gardener filling containers with potting soil and planting seedlings

Cottage Garden Trellises & Sweet Peas in Containers

by | Oct 24, 2023

Currently there is a huge task that I’ve been avoiding. Remember my Fall seed starting video where I started eight varieties of sweet pea flowers? Well, those poor plants have been stuck in their seed cells this entire time…and it’s not good. Each morning, I pass by these sweet pea seedlings and feel a pang of guilt. Additionally, it’s been pretty warm here in Southern California, so I’ve had to continually water and check on the seedlings to make sure they are still alive.

Truthfully, I haven’t been avoiding planting out my sweet pea seedlings due to time constraints. The reason I haven’t planted the sweet peas is because I can’t find space in the garden. As a gardener who tends to focus mostly on edible crops, I prioritize those first. Especially since summer crops are winding down, it’s important to me to get my cool season crops out in the garden so they can start providing us with harvests. Therefore, I just haven’t been able to make room for the twenty-four (yes, 24!) sweet pea plants that I have sitting in my seed starting area. For proof, pictured below are my sweet pea seedlings before I got around to planting them with you!

Can I Grow Sweet Peas in Containers?

Much like my solution for fall-planted bulbs, I decided the only way I can enjoy some sweet peas in the garden is to grow them in containers around the garden. In the past, I have grown sweet peas in a pot and it went pretty well. The pot I chose at that time was a little short and small, so this time I went with larger pots so the plants could grow more vigorously and be easier to water.

Regardless of whether or not you are growing sweet peas in containers, in-ground, or in raised beds, they will need some support. Today we are going to plant sweet peas in containers using one of my favorite DIY garden trellises! The beauty of this type of trellis is that it uses branches from our very own fruit trees and some compostable garden twine to create a structure that brings some whimsy and cottage charm to the garden. I’ve used a trellis like this for cucumbers previously (I have a whole post dedicated to ideas for pruned branches and sticks) and I know they will be perfect for sweet peas as long as I make them tall enough. Once again, I want to reiterate that our garden isn’t susceptible to strong winds. We do get the Santa Ana Winds, but they aren’t typically as severe as other areas of Southern California. Therefore, I’m not too concerned about these trellises being extra secured.

a collection of rootbound seedlings

Even after slowly amending and turning over the garden for a new season, I’ve got some seedling stragglers. As you can see, they are looking a little rough and are definitely root bound. Hopefully the sweet peas will bounce back once planted in containers.

Quick tips for sweet pea flowers in Southern California

Okay, real quick, I wanted to cover some climate specific growing tips for sweet pea flowers. You can read my full guide for growing sweet pea flowers as well, but here are some important bulletpoints for growing sweet pea flowers, in mild climates from, seed:

-Transplant in fall. So, whether you are buying transplants now or starting seeds in August/September, my October planted sweet peas always do best.

-Soak your seeds. I don’t typically think soaking seeds is worth it, but there are two exceptions I make: sweet peas and beets

-Provide support. As you’ll see in today’s post, making a sweet pea trellis can be relatively simple and also add whimsy to the garden

-Plant in full sun. Honestly, sweet peas just bloom best in full sun. Especially because the season we are planting them in is one with less daylight hours, getting them as much sun as possible really helps the sweet pea seedlings to grow faster and then bloom earlier!

And there my friends, are the simple keys to growing sweet peas here in Southern California for a luscious Spring bloom!

How to Grow Sweet Peas in Containers

The formula we will use today is simple. Why? Well, it’s October, and when I tell you ‘I have a lot of pots to plant’ I mean it! After I plant the sweet pea seedlings this week I also have to plant all my Fall bulbs!!!! A selection of tulips, muscari, and daffodils arrived on my doorstep last week, and the plan is to also plant these in containers like last year.

Therefore, we are simply going to fill our plant containers with potting mix, add some flower and bulb fertilizer to the planting hole, and voila! Truthfully, any potting mix will do, but I have been using G&B Organics Potting soil for my bare root roses and other potted plants in recent years and have found that it works very well for me. Therefore, I try and use that potting soil when it’s available to me.

Anyway, before moving on to filling our pots, let’s create our trellises—because it’s much easier to have the sweet pea trellises already in place before planting your sweet peas in containers.

gardener holding pruned fruit tree branches and sticks to be used for garden projects

Here’s an older picture of me holding our pruned branches and sticks. For this cottage trellis project I am using ones that are about 6-8 feet tall.

DIY Cottage-Vibe Trellis

Have I mentioned that I love these trellises? They add so much cottage charm! Full disclosure, these trellises are not meant to last season after season. In fact, I think that’s part of the beauty. Each year I try and utilize garden sticks, branches, materials, etc.  to create a very relaxed and somewhat whimsical feel. This means that the garden structure and appearance changes seasonally and takes the garden from looking more formal to more “lived-in” IMHO.

The thing with sweet peas in containers though is that they can grow tall. If you don’t believe me, here’s a short video of what mine looked like last Spring—check it out. Therefore, I made sure that my trellises extended at least 6-7 feet above my container. Also, please keep in mind that the containers you’re using should be large enough for a trellis like that. Overall, here are the supplies you’ll need to make this fun cottage trellis:


6-8 foot branches or sticks

Compostable jute garden twine

First, fill your container with a little soil (about halfway).

Second, create a 3-post structure using the branches (also known as a tripod trellis sometimes) in the container. Tamp the soil gently around the branches to help keep them in place temporarily.

Then, simply fill with soil all around the poles and make sure to tamp gently as you fill the entire container.

Next, take your jute twine and wrap the tops of your branches together and tie a knot. This should create the main structure of your trellis before we add the twine. I also show this process in more detail in my YouTube video tutorial.

Finally, once you like the main trellis structure, it’s time to add some twine to give the sweet pea tendrils something to grab onto. Starting about 6 inches from the soil level, tie a knot around one of the branches with your jute twine. From there, wind your twine in a shape that is pleasing to your eye! Every time you pass a pole, wrap your twine around it 2-3 times to keep it tight and secure. Finish off your design by tying a knot at the top of your trellis and get ready to plant those sweet peas!

winding twine around branches to create a cottage garden trellis

Here’s a closeup of how I tied the twine/jute around the trellis to create more support for the sweet peas to grab onto.

Transplant Sweet Pea Seedlings into Your Containers

Determining how many sweet pea plants per container is up to you. I tend to plant my sweet peas closer than some packets suggest—anywhere from 4-6 inches apart—and they do just fine.

Now, remember that my sweet peas have been growing in my covered seed starting area. By “covered” I mean that I use insect mesh to keep cabbage butterflies, birds, and other pests from getting to my seedlings as they grow. Therefore, my sweet pea seedlings are quite large and probably don’t need to be protected from anything once transplanted in these containers. If you direct sow your sweet pea seedlings or have small little tranplants, you might want to consider covering your plants until they are large enough that critter won’t eat them. I discuss more about cultivating sweet peas step-by-step in another blogpost.

Lastly, I drop a little flower and bulb fertilizer in each hole when transplanting the sweet peas. You can also add mycorrhizae, although many potting soil mixes these days have some mycorrhizae added with worm castings as well. Again, you can keep it simple too and see how your plants grow—each potting mix is different.

Thanks so much for joining me today and helping me plant my sweet peas in containers. October is a planting heavy month here in Southern California so, if you want a garden buddy, come on over to YouTube and we can slowly get through the October planting tasks together! Happy planting!

Plant a California native shade garden



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Meet Randi

Urban gardening is my jam. I’m Randi, California girl who obsessively gardens to grow food and flowers around my urban home. Seasonal, simple living is what inspires me~ I hope it will inspire you too. Join me in crafting a life and home connected to the garden Read More>>>>

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