Spring peas – Lathyrus vernus

posted in: Gardening | 14
Look no further than Lathyrus vernus  the Spring Pea if you want a beautiful clump forming plant for a partially shaded area in Spring. It’s a member of the Leguminosae/Fabaceae family. In fact it’s also one of the earliest of the hardy cottage garden perennials to flower in spring.

Lathyrus vernus

Spring peas Lathyrus vernus

I bought Lathyrus vernus in a sale many years ago in a 9cm pot with one little stem. I never fully appreciated the plant as it seemed to sulk for its first few years.

Just look at it now!

Growing Lathyrus vernus

Lathyrus vernus doesn’t scramble like its cousin the climbing sweet pea.  It forms a very dense low growing bush at the front of the border preferring partial shade to full sun. The flowers remind me of the purplish pink vetch that grows wild in the hedgerows along the lade. Though Lathyrus vernus behaves itself staying in clump form around 35cm x 45cm in  height and spread. The pea like intense purple-violet flowers age to blue on short flowering stalks along one side of the stem.
macro of Lathyrus vernus petals
veining on the petals
macro of Lathyrus vernus blooms
The pea like intense purple-violet flowers age to blue on short flowering stalks along one side of the stem.
Racemes of Spring pea Lathyrus vernus nodding flowers
racemes of nodding flowers with a cluster of blooms at the end still to open


The plant is a native from the forests of Siberia, the Caucasus, Belarus and Ukraine. The RHS suggest it for growing in woodland gardens and partially shaded borders.  It has the RHS ‘AGM’ Award of approval and no wonder! Lathyrus vernus flowers prolifically during the spring and is such a low maintenance plant.

a good plant for woodland areas!

Racemes of Spring pea Lathyrus vernus nodding flowers


I just wish it was scented like its cousin  Lathyrus ordoratus …but us gardeners can’t have everything our own way! During the summer it produces loads of seed pods which ripen from green to red and then to blackish purple.  Furthermore they naturalize quite easily in the surrounding soil.

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Rosie is a garden photographer, writer and nature lover. She enjoys soaking up nature and is easily distracted from doing the weeding by anything that flutters, flies, buzzes, creeps or crawls! She enjoys sharing the beauty of creation through her photography. Rosie has been featured on TV on BBC2's The Beechgrove Garden and she uses the outdoors as her natural light studio. Her work can be seen at one of Scotland's only photography galleries - Close Gallery, 4b Howe Street, Edinburgh. She also writes and shares her nature images on www.irelandbirdphotography.com

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14 Responses

  1. Ellie

    I've not heard of this flower before but it is such a pretty flower. I have heard of sweetpea – my dad grew these when I was a wee girl so it holds very fond memories for me.
    I must look for this one in the garden centre – I might visit this weekend.

  2. Larry

    Hi… I love this plant as well and I have several good size specimens that started from the original plant given to me by a friend… I also have a couple of the pink version. The seeds germinate like crazy for me in a bed that has a lot of soil that originally was wood mulch. I even remulch this area and I still get lots of little plants. The area is reasonably moist and gets some east sun but is otherwise partially shady. My problem has been moving the seedlings about… the rabbits adore them and I haven't taken the time to protect them from the wee ones! I do know one thing for sure…trying to divide mature plants is a bit like trying to divide a pot of well aged concrete…Larry

  3. HolleyGarden

    Don't grow it – but it's very pretty. I love that color of purple. Good luck with your plan of collecting and planting the seeds.

  4. Curbstone Valley Farm

    We have the purple hairy vetch that grows here, and I agree, this pea does remind me of it. However, I'd say this plant is much prettier, more controlled looking, and the flowers have more presence too. I'm glad it's volunteered a few seedlings for you, but you may need to watch out for slugs until they get a little larger. That border would look lovely if your one plant has some company.

  5. Alistair

    I don't know why I have always dismissed this plant as being of little interest to me. Glad I dropped by today.

  6. Anna

    A beautiful spring flower Rosie and glad to hear that it now has some company. I bought one from our local nursery last spring and fully intended to collect seeds. It was a case of I blinked and they had jumped out of the seedcases 🙁 Will try again this year. Mine is just about to come into flower.

  7. Quality Silk Plants

    WOW what a nice post about the flowers I really like spring flowers, I have so much in my garden (Daffodil, Iris Reticulata, Forsythia, Scilla, Anemone, Tulip Rhododendron and azaleas). I love at all the flowers very much, thanks for donating your post between us.