Spring pea – planting, care and tips

Spring pea (Lathyrus vernus)
Spring pea (Lathyrus vernus)

The spring pea heralds spring with its special flowers. This is how planting and care in the garden succeed.

Profile of spring pea:

Scientific name: Lathyrus vernus

Plant family: legume, pea, or bean family (Fabaceae)

Other names: spring vetchling, spring vetch

Sowing time: (late) autumn

Planting time: spring to autumn

Flowering period: April to May

Location: partially shaded

Soil quality: sandy to loamy, calcipholous, nutrient rich, humus rich

These information are for temperate climate!

Use in: flower beds, underplanting, borders, cottage garden, flower garden, natural garden, forest garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 4

Bee and insect friendly: Yes

Plant characteristics and classification of spring pea

Plant order, origin and occurrence of spring pea

The spring pea, botanically Lathyrus vernus, belongs, like about 160 other species, to the genus of peavines, which in turn belongs to the legume family (Fabaceae). In areas of the temperate climate zone, in the Northern Hemisphere, the wild perennial can be found in deciduous forests, sometimes in mixed forests. It grows on the plain as well as at high altitudes. The plant is slightly poisonous.

Characteristics of spring pea


Spring vetchling is a hardy perennial that grows to 20 to 40 centimeters high (8 to 16 in). The plant forms branched rhizomes with deep roots up to one meter long (40 in). The shoots grow unbranched and mostly upright. Unlike other peavine species, the spring pea does not form vines, but grows dense.


The gray-green to fresh-green leaves are elongated egg-shaped, up to about seven centimeters (2.8 in) long and pinnate in two or three pairs. The top of the leaf is often slightly hairy, the underside smooth and shiny. Even after early flowering, the foliage remains pretty to look at – only in autumn it gradually withdraws.


The flowers clearly show that the peavines belong to the subfamily of the papilionaceae (Faboideae). Each flower usually consists of five petals. The upper, upright and somewhat larger petal is called the “flag”, the two lower petals, which often grow together, are called “boats” and the two side “wings”. Only larger insects are able to pollinate papilionaceaes, such as bumblebees, honeybees or wild bees such as the mason bee. The spring pea opens its buds in April and May. The flowers first present themselves in red-violet and change to violet-blue over time. The single flowers are together in several racemes.


After pollination, four six centimeters (2.4 in) long, flat, brown to red legumes form from the flowers. They contain up to 14 seeds, which are thrown out of the dried and then bursting pod with the ripeness of the fruit.

Spring vetchling (Lathyrus vernus)
Spring vetchling (Lathyrus vernus)

Spring pea – cultivation and care


The perennials love partially shaded areas near deciduous trees.


A permeable, humus and nutrient rich as well as calcareous soil is optimal for spring pea. Moisture is important, but too much moisture, especially in winter, is harmful.


You can plant the spring pea that you bought in a pot almost all year round. The distance to neighboring plants should be about 30 centimeters (12 in). The perennials appeal best in small groups of three to five.


If the seedlings have just emerged, they must always be kept slightly moist, but not too wet. Too much moisture can lead to fungi, which in turn damage the plant and prevent further growth. If the upper layer of the soil becomes slightly dry, it is the best time to moderately water the seedlings again. If the seedlings or young plants have already been planted in the garden bed, and they have been given a climbing support, they should also be watered moderately, but only if the layer of soil has dried somewhat. On very dry days, of course, drying out can be prevented with a little more water.


As a rule, the spring pea does not need any fertilizer, which you can buy in the garden center – in this respect, you can save yourself some money. The nutrients in the potting compost provide the necessary nutrients for the seedlings to grow, but if they are placed in the garden, you can, if you want, loosen the soil for planting and enrich them with a little compost. This helps the spring pea to get off to a good start, but is basically not necessary. Especially if the plant is already blooming or even bearing fruit, fertilizer and compost is no longer a must.


The spring pea definitely doesn’t need to be cut. However, if you don’t want it to sow itself, you have to cut off the faded in time.

Propagation of spring pea

The plants can easily be propagated by sowing. You can simply harvest the pods before they open. The seeds are best sprinkled in pots in the (late) autumn and need a cold period of several weeks so that they germinate in the spring. Spring peas like to sow themselves. In this case, all you have to do is dig up the young plants that have grown and replant in the garden.

You can divide the rhizomes, ideally in early spring, for propagation and plant them elsewhere. The measure is not necessary to keep the plants vital.


As already mentioned, spring pea is a very hardy plant and can withdtand temperatures down to -34 °C / -25 °F. Although, potted plants should be protected with some brushwood, be wrapped into fleece and the container should be placed on a wooden stand, to protect it from ground frost.

Diseases and pests

The spring flat pea is quite popular with mice and wild rabbits. Sometimes it is affected by mildew.

Use in the garden

Spring peas are pretty eye-catchers on the edge of the wood, in cottage gardens or in half-shaded perennial borders. Since the leaves look appealing far beyond the flowering period, they can also be planted in the front of the bed. Combine them with, for example, creeping navelwort (Omphalode verna), lungwort (Pulmonaria), lenten roses and hellebore (Helleborus orientalis and foetidus), deadnettle (Lamium) or evergreen (Vinca minor).


There are a few varieties of Lathyrus vernus on the market, such as the light pink ‘Alboroseus’ or the pink ‘Roseus’. The white ‘Albiflorus’ is less common.

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