Sweet spring blooms for your garden.

Andyd/Getty Images

Sweet peas are gorgeous additions to Southern gardens. They produce delicate, frilly, brightly colored blooms on tall, tangled stems, and they're reminiscent of cottage gardens of the English countryside. Some grow in thickets, and others are vining climbers, but all sweet peas are lovely garden growers. Read on for a few sweet pea facts, as well as the information you need to start growing sweet peas in your garden this year.

What Is Sweet Pea?

Sweet peas belong to the genus Lathyrus. There are over 100 species of sweet peas and, according to The Southern Living Garden Book, “Despite the name, not all are fragrant. But all have the classic pea-family bloom—one large, upright, roundish petal (called the banner or standard), two narrow side petals (the wings), and two lower petals that form a boat-shaped structure (the keel).”

When Do Sweet Peas Bloom?

Sweet peas come in a variety of flowering types and forms, including heirloom selections, early-flowering sweet peas, spring-flowering sweet peas, and bush-type sweet peas. Early-flowering types bloom in midwinter and should be planted in October and November. Spring-flowering types should be planted from October to January. Bush types can thrive throughout the region and usually bloom in spring. Popular bush-type sweet peas include Bijou, Cupid, Jet Set, Knee-Hi, and Little Sweethearts.

What Kinds of Sweet Peas Should I Plant?

Popular sweet pea species to plant in the South include Lathyrus latifolius, or everlasting pea, and L. odoratus, known commonly as sweet pea. Heirloom selections, which are vine forms, include ‘America,’ which has scarlet blooms and white stripes; ‘Flora Norton,’ which has bright blue blooms; and ‘Indigo King,’ which has purple, maroon, and blue blossoms.

WATCH: 10 Plants You Should Always Prune in the Fall

How Do I Grow Sweet Peas?

Vine-form sweet peas will require a trellis or wire for support, while bush types should be planted in rows, spaced widely, and watered well. To start, according to The Southern Living Garden Book, “In less-than perfect soil, prepare ground for sweet peas like this: Dig a trench 1-1 ½ feet deep. Mix 1 part peat moss or other soil conditioner to 2 parts soil. As you mix, add in a complete fertilizer according to label directions. Back-fill trench with mix; plant seeds in it.” Sweet peas should also be regularly cut to prolong blooming period and tops should be pinched to ensure strong branching from the sides.

They’re a cinch to plant, and with a little attention, sweet peas will provide lovely blooms all season long. Will you plant some in your garden this year?