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Sweet Pea

Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality

sweet pea026
Michael S. Reid

Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis

Maturity & Quality


Lathyrus odoratus. Once important cut flowers, prized for their aroma and range of colors, sweet peas benefit substantially from anti-ethylene pretreatments. Combined with a sugar pulse, treatment with STS or 1-MCP enables these delicate flowers to be harvested at an earlier stage when the flowers are less susceptible to damage, and to give as much as a week of display life.

Quality Indices

Sweet peas are traditionally harvested when the last bud on the stem is about half open. "Bud-stage" flowers are harvested when the petals on the first bud are colored and near full size, but have not yet opened. Flowers are harvested by holding the stem between the thumb and forefinger near the base (supporting the vine with two fingers behind and one in front) and then pulling the flower backwards and upwards from the axil of the leaf. Sweet peas should have 5 flowers per stem and only one flower open at the time of purchase. Avoid bunches with wilting flowers or where buds or flowers have fallen.

Grading and Bunching

There are no grade standards for sweet peas, but quality flowers have long, straight stems and at least five buds on each spike. Flowers can be bunched by color, or in mixed colors, in bunches of 10.

Ethylene Sensitivity

Exposure to ethylene results in accelerated wilting of petals, abscission of flowers, and failure of developing buds to open.


Proper pretreatment greatly improves the vase life of sweet peas. Flowers should be treated with 1-MCP or STS, and then placed in a preservative solution containing 4% sucrose at 20°C overnight.

Storage Conditions

Sweet peas should be stored at 0-1°C. Flowers that have been pretreated with 1-MCP and sucrose will open well and have a satisfactory vase life after storage for up to a week at 1°C.


Sweet peas are packed in horizontal boxes or hampers.

Special Considerations

Cultivars vary in the intensity of their aroma, one of the characteristic and appealing features of sweet peas.


October 2004

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The information in this fact sheet represents our best understanding of the current state of knowledge at the time of the latest update, and does not represent an exhaustive review of all research results. Links to any of these UC Postharvest Technology Center pages are permitted, but no endorsement of the linking site or products mentioned in the linking page is intended or implied by such a link.

How to Cite

Author(s) names. Initial publication or update date (located at the top). Title. Link to the specific Produce Fact Sheet webpage (Accessed date)

Example: Cantwell, M. and T. Suslow. 2002. Lettuce, Crisphead: Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality. (Accessed January 18, 2014).

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