What’s The Difference Between Sweet Peas And Green Peas? (What You Need To Know)

By Paul Smart •  Updated: 07/17/21 •  5 min read

What’s The Difference Between Sweet Peas And Green Peas? Sweet Peas and Green Peas are both extremely popular garden plants, however, there is a world of difference between them and they are grown for very different reasons.

Sweet Peas are a popular ornamental plant, particularly in the UK, that is grown for its flowers which are known to have a beautiful scent whereas Green Peas (also known as sugar and snap peas) is a popular plant in the vegetable garden that is grown to eat. Both plants produce pods and seeds however the Sweet Peas’ seeds are toxic to humans when eaten in sufficient quantities.

The Similarities And Differences Between Green Peas And Sweet Peas

Green and Sweet Peas both come from the same plant family, the Fabaceae or Leguminosae family, which is most commonly referred to as the legume family. As a result of this close relationship, they share many common characteristics listed below.

Fruit (Pod And Seeds): As mentioned above both plants produce fruit better known as the pod of the plant which carries the seeds. The seeds of the sweet peas are generally black in colour and are usually smaller, around two-thirds of the size of the seed of a green pea. In both cases, the seeds can be readily collected for planting the following year by allowing the seed pods to dry out at the end of the season.

The size of the sweet pea pods are also corresponding smaller than the green pea pods. They are generally between 2 to 4 inches long and are usually covered in hairs, where as most varieties of green peas tend to have a smooth texture on the surface. The pods of the green peas are also little thicker, usually slightly larger than the width of a pencil, with the exception of snow peas which have a flat pod.

There are also some varieties of edible pea that produced purple pods rather than green pod such as Desiree Dwarf Blauwschokkers.

Flowers: The flowers produced by sweet peas are the reason they are grown and they produce a wide range of colours which include white, red, pink and purple, with the majority of the flowers having mild to strong scents. Whereas edible peas tend to be mostly white, through there are some varieties that have purple flowers. Generally the volume of flowers produced by most varieties of sweet peas is also higher than edible peas

Additionally, edible peas have very little scent and do not hang around for all that long because they tend to have pods form in the centre of the flowers relatively quickly.

Growth Habits: Both types have peas have fair similar growth habits. Both are climbers that will normal reach heights of 3 to 7 ft (1 to 2 metres) though this does vary depending upon the particular variety. Both produce tendriles that can help the vine to cling on to support structures but also need to be tied into the support structure to prevent them from falling over. Both also have a tendency to become a tangled mess in they are allowed to grow freely and not pruned in any way.

What Are The Best Varieties Of Sweet Peas?

Sweet peas have been widely cultivated since the 17th century. During this period a large number of cultivars have been developed and are sold today commerically. Many of the varieties sold in the UK currently have been tested by the royal society of horticulture over many years. As a result of these trials numerous varieties have received for the Award of Merit due to there outstanding characteristics.

A list of these varieties is provided below. To make it easier to find sweet peas varieties with the characteristic desired the varieties have been grouped by colour (Bicolour, White, Blue/Purple and Pink/Red) and sorted from smallest to largest with respect to height.


Northern Lights Cherubpink/blue0.5m 
Teresa Maureenwhite/purple0.9mmedium
Solway Snowflakewhite/pink1.0m 
Hannah’s Harmonywhite/red1.1mslight
Solway Sapphireblue/white1.3mslight
Tahiti Sunrisewhite/coral1.7mstrong
High Scentwhite/violet1.8mstrong
Patricia Annewhite/violet1.8mmedium
Sicilian Pinkcerise/white/purple1.8mstrong
Valerie Harrodwhite/pink2.1mmedium
Lauren Landycream/pink2.5mmedium


Dorothy Eckfordwhite1.9mmedium
Brook Hallwhite2.0m 
Martha Marywhite2.0mmedium
Mary Maccream2.0m 
Wedding Daywhite2.1mstrong
White Supremewhite2.3mstrong


Bounce Navy Blueblue (deep)0.6m 
Bounce Mid Bluelavender1.0m 
Flora Nortonblue1.5mmedium
Bristolpale violet1.7mstrong
Ballerina Blueblue (pale)1.8mstrong
Margaret Joyceviolet1.9mstrong
Charlie’s Angelviolet (pale)2.0mstrong
Chris Harrodblue (pale)2.0m 
Noel Suttonviolet blue2.2mmedium
Heathcliffblue (violet)2.5mstrong
Just Juliablue (mid)2.5mstrong


Lavender Spritepink (lilac)0.25mmedium
Crimson Cherubred0.4mmedium
King Edward VIIcrimson1.5mmedium
Lady T. Cherubpink/red1.5mmedium
Evening Glowpale pink1.7mslight
Bobby’s Girlpale salmon pink1.8mmedium
Janet Scottpale pink1.8mstrong
Wretham Pinkpink (pale)1.8mstrong
First Flamesalmon2.0m 
Gwendolinepale pink2.0mmedium
Duo Salmonred/pink2.1mstrong
Lipstickpink (magenta)2.2mstrong
Mrs Bernard Jonespink/white2.3mstrong
Jacqueline Heatherwhite/pale pink2.5m 
John Graywhite/pale pink2.5mmedium
Somerset Ladypink (magenta)2.5m 

Paul Smart