From my garden: The simply sweet ‘sweet pea shrub’
Published - 05/18/18 - 02:03 PM | 1105 views | 0 0 comments | 35 35 recommendations | email to a friend | print
While overseeing the planting of easy-care flowering plants in the gardens of historic La Jolla, I learned about another low-water plant from Chrissy at Green Gardens Nursery, who introduced me the "sweet pea shrub." Native to coastal regions, this hardy plant is not the actual "sweet pea" vine that comes to mind when we think of "sweet peas." Instead, it is an evergreen flowering shrub that has small flowers that resemble the "sweet pea" flower.

The sweet pea shrub or bush, as it is sometimes called, prefers to be planted in full sun, but can tolerate partial shade in the afternoon. If you live near the ocean, this plant also does well in the saltwater air.  Plant the shrub in well-drained soil, and once established it requires little water and is a good choice for low-water gardens. If planted in a very hot sunny location it will need a little more water to stay in full bloom.

Easy to care for, this shrub will stay in bloom for most of the year if you occasionally deadhead the spent flowers and give it a light pruning, which can be done at any time during the year. Occasional deadheading and pruning will help to maintain the desired shape and encourage new growth and flowers. Fertilize with an organic all-purpose fertilizer, such as Dr. Earth "Life" (5-5-5) in the spring and fall to keep the plant healthy and in bloom.

A common tall variety "Polygala myrtifolia "Grandiflora," grows 5 to 7 feet in height and is a good background plant, or planted side by side, it can create a beautiful flowering hedge. P.fruticosa "Petite Butterfly" is a dwarf size that grows 2-3 feet high and makes a nice border plant or it can be grown in containers.  Depending on the variety, most have dark green leaves with flowers that come in shades of purple, lavender and pink. Less common is P. myrtifolia "White Feathers" that has pure white flowers and grayish-green leaves.

Clusters of sweet pea shrubs now grace gardens and they are planted among the many kangaroo paws, butterfly bushes, agapanthus and grasses that grow there.  The profusion of flowers produced by the sweet pea shrub will keep your garden a flutter with songbirds, hummingbirds, bees and butterflies who will make regular visits to enjoy them.
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