7 Simple Steps To Grow Sweet Peas In Hanging Baskets

purple and maroon sweet pea flowers on vine

Known for their incredible scented blooms, sweet peas are vining climbers that create a charming display all spring. While they’re often grown on a trellis or fence, those of you with tiny gardens or those looking for something a little different can grow sweet peas in hanging baskets.

By doing so, you’ll not only enjoy these fragrant plants but also get to admire their dainty blooms up close.

Sweet peas can be grown successfully in hanging baskets. Many varieties of sweet peas will thrive as long as you use plenty of rich, well-draining compost and don’t overcrowd the plants. Dwarf varieties are usually the best choice, but trailing varieties can do equally well with the right conditions.

Here’s what you need to know to get started.

1. Choose a location in full sun

Sweet peas are sun-loving plants despite being a cool-season flower. They will need a minimum of six hours of sunlight a day to flower at their best so choosing the right spot is essential.

If you are lucky enough to have a doorway in a sunny spot, this would be the perfect home for your sweet pea flowers. Not only will the plants benefit from the sunshine, but you will be greeted by their sweet scent every time you step out or arrive home.

Hanging baskets are lovely for scented flowers like sweet peas because it brings the flowers up to eye level, where you can get the most from their highly fragranced blooms every time you walk by.

2. Choose the right hanging basket

The first step to growing sweet peas in hanging baskets is ensuring you have the correct container for your plant’s needs.

Hanging basket size

Sweet peas grow a deep root system, so they need plenty of space to be able to send their roots down. Because of this, your sweet peas will need a large hanging basket at least a foot wide and deep.

A 12-inch planter can accommodate 3-4 sweet pea plants, enough to fill the basket with lush growth without depriving the plants of enough room. The plant density will produce a huge display of blooms, and the plant canopy will also prevent weeds from growing, retain soil moisture, and keep the roots cooler in early summer.

Support for hanging baskets

Each 12-inch hanging basket will need just over a gallon and a half of compost (or 7.5 liters) which is quite heavy, especially when wet.

Therefore, with large hanging baskets, it’s essential to choose support brackets or attachment anchors that are strong enough to support the basket’s weight. The last thing you want is your mature, blooming basket falling to the ground.

3. Prepare rich soil for your sweet peas

Look for a rich compost high in organic matter for sweet peas in hanging baskets. Rich soil will provide the nutrients your sweet peas need to thrive and produce abundant blooms.

You can make your own compost mix or purchase one from a garden center. If you go the store-bought route, get high-quality potting soil formulated for hanging baskets and containers. These mixes are lightweight and drain well, which is essential for preventing waterlogged roots.

Alternatively, create a planting mix that is half potting soil and half compost for a lightweight and extra-rich option that will provide enough nutrition to get the plants off to a good start and sustain them for their months-long blooming period.

A top dressing of more compost or aged manure at the 6-week mark will keep them fed and growing strong. You can also use any other organic plant food, especially one high in phosphorous, the nutrient responsible for flower bud development.

Here are two of my favorites that are perfect for any of my garden flowers:

My favorite garden fertilizers

Although healthy soil is the best food for your garden, sometimes it takes a while to build it up. In the meantime, I use a couple of high-quality fertilizers. Tiger Bloom is perfect for the flower garden because it’s a phosphorous-heavy liquid fertilizer that encourages flower production. If I need to multitask and fertilize my flowers and vegetables at the same time, I use Dr. Earth All Purpose Fertilizer, a balanced fertilizer for zinnias and tomatoes alike.

4. Choose your favorite variety of sweet peas

Many sweet pea varieties are well suited to life in a hanging basket, adding a welcome burst of color and fragrance to your doorways or patios. Here are just a few of my favorites.

  • Sugar and Spice is a stunning dwarf variety that will give a brilliant burst of pinks, whites, and purples to any hanging basket.
  • White Frills sweet peas have beautiful, ruffled white flowers with looks as pure as their scent.
  • Prince of Orange produces bright salmon-orange blossoms that are as beautiful as they are dramatic.
  • Cupid Pink will produce a compact mound of flowers in bicolor pink. Its name reflects the sweetness of its scent, which will fill the air wherever it blooms.

5. Direct sow or transplant your sweet peas

Sweet peas are one of the few flowers that do best when planted in the fall or late winter. They are cool-season crops that need cool weather to establish themselves,  with the result being some of the first blooms of the flower garden in spring. 

If it’s too late for a fall sowing for you, spring sowings can work as long as you get an early start. Not sure if it’s too late? Jump over to this article to find out: Is It Too Late to Plant Sweet Peas? (The Tips You Need)

Fall sowing

If you live in a USDA growing zone of 8 or above with more mild winter weather, try sowing your sweet peas in late fall. Planting in late fall will give the seeds plenty of time to sprout and establish themselves in the cool weather. The plants will grow very slowly, if at all, through the winter months but will burst into growth in the spring.

Late winter sowing

For USDA growing zones 7 and under, plant seeds directly outdoors into a pot of potting soil and compost mix (50-50 mix) in late winter, about 4-6 weeks before the last spring frost. Leave the pot outside to sprout and grow. This method avoids any need to harden off the seedlings or transplant them, so it’s perfect for minimal effort.

Indoor sowing

Alternatively, you can start sweet pea seeds indoors six weeks before your last frost date. Allow the seeds to grow for four weeks indoors, then transplant the seedlings into their permanent containers outdoors two weeks before spring begins in your area. Don’t forget to harden off your seedling and avoid transplant shock.

pack of sweet pea seedlings
I’m hardening off these Sugar and Spice sweet peas to get them ready for my hanging baskets.

A trick to speed up germination is to soak the seeds overnight to soften the hard seed coat. You can also knick the outside with the tip of a knife to help the water get inside the seed shell. This step can shave a few days off the germination time, but it isn’t required to have success with sweet peas.

How to plant sweet peas in pots

Once you’ve filled your seed tray or hanging basket with soil, poke a small hole about 1/2 inch deep into the soil. Drop one seed into the hole and cover it with soil. Firm the soil down gently and water thoroughly. The seeds need total darkness to germinate, so covering them is critical for strong germination.

Plant 4-6 seeds per 12-inch pot to ensure you have enough sweet pea plants, even if some seeds don’t germinate. Keep the soil moist at all times, and you should see sprouts popping up in 7-14 days.

6. Water and fertilize regularly

Just like any potted plant (or even in-ground), sweet peas need regular doses of water and nutrition.

Regular watering

Hanging baskets need regular watering, even when it’s not particularly warm. The best way to check if your sweet peas need a drink is to poke their soil with a finger gently. You should always feel moist soil, so if it’s dry, it’s time to reach for the watering can.

Sweet peas like slightly warmer water best, so placing your filled watering can in the sunshine for a few hours before watering will help them along.

Regular feeding

As I mentioned when we looked at choosing a soil mix, sweet peas need regular feeding to keep them blooming at their best. A top dressing of rich compost or manure every six weeks will help, as will weekly feedings of compost tea.

You can also use any other organic plant food according to instructions.

Pruning and deadheading

Pruning sweet peas often will encourage them to produce even more flowers. You can prune by harvesting the long stems of flowers to bring indoors or by cutting the plants back every few weeks to take out any stems that look a little spindly or heat-tapped.

Deadheading is also essential for keeping sweet peas blooming their best. The process involves removing any spent flowers before they turn into seed pods, so the plant continues to produce flower buds.

Deadheading is straightforward and only requires that you pinch or snip off the branches with faded flowers. Learn more of the technique in this article: Should You Deadhead Cut Flowers, Too?

Here is a thorough overview of how to grow sweet peas, from direct sowing to blooms:

7. Enjoy your beautiful blooms!

Your sweet peas should start blooming in late spring, about 12 weeks after planting. Once they start, they’ll keep going all season long, filling the air with their delicate fragrance and adding a colorful touch to your home.

To enjoy them at their best, cut the stems regularly and bring them inside to enjoy in a vase. Once you see the blossoms start to crack open in the vine, it’s time to cut them. Sweet peas will last just under a week in the vase as long as you pick them early and keep the water fresh.

Final thoughts

Here’s a quick summary of how to grow sweet peas in hanging baskets:

  • Make sure your hanging basket is at least 12 inches wide
  • Position your hanging basket in a sunny spot
  • Water your sweet peas regularly
  • Give your sweet peas a phosphorus-rich feed once every two weeks.

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