms per stem. 

The variety includes flowers in shades of purple, red, rose, scarlet, white, blue, cream, and bicolor. These flowers grow on long, sturdy stems that make them great for cutting and using in floral arrangements. 

Central vining stems grow to five or six feet long and produce a great number of flowers over a series of several months, blooming later into the summer than other less heat-tolerant varieties. These climbing vines have curling tendrils that cling to whatever support they come in contact with. 

Uses

Close-up of a charming bouquet of colorful sweet pea flowers in a glass vase with water against a blurred garden background. The plant produces arched, slender stems covered in medium-sized, butterfly-shaped flowers with slightly ruffled petals. The flowers come in different shades from white, soft pink, and hot pink to rich purple, burgundy and coral.
Though they are part of the bean and pea family, these plants are toxic ornamental flowers.

They are part of the Fabaceae (legume) family, but they are not the same as their edible relatives. These plants are toxic to eat and should be planted separately from the vegetable garden to avoid any confusion, as they form seed pods resembling edible types of peas. 

‘Perfume Delight’ sweet peas are grown for their ornamental value and use in floristry. They are a very popular flower for weddings because of their rich symbolism and wonderful fragrance. They are also nitrogen fixing, so they increase the nitrogen in the soil for future plants. 

Where to Buy ‘Perfume Delight’ Sweet peas

We recommend growing these pretty flowering vines from seed. They are available from many online retailers. Our favorites come from Botanical Interests.

Perfume Delight Sweet Pea Seeds

      • Exquisite Fragrance
      • Diverse Rainbow Blend
      • Ideal for Cut Flower Bouquets
      • Heat Resistance
      • The Plant is Toxic if Ingested
View at Botanicalinterests.com

Planting

Close-up of young Sweet pea seedlings in peat pots with potting mix indoors. The seedlings are small, consisting of vertical short stems and a pair of oval, inwardly curled leaves of bright green color.
Plant 4-6 weeks before the last frost in cooler climates.

These cool-weather plants perform best during the chilly parts of the year. They are winter-hardy in zone 7 and higher, and they are frost-tolerant, so they can planted in the fall in milder climates, allowing them to grow over the winter and bloom early in the spring. 

In cooler climates, plant your ‘Perfume Delight’ sweet pea seeds four to six weeks before your last anticipated frost date. In climate zones north of zone 7, they will bloom later in the spring and into the summer months. 

The preferred method of planting is direct sowing. Seeds should be planted in groups of three and six inches apart. Wait until seedlings are about three inches tall, and thin them to one plant every six inches

Germination takes between 10-21 days under ideal conditions. The most rapid and successful germination will take place when the soil is between 55-65°F (13-18°C). There is no evidence that sweet pea seeds benefit from soaking, but nicking the seeds lightly may speed germination. Lightly score the coat of seeds with a clean, sharp blade before planting.

How to Grow

The most important factor in successfully growing sweet peas is to adapt planting to your climate. Planting time depends on the region in which these seeds are planted, and their cool-weather growing habit needs to be accounted for. 

These vines are frost-tolerant, so if you live in a climate with hot summers, you should start your seeds in the fall to allow them the longest growth and blooming period. In cooler climates where the ground freezes, potentially harming seedlings, it is better to plant in late winter or early spring, or as soon as the soil is workable. 

Light

Close-up of blooming 'Perfume Delight' Sweetpeas in a sunny garden. The plant climbs the supports. The 'Perfume Delight' Sweetpeas boast an elegant appearance, with slender vines adorned by clusters of small, fragrant flowers in soft pastel shades like pink, lavender, and white. Each bloom features delicately ruffled petals, contributing to their charm and grace. The leaves are characterized by their lush, deep green color and slender, elongated shape. Each leaf is composed of multiple leaflets arranged in a pinnate or feather-like pattern along the stem.
In mild climates, plant in full sun for faster growth.

Sunlight is another factor that is governed by climate, as it can both extend or truncate the blooming habit of your sweet peas. In mild climates, planting in full sun will result in faster growth and more flowers. Six to eight hours of daily sun is ideal in these regions.

In warmer climates, plant your seeds in a space where they will receive some shade in the afternoon. This will help prolong the life of the plant, protecting the roots from the scorching afternoon heat. Sweet peas need moisture around their roots, and direct sun can cause the soil to dry out quickly. Partial shade in warmer climates can help keep the roots moist with less effort.

Water

Water drops on the garden  flowers on a blurred background. The flowers are renowned for their dainty yet vibrant appearance, showing intricate butterfly-like blooms in pink. Each blossom features delicately ruffled petals that unfold to reveal a sweet fragrance.
Irrigate regularly and grow in well-drained soil to prolong bloom time.

These plants need a fair amount of water to grow and produce flowers. They do not, however, like wet feet. Watering habits and soil type directly impact moisture-loving plants. As long as they have proper drainage, you should water your young plants every one to two days and then twice a week once established

Keeping your plants well-watered is key in prolonging their bloom time. You may need to increase watering as the weather warms and the soil dries out faster. 

Soil

Close-up of sweet pea sprouts in wet soil in a sunny garden. These seedlings are small, consist of vertical short stems and a pair of unopened cotyledons of bright green color. The soil is dark gray-black with lumps.
They thrive in well-drained soil and benefit from compost amendments.

Soil composition is not of great importance, but drainage is. Clay soil that compacts easily may need to be amended with some compost or other organic material to improve drainage and prevent compaction. Loosening up the soil with a broadfork creates an environment that is more conducive to root development.

Sweet peas prefer fertile soil, so if you have sandy or poor soil, add in some compost or manure at the time of planting. This will boost the nutrient availability for an extended period. These plants prefer a neutral to slightly alkaline pH.

Temperature and Humidity

Colorful flowers growing on trellis against the background of a white fence in a sunny garden. The plant is characterized by its graceful vines adorned with lush, green foliage and clusters of delicate, butterfly-shaped flowers. These flowers come in a variety of colors such as soft pink, lavender, red, purple, and peach. The leaves are typically composed of multiple leaflets arranged in a pinnate or feather-like pattern along the stem, providing a verdant backdrop for the colorful blooms.
These flowers prefer cooler temperatures, thriving between 32-60°F (0-16°C). They benefit from fall planting for earlier blooms in warmer climates.

Sweet peas thrive in cooler temperatures. They do most of their growing when the temperature is between 32-60°F (0-16°C). The plants are moderately frost-tolerant, which is why they can be planted in the fall in mild climates.

This fall planting leads to a longer growing season and earlier blooms in the following year. This is ideal for warmer climates because hot weather arrives sooner in the spring, which forces these vines into dormancy.

These are moisture-loving plants, so it can be a challenge to grow them in arid regions. They are quite happy with higher humidity as long as there is proper air circulation to ward off fungal diseases

Fertilizing

Close-up of a small bouquet freshly picked against blurred green background. The 'Perfume Delight' Sweet peas exhibit a captivating and detailed appearance, featuring clusters of petite, fragrant flowers in soft pastel shades of pink, lavender, white and deep purple.
Mix compost or slow-release fertilizer at planting, avoiding high-nitrogen formulas.

At the time of planting, it’s a good idea to mix some compost or slow-release fertilizer into the soil. These plants like a lot of nutrients, but beware of high nitrogen formulas that will cause your plants to produce an excess of green growth with relatively few flowers. A fertilizer higher in potassium will boost blooms, especially when applied just as the plants are setting buds. 

Maintenance

Close-up of tall flowering 'Perfume Delight' plants in a sunny garden near a wire trellis. The 'Perfume Delight' plant is characterized by its slender, climbing vines adorned with lush, deep green foliage. The leaves are composed of multiple leaflets arranged in a pinnate or feather-like pattern along the stems, providing a verdant backdrop for the captivating display of delicate flowers. Each blossom showcases intricately ruffled petals in soft pastel shades of white, pink and lavender.
Support the vines with trellises or bamboo tipis, and pinch stems to encourage branching.

‘Perfume Delight’ is a vining variety, which means they need to have some type of support. There are many different ways to trellis, some more cost-effective and others more ornamental. 

Trellising

A trellis or arbor will provide attractive support for your plants. One of the more creative and trendy ways to support vines is by creating a tipi with bamboo poles and wrapping them with wire or cord. The vines grow up the poles and along the cord, covering the structure and creating a living, flowering tipi. 

Pinching

For spring plantings, pinch the stems when the plant is young to promote branching, which will lead to more flowers. When the seedlings reach about six inches tall, pinch or clip off the top of the stem just above a set of leaves. The resulting growth will branch in two different directions. 

If your climate experiences freezing temperatures, avoid pinching fall-planted sweet peas. This could cause some of your plants to fail because it weakens the growing tips. The frost and thawing cycles will naturally have a “pinching” effect on overwintered plants.

Deadheading

The practice of deadheading is important, as they will go dormant much earlier if you allow them to go to seed. This is the most high-maintenance part of growing these flowers. Fortunately, deadheading yields more floral stems to bring indoors for vases and arrangements, which is one of the best things about growing these fragrant flowers. 

As the season nears its end, allow your sweet pea flowers to go to seed by leaving them on the plant. The seed pods will develop and dry out. You can leave them to self-sow or collect the pods and store in a cool, dry location for planting next season. 

Growing in Containers

View of an old vintage bathtub as a flowerpot for a flowering sweet peas plant in a sunny garden against the background of a white house wall along which a grape vine grows. Nearby is a small white round table with a potted plant of Thunbergia 'Lemon Star'.
Plant in spacious containers with support to climb.

These plants make good container plants as long as they have room for their roots to spread out.  These plants do not like to have their roots disturbed once they are established, so it’s best not to repot them. Choose a container that has plenty of space and is deep enough to accommodate the relatively deep root system. 

Make sure to give your potted, vining sweet peas a support to climb, or you could end up with some very floppy plants. A small trellis in the pot or setting the pot close to a structure will achieve the purpose. 

Propagation

Close-up of Sweet pea seed pod and seeds on a beige surface. Sweet pea seeds are small, round, and have a dark color, such as dark brown, with a smooth texture. The seed pod is elongated, slender, and slightly curved. It comes in pale and papery brown.
Propagate by collecting and storing seeds from dried seed pods.

These annual plants are best propagated by seed. After allowing your plants to go to seed, allow the pods to dry on the vine. When they are dry, collect the seeds and store them for replanting. Keep your seeds cool and dry while they are in storage. 

Common Problems

Humans aren’t the only living things that are attracted to the sweet fragrance of these flowers. In addition to pollinators that love the nectar, there are also some harmful insects that will come for your plants. As a result of their high moisture needs, these plants can also be susceptible to some diseases. 

Pests

Close-up of aphids on sweet pea flower buds against a blurred background. Aphids are tiny insects characterized by their soft bodies and pear-shaped appearance. They come in bright green.
Protect plants from aphids, spider mites, and thrips by using neem oil or releasing ladybugs.

Harmful insects like aphids, spider mites, and thrips are all attracted to ‘Perfume Delight’ sweet pea plants. These pests suck the sap from your plants, draining them of valuable nutrients needed for flowering, while leaving behind a nasty, sticky mess. 

The excrement left by these insects is called honeydew, and it is a perfect environment for fostering black sooty mold. This mold interferes with photosynthesis and leads to a very sad-looking plant.

Protect your plants by caring for them and fertilizing them so they can stand up to damage from pests. If you notice signs of pests, it is important to get rid of these insects or they will spread and cause more issues. I like to release ladybugs into my garden occasionally to help keep down the populations of harmful insects. Or blast the plants with water, killing smaller insects in the process.

Neem oil is another good treatment for wiping out harmful insects, but be careful about using this during the day, as it can be harmful to pollinators as well. If you feel you need to use it, apply it in the late afternoon and check that pollinators are not present so it has time to dry before they return the next day.

Diseases

Close-up of a Sweet Pea leaf affected by powdery mildew in the garden with a blurred background. A Sweet Pea leaf affected by powdery mildew appears dusty or powdery with a white or grayish coating covering its surface.
Good air circulation helps prevent powdery mildew.

Because of their high moisture needs, root and crown rot can be issues for sweet pea plants. These problems are best prevented by improving the drainage of your soil. Soil with poor drainage stays wet, creating an environment where mold and fungus can grow. 

Another fungal disease to be aware of is powdery mildew. This white fungus rows on the leaves of your plant, interfering with photosynthesis and harming the plant. Leaves may turn yellow or fall off entirely. Good air circulation is the best prevention for powdery mildew. 

There are a few viral diseases that can affect sweet peas as well. Sadly, viral diseases are not curable, but their spread is preventable. Mosaic viruses, an aphid-transmitted virus, and tomato spotted wilt occasionally occur. It is important to remove affected plants to avoid spreading the virus to other plants. Some viral infections remain in the soil and need to be solarized before planting in those areas in the future. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Will Sweet Peas Self-Seed?

Yes. In milder climates and under the proper conditions, they will self-sow if they are left to go to seed, and the seed pods are allowed to ripen. The pods will release the seeds, and some will germinate, producing new plants in the coming season.

Will My Sweet Peas Bloom Again in the Fall?

It is uncommon, but not impossible, for plants to survive the summer and re-bloom in the fall. They are usually forced into dormancy by the summer heat. In cooler climates, it is a possibility.

Are Sweet Pea Pods Edible?

No, they are not edible, and ingesting their pods can be very dangerous and harmful to both humans and pets. Do not eat any part of this plant.

Final Thoughts

‘Perfume Delight’ sweet peas are a stunning and useful addition to the garden. They make excellent cut flowers with their flashy, fragrant blooms, and their soft foliage is a lovely addition to the landscape. Add these pretty plants to your garden for months of beautiful and highly perfumed blooms. 

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