Sweet Pea Cupani
Why I Grow Sweet Pea Cupani
This is sweet pea Cupani, introduced to the UK by a Sicilian monk, Brother Francis Cupani in the late 17th century. He sent seeds of this beautifully fragrant annual to Dr Robert Uvedale, a teacher from Enfield, Middlesex.
I grow mine over ornamental climbing frames but they are also great for covering arches, trellis and teepees. They can also provide vertical interest in borders where gaps might occur. I grow sweet pea Cupani for it’s vivid bi-coloured petals and fragrance. The flowers are invaluable in the vegetable garden for attracting lots of pollinating insects. They have a wonderful scent and make good cut flowers with a vase life of 4-5 days. Harvesting prolongs the flowering period so even if you don’t use them in the home you should still deadhead spent flowers regularly before they set seed.
Lathyrus odoratus ‘Cupani’
Sow sweet peas in either Autumn or Spring. If sown in Autumn they will need protection during the winter in either cold frames or a cool greenhouse before planting out in Spring. If you prefer to sow in Spring sweet peas can be sown directly into the ground in March or April. However this generally gives less satisfactory results. In order to aid germination it helps to chip the seed coat. This is done with a clean, sharp penknife opposite the ‘eye’ (small round scar). Don’t soak the seeds, this can cause them to rot. Grow the seeds individually in root trainers or 9cm pots filled with seed compost. A 13cm pot will hold 5-7 seeds. Space the seeds 2-3cm apart. Cover the seeds with 1cm of compost. Keep the compost moist.
It will be necessary to pinch out the tips of Autumn grown seedlings when they reach 10cm high. This encourages branching. This is unnecessary for Spring grown seedlings unless they become too leggy. Sweet peas are climbers and will need support. As the plant grows the stem should be tied in to its support regularly. Given a moist but well-drained soil and full sun you can expect flowering to begin around May/June.
Pests can be a problem, most common are slugs, snails and aphids. Slugs and snails can destroy young plants overnight so be sure to protect them. Other issues might include powdery mildew, plant viruses, drought and temperature stress, leafy gall and insufficient light.