Colorfully entwined garden fences and house walls are the trademark of the perennial vetch. This fast-growing climbing plant is relatively undemanding and quickly covers the planting site with pink, white or purple colored butterfly flowers. Depending on the weather and the location, this variety of vetch with its grape-like inflorescences can delight the eye of the gardener well into autumn.

location and soil conditions

Lathyrus latifolius is a small sun worshiper, so a location in the dark shade is not an option for her. The perennial plant only blooms in full bloom in full sun and sheltered from the wind. The climbing plant also tolerates a light planting location in semi-shade. The substrate should be rich in humus and deep, a neutral pH is preferred.

fertilizing and watering

Sweet peas are demanding plants: the plant, also known as bouquet vetches, consumes a lot of nutrients during the flowering period. Provide the climbing plant regularly with a conventional liquid fertilizer, which you can add directly to the substrate via the irrigation water. In spring and autumn it is sufficient if you mulch the soil extensively and enrich it with compost.
In order to preserve the flowering splendor of the perennial vetch, you should ensure that the soil is sufficiently moist. The roots of the plant must not dry out, especially on hot summer days. If necessary, water them several times with lime-free water.

Tip: Water in the evening so that the moisture does not evaporate so quickly and can be absorbed by the plant.


Lathyrus latifolius is usually propagated successfully by sowing seeds. If the location and the consistency of the soil are suitable, the plant tends to self-seed every year.


You can use seeds to plant vetches in a targeted manner in your garden. Collect the seed pods from the plants as early as autumn and keep them in a bright, cool place. Sowing takes place in the warm spring, alternatively you can prefer the seeds on a bright windowsill. You can start growing from the end of February. Keep the following materials to hand:

  • key
  • planter
  • Permeable substrate

To break the germination inhibition of the seeds, you can rough them up slightly and place them in a bowl of lukewarm water for about 10 hours. The seeds are then placed about 1.5 centimeters deep in the soil and lightly covered with substrate. The soil is well moistened with a water atomizer, but waterlogging must not occur. The culture vessel can stay in a dark place until germination. However, as soon as the first green tips are visible, you should move the pot to a bright location. Avoid excessive temperatures. The young sweet peas feel most comfortable at around 15 – 17°C.

Separate the seedlings as soon as they have formed a pair of leaves. From the beginning of May, when there is no longer any threat of ground frost, you can move the young vetch outdoors. Keep the individual plants at least 60 centimeters apart. In the first two weeks, however, you should slowly acclimate the plants grown indoors to direct sunlight.

Between mid-April and mid-May, the seeds can also be sown directly outdoors. To do this, loosen up the soil and mix larger amounts of compost directly underneath. Here, too, the seeds are planted about 1.5 centimeters deep in the ground and covered with soil. Do not let the substrate dry out and protect the young seedlings from any snail damage.

Vegetative propagation

Sweet peas can also be propagated by cuttings. In June, remove a shoot about 15 centimeters long and remove the leaves at the bottom. To stimulate root formation, you can use a special rooting powder. Cuttings do not require nutrients, which is why a lean, sandy substrate is ideal for vegetative propagation. The soil should always be kept moderately moist. A sunny, warm location outdoors accelerates root development. As soon as the plant puts out new shoots and leaves, you can transfer the young vetch to its final place in the garden.

climbing aids

Lathyrus latifolius is a true climber and can easily reach a height of over 2 meters. With the help of tendrils, the perennial vetch climbs trellis and garden fences and can also be used to green bare walls. Support the growth of the magnificently flowering plant with climbing aids or bring it into the desired growth form with the help of strings and wires. Unlike ivy, for example, the plant can be removed from walls without leaving any residue.


Regularly rid the plants of faded inflorescences and wilted shoots. A careful pruning also encourages the plant to shoot bushy. In early spring or late autumn you should give the plant a radical pruning and cut it down to a few centimeters above the ground.

The splendor of color in buckets

The climbing plant is predestined to provide a decorative privacy screen on the balcony or terrace. However, the vetchling peas are only conditionally suitable for cultivation in planters. The strong root system of the plants can reach an enormous extent, so that many tubs cannot cope with the pressure exerted by the sweet peas. If you still want to try it, you should use a sturdy clay pot. Choose a container that is several times wider than the circumference of the plant’s root ball.

Spread a layer of potsherds or lava grit at the bottom of the vessel. With this measure, you facilitate the drainage of excess amounts of water and also effectively prevent waterlogging. The substrate must be rich in humus, and it is also advisable to apply a long-term fertilizer during the main growing season. Water regularly and ensure a stable climbing aid.
Repot as soon as the roots of the plant have completely penetrated the planter. During the transfer to a new, larger container, you can also remove superfluous root suckers, which the plant normally uses for vegetative propagation outdoors.


The perennial ornamental plants are hardy and do not require special storage in the cold season. Protect sweet peas in the tub from completely freezing the planter. To do this, the entire pot is wrapped in sackcloth or fleece.

Care and planting tips

Sweet peas place high demands on the substrate and the location. However, if these are met, the climbing plant tends to grow vigorously and form numerous flowers. Unless you regularly remove faded flowers, the plant will self-seed. But even deficiency symptoms in the robust vetch are not always due to diseases or pest infestation.

Plant takes care of itself – Vetches only thrive on particularly nutrient-rich soil and need a lot of sunlight to develop their flowers. Fertilize the plants regularly with nettle manure or a long-term fertilizer.

Shoot tips and leaves curl – a sign of over-fertilization. Discontinue the supply of fertilizer to allow the plants to recover from the oversupply of nutrients.

Sweet peas do not flower  – buds and flowers are only formed in sunny locations. Replant the perennial if necessary.

Soil Preparation – Mulch the soil regularly in spring and fall. This loosens the soil and you can work compost into the soil at the same time.

The deciduous plants shine in a wide variety of shades. Use sweet peas, for example, as greenery for pergola or house walls, or set colorful accents directly on the garden fence. Under the right conditions, you can enjoy the magnificently colored flowers well into autumn. Older plants tend to a strong, vegetative propagation by root suckers. Therefore, regularly cut back the legume radically to avoid uncontrolled spread.

For example, honeysuckle, lady’s mantle and clematis are suitable for combining with other plant species.

Wild vetch and sweet peas

Two different plant genera are listed under the term “vetches”. Officially, perennial and scented peas belong to the vetch peas and are summarized under the term “lathyrus”. Vicia, on the other hand, includes annual and perennial legumes, which are known as “wild sweet peas” and are often cultivated in agriculture as fodder plants.

Successfully combating pests and diseases

At the slightest unusual sign, check whether the sweet pea is infested with harmful insects or fungal infections. Because discoloration on the leaves or atrophy of the shoots are not always due to care errors.

Aphids – These insects, which are only a few millimeters in size, feed on the cell sap of the host plant. They are difficult to spot with the naked eye; wilted leaves and curled shoot tips are more noticeable. An aphid infestation can not only lead to enormous damage to the perennial vetch affected, but often also results in the death of the entire plant. The following measures have proven effective in combating the voracious pests:

  • Spraying nettle manure or field horsetail broth.
  • Natural predators such as ladybugs and lacewing larvae.
  • Spray soapy water.
  • Remove severely affected plant parts.

Powdery Mildew – The “fair-weather fungus” prefers a warm, dry climate. Plants weakened by the heat are therefore a preferred target of this fungal pathogen. In the advanced stage, powdery mildew covers the entire plant with a white-grey, flour-like coating.

  • Remove affected plant parts.
  • Apply a mixture of fresh milk and water.
  • Squirt horsetail broth.
  • Spray diluted nettle manure.
Tip: Chemical agents from specialist retailers should only be used if biological measures have been ineffective.

Downy Mildew – Yellow or purple spots on the upper surface of the leaf and a white mycelium on the underside is a clear indication of “downy mildew”. This harmful fungus also covers the entire plant in the advanced stage and can damage it considerably. The fungal pathogen prefers a moist environment and is particularly common after a long rainy season in summer.

  • Remove heavily infested plant parts via the compost
  • Spray broth from field horsetails

A humus-rich substrate and a bright, warm location – these are the only needs of the sweet pea. The lushly flowering climbing plant not only spreads a dreamy, spring-like atmosphere in cottage gardens, but also cuts a striking figure as a privacy screen or wall planting. In addition, Lathyrus latifolius is a hardy, robust plant that quickly forgives mistakes in care.

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