Sweet pea varieties: 16 beautiful blooms for summertime scent

Our favorite sweet pea varieties for a riot of cheering color and fresh cut flowers

sweet pea varieties 'Blue Velvet'
(Image credit: Anne Gilbert/Alamy Stock Photo)

There are so many sweet pea varieties that will inject the garden with bold color and fill the air with wonderful perfume throughout summer. Snipping a bunch every few days to enjoy fresh flowers in the house is one of the joys of the warmer season.

Learning how to grow sweet peas is easy, and as long as you sow them in spring, you can look forward to their summertime splendor. There is a great choice of varieties that provide vivid color, including reds, pinks, blues, purples, and dark, smoldering clarets. 

The easy way to decide which to buy is to select the type of sweet pea you want: Spencers (which are loved by florists for their big flowers and long stems), Old-fashioned forms (which boast charm, flower power, weather resilience, and incredible scent, but have short stems), or Grandifloras (which have a mix of Spencer and Old-fashioned characteristics). We've rounded up our top picks across all three types to help you choose.

16 sweet pea varieties to add to your summer planting scheme

Whether you're opting for classic cottage garden vibes or a more modern look, you'll find the perfect sweet pea for you in this mix.

 1. 'Henry Thomas'

sweet pea 'Henry Thomas'

(Image credit: Matthew Taylor/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2–11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 6ft (1.8m)
  • Spread: 1.6ft (50cm)

'Henry Thomas' is a fragrant Spencer sweet pea that will bring a splash of blazing crimson-red to your cottage garden ideas. Plus, the large, frilly flowers on these beauties are resistant to rain damage, so if you live somewhere with unpredictable weather, these are a good pick. 

It also grows vigorously and blooms reliably, so overall, this makes an excellent garden cultivar.

2. 'Almost Black'

sweet pea 'Almost Black'

(Image credit: Deborah Vernon/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2–11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 4.5ft (1.4m)
  • Spread: 1ft (30cm)

This Grandiflora pea has striking dark-claret flowers that look black from a distance, so it's a beautiful choice if you want to add some drama to your flower bed ideas

With long stems and a good scent, it's wonderful for bringing indoors and displaying in a vase, too, adding a touch of opulence to your interior scheme.

3. 'Lord Nelson'

sweet pea 'Lord Nelson'

(Image credit: Tim Gainey/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2–11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 4.5ft (1.4m)
  • Spread: 1.6ft (50cm)

'Lord Nelson' is a superb Old-fashioned variety with rich, indigo-purple flowers. The blooms may be smaller than more modern cultivars, but their prolific nature easily makes up for this.

Just a small bunch in a vase will fill a room with scent.

4. 'Blue Velvet'

sweet pea varieties 'Blue Velvet'

(Image credit: Anne Gilbert/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2–11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 6ft (1.8m)
  • Spread: 0.5ft (15cm)

Deeply saturated, blue-purple flowers on long stems make this Spencer variety an ideal cutting garden flower for using in stunning vase arrangements.

Flowering all summer long, it will reliably pep up your borders. It has a beautiful scent, too.

5. 'White Frills'

'white frills' sweet pea

(Image credit: A.D.Fletcher/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2–11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 6.6ft (2m)
  • Spread: 0.5ft (15cm)

If you're a fan of white flowers for your borders or pots, then go simple and elegant with 'White Frills'. Offering large, snowy-hued blooms with ruffled petals and a strong perfume, it's no wonder this is such a popular choice for backyards.

It's also a lovely variety for wedding flowers, or for exhibiting on the show bench.

6. 'Flora Norton'

'Flora Norton' sweet pea

(Image credit: Roger Parsons Sweet Peas)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2–11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 6ft (1.8m)
  • Spread: 0.5ft (15cm)

This charming Old-fashioned variety was bred in California and introduced in 1904, yet still proves very popular today. 

It has clear, sky-blue flowers with large 'wings' and an incredible scent. And, as well as brightening up flower beds, it can be grown in large planters for show-stopping container gardening ideas.

7. 'King Edward VII'

sweet pea 'King Edward VII'

(Image credit: Matthew Taylor/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2–11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 4.5ft (1.4m)
  • Spread: 1ft (30cm)

Another Old-fashioned sweet pea, 'King Edward VII' is relentlessly popular due to its delicate yet deliciously scented magenta-crimson blooms. 

A more vigorous grower than many other classic cultivars, it makes an eye-catching spectacle scrambling up a garden trellis, perhaps as part of a hot-hued planting scheme.

8. 'Big Blue'

sweet pea 'Big Blue'

(Image credit: Matthew Taylor/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2–11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 6ft (1.8m)

This Spencer sweet pea has generous lavender-blue scented blooms – sometimes six or seven per stem. The stems themselves are very long and strong, which makes this a lovely cultivar for cutting.

This one calls for some sturdy climbing plant support ideas to keep it in check as it grows.

9. 'Beaujolais'

sweet pea 'Beaujolais'

(Image credit: Linda Kennedy/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2–11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 6ft (1.8m)
  • Spread: 0.5ft (15cm)

A decadent, long-flowering, Spencer sweet pea that's perfect for cutting. The large, wine-colored flowers bloom on tall stems and last well in the vase. 

'Beaujolais' is only lightly scented, but definitely still earns its place in borders, raised garden beds, or in a patio pot.

10. 'Our Harry'

'Our Harry' sweet pea

(Image credit: Antonio Siwiak/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2–11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 6ft (1.8m)
  • Spread: 0.5ft (15cm)

A reliable Spencer sweet pea, 'Our Harry' produces breath-taking, mauve-blue, gently-waved flowers with a slight fragrance. A strong grower with long stems, it is a lovely cutting garden choice for floral displays.

It pairs particularly well with burgundy varieties – a top tip to bear in mind when planning your garden color scheme.

11. 'Black Knight'

sweet pea 'Black Knight'

(Image credit: Deborah Vernon/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2–11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 6ft (1.8m)
  • Spread: 1ft (30cm)

'Black Knight' is a very popular Old-fashioned sweet pea with a knockout perfume, introduced in 1898. Each stem holds three to four deep-maroon blooms.

It's a must-have for its head-turning fragrance and lustrous color, and you can bet that pollinators will love it just as much as you do.

12. 'Matucana'

sweet pea 'Matucana'

(Image credit: Deborah Vernon/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2–11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 6ft (1.8m)
  • Spread: 1ft (30cm)

When it comes to the best sweet pea varieties for fragrance, this stunning, bicolor Grandiflora arguably makes the top of the list.

These vigorous plants produce masses of vibrant maroon and purple blooms that look simply stunning climbing over obelisks, trellises, or garden arches. Although the stems tend to be shorter than many others (meaning they are less suitable for cutting), it is still a well-loved cultivar.

13. 'Turquoise Lagoon'

sweet pea 'Turquoise Lagoon'

(Image credit: Deborah Vernon/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2–11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 4.5ft (1.4m)
  • Spread: 1ft (30cm)

If you're eager to try sweet pea varieties that are a little more unusual, then 'Turquoise Lagoon' is a must.

Pretty as a picture, the pink-mauve blooms that morph to glacier-blue make this unique Grandiflora a superb addition to pastel schemes.

A little shorter in stature than many other varieties, it makes a beautiful addition to small garden ideas. Its strong fragrance only adds to the appeal.

14. 'Prince Edward of York'

sweet pea 'Prince Edward of York'

(Image credit: Florilegia/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2–11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 6ft (1.8m)
  • Spread: 0.5ft (15cm)

One of our favorite bicolored sweet pea varieties has to be 'Prince Edward of York'.

This stunner is an essential pick if you love bold color, with its red- and cerise-pink petals and intoxicating perfume. Long-flowering, it will brighten up your plot all through the summer.

15. 'Painted Lady'

sweet pea 'Painted Lady'

(Image credit: Anne Gilbert/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2–11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 6ft (1.8m)
  • Spread: 1ft (30cm)

'Painted Lady' is one of the oldest types of sweet peas, heralding from the 18th century. The red and blush flowers mature to pink and white over time, and exude a lovely scent. What's more, they tend to bloom a little earlier than many other sweet pea varieties.

Planting this cultivar so it scrambles up a stone wall makes a perfect courtyard garden idea, instantly upping the ambiance for alfresco entertaining on the patio.

16. 'Fire and Ice'

fire and ice sweet pea

(Image credit: Dr. Ian B Oldham/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2–11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 5.9ft (1.8m)
  • Spread: 1ft (30cm)

A modern Grandiflora variety, 'Fire and Ice' has prolific white, purple and pink flowers which darken in tone as they mature.

It also has a strong fragrance and longer stems, so is a good choice for planting in rustic garden planters on a patio or deck.

Which are the best sweet peas for color?

All the sweet pea varieties above (apart from 'White Frills') are great for adding a bright pop of color to gardens. If you really want to create a visual feast, try planting a few different types together, playing with contrasting, complementary, or tonal shades to suit your style.

As well as the varieties of sweet peas above, 'Queen Alexandra' (an Old-fashioned scarlet), 'Prince of Orange' (an orange Grandiflora), and 'Joyce Stanton' (a purple Spencer) are all further fabulous choices for cheering color.

If you only want to grow one variety of these classic cottage garden plants, the two-tone peas look great alone. As well as the types listed above, 'Duo Salmon' is a lovely pick, with its fuchsia and rose petals.

'Joyce Stanton' sweet pea

The 'Joyce Stanton' sweet pea

(Image credit: Deborah Vernon/Alamy Stock Photo)

Which are the best sweet peas for cutting? 

The Spencer forms are the long-legged beauties used by florists and are widely available to gardeners. If you enjoy creating flower displays or giving cut flowers to friends, these are the ones to grow. 

However, the shorter stems of Old-fashioned and Grandiflora sweet peas are fine in a small vase or jug and usually have a superior scent to the Spencers, which is why many gardeners prefer them. 

sweet peas in vase

Spencer sweet peas have longer stems so are perfect for displaying in a vase

(Image credit: Deborah Vernon/Alamy Stock Photo)

What is the most scented sweet pea?

As well as the aforementioned 'Matucana', 'High Scent' – with its creamy petals tinged with violet – is a winner if you're on the lookout for heavily perfumed types of sweet peas. 

Want to add a touch of ballerina-pink to your borders? 'Gwendoline' is another highly-scented beauty. Plant fragrant types of roses nearby to elevate the sensory experience even further.

Hazel Sillver
Hazel Sillver

Hazel grew up watching and helping her green-fingered parents cultivate their town garden in North Yorkshire in the 1980s. She was especially spellbound by her mother’s long rose bed of Hybrid Teas, which spawned her own obsession with roses. After experience in the fashion industry, Hazel became a health and beauty journalist, and worked for The Ecologist as Green Living Editor. During a period of injury, she studied horticulture and went on to work as a gardener and write about gardening for newspapers, such as The Guardian. Today, she enjoys contributing to brands, including Easy Gardens and Gardeningetc. Currently in rented property, she dreams of soon having her own garden again, to fill with favourite plants: perennials, trees, and – of course – lots of roses. 

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