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Why are my sweet peas leggy?

If you are starting your sweet peas indoors then you may run into an issue where the young seedlings become really leggy and long and spindly. This is a common issue with many seedlings started indoors and happens particularly with those that are more suited to colder conditions, such as sweet peas.

Why do sweet pea seedlings go leggy?

there are two main reasons why your sweet pea seedlings will be leggy, light and heat.

Not enough light

This is the most common reason for pretty much all seedlings going leggy. They simply aren’t getting enough sunlight so they stretch and strain to reach for light.

This is very common with seedlings started early on windowsills in the UK. Without being in the light all day there simply isn’t enough sun during winter/early spring on most windowsills unless they happen to be in direct sunlight all day long.

Too much heat

Sweet peas are cold-loving hardy plants, they don’t need to be in warm conditions to grow properly. In fact, warm conditions can sometimes cause sweet peas to grow really leggy as the conditions are too good for them.

If you think your seedlings are getting enough light but are still growing leggy then this may be the reason why and you should think about moving them outside.

Sweet Peas Growing on Chicken Wire
Sweet Peas Growing on Chicken Wire

How to save leggy sweet peas

If your sweet pea seedlings have gone a little leggy then don’t worry, there is still plenty you can do to save them.

To start with sweet peas should be pinched out anyway. This encourages bushier growth which in turn leads to more flowers. You can cut the main stem of sweet peas back to just two pairs of leaves. This seems really harsh but believe me, it is good for the plant in the long term.

You should also think about moving your sweet peas outside, the cold won’t do them any harm at all and will stop them from growing leggy again as long as they have enough light. You will want to do this gradually over a couple of weeks.

Don’t do both these things at the exact same time as the double shock could be too much for them. Pinch the tip out then give them at least a week to recover before you start moving the seedling outside.

Sweet Peas Growing Up Bamboo Canes
Sweet Peas Growing Up Bamboo Canes

More on Sweetpeas

sweet peas, (Lathyrus odoratus) are a flowering plant belonging to the legume family. They are an annual flower that loves to climb and spread, in the right conditions and with the correct support they can grow to 2 and a half meters tall!

Unlike many other legumes which are grown to be eaten, sweet peas are grown for purely aesthetic reasons. There is evidence to suggest that the pea seeds from a sweet pea plant are actually toxic to humans and not fit for consumption even if this was desired.

Sweetpea FAQ’s

Are sweet peas perennial?

No sweet peas are an annual plant, they will not come back year after year.

Can you eat sweetpeas?

No, sweet peas are grown purely for their looks. Unlike many other legumes, they are actually toxic to humans if consumed.

Are sweet peas poisonous to pets?

Yes, as they are poisonous to humans they are also poisonous to pets, so make sure you keep an eye on your pets when they are hovering around sweet peas.

How high can sweet peas grow?

With the proper support, sweet peas can grow to 2m or even slightly above!

When do you grow sweet peas?

The traditional season for sweet peas is June and July but with the right care and attention, they can be both started earlier and grown later into the season. Regular deadheading of sweetpeas can massively prolong their flowering period.

How to germinate sweet peas?

I like to soak my sweet pea seeds in water for 24 hours before planting them in a seed tray. This soaking helps to break down the tough shell around the seed allowing them to germinate better.