Pea Plant Growth Stages | Life Cycle

The Pea Plant (Pisum sativum) encompasses a wide range of climbing and dwarf specimens which if cultivated with care, can yield an abundant crop of nature’s most savoury staple foods, be they garden variety, sugar snaps or mange touts. 

One of the most rewarding aspects of growing pea plants is that with the right amount of attentive nurturing, the sowing of several batches can produce multiple harvests throughout the summer season. Indeed, the legume’s natural abundance ensures that you’ll never have a shortage of one of the world’s most delectable side dishes. 

If you’d like to taste the difference between the store-bought and home-grown varieties of this delicious vegetable, look no further than below, where I have mapped out some of the best strategies for optimal growth. 

Conditions For Growing Pea Plants

Peas flourish best in sunny locales with a sound drainage system in place. Pea plants prefer slightly alkaline soil, so if you find your soil is acidic, try and add a bit of lime to prepare a good foundation. 

After extensively weeding the ground, add a prodigious amount of garden compost or manure, ideally two buckets per square metre. This should be done a few weeks before sowing. 

Take care when watering not to wet the leaves as this could cause the proliferation of mildew. Aim for the base of the plants instead of watering over them. 

Pea plants generally enjoy USDA Hardiness zones ranging from 3-11 in a well-drained soil rich in humus and with a pH of between 5.5 – 7.0. 

The ideal time of the year to begin sowing is between March and June, as pea seeds will not germinate in cold weather. This notwithstanding, pea plants do prosper best in a cooler spring season. 

Ensure the seeds are not placed in overly damp soil to avoid seed rot. Regarding spacing, consider growing plants in a single row with a distance of three inches between seeds. This will improve air circulation and deter the presence of destructive powdery mildew. 

As the plants develop, keep an observant eye out for various garden pests such as slugs, snails or even the occasional pigeon. 

Pea Plant Growth Stages

Once pea plants are established and have begun their growth cycle, the only time they will need watering is during particularly dry spells. However, once they start to flower, a thorough watering will be necessary. 

Follow this up two weeks later to help the emerging pods to swell. The University of Wisconsin-Madison shows the various stages in a pea seedling’s development in incredible detail. 

Seed Germination

Pea seeds are averse to cold conditions, so germination requires soil with a temperature of at least 10 C (50 F). In the event of a late spring, you can continually artificially heat the ground with polythene sheeting. 

When the pea seed takes root, it begins photosynthesis, changing sunlight into energy for the plant. Typically, your seeds will start to germinate within 1-2 weeks. 


The majority of pea varieties, once seedlings begin to appear, will require some type of vertical support or brace to help them scramble upwards. 

For the taller specimens, a bit of chicken wire or netting can be attached to a wooden post. The largest plants can grow up to 6 feet tall and in the process, become weighted at the top. Therefore, it’s imperative that any support is fittingly tall and sturdy to protect against windy conditions. 

For any smaller varieties, pea sticks or twiggy stems can be inserted between plants to ensure stability. 

Be sure to place a thick layer of garden compost around the base of plants or seedlings, as this will help to prevent dry soil and deter weeds. 

pea plant growth stages


Depending on the variety, pea plants will develop flowers from 8 weeks after germinating. Their flowers possess both male organs (which are called stamen) and female organs (these contain the seed or ‘ovary’). 

Self-pollination will occur once the flowers have died off. This is what leads to the pea pods forming.

pea plant Pollination


One of the most pleasant benefits of growing pea plants is the potential for multiple harvests. 

The first harvest known as the first earlies, should take place in about 12 weeks from the time of sowing. The second earlies are harvested after 13-14 weeks and the main crops should be harvested in 14-16 weeks after sowing. 


When it comes to harvesting, be sure to pick regularly or else your pea plants may stop producing pods. For instance, if you have a particularly large crop, pick them all instead of leaving any on the plants. 

The ideal time to harvest the mange touts and sugar snap varieties is when the pods measure about 7.5 cm (3 inches) long. That is, just as the peas are starting to mature. Since the development of pea pods begins first on the lower end of the plants, work your way up rather than down when harvesting. 

If you’re looking to harvest pea shoots (a delicious addition to a stir fry or a salad) instead of pods, these can be picked from the tips of the younger plants. A cautionary note, however, doesn’t take too many shoots from each plant as it could potentially hinder cropping. 

If you have enjoyed this article, here’s a link to Stages of Tomato Plant Growth that may also be of interest.

Pea Plant Growth Cycle FAQs

Which month is best for peas?

Although peas are notoriously easy to grow, the ideal sowing time is limited. They must be planted early enough in spring so that they can develop fully while the weather remains cool. Therefore, February, March or April are regarded as the ideal months for planting. 

Do pea plants require support to climb?

Since climbing pea plants can reach heights of up to 6-8 feet tall, they do need a sturdy trellis or other similar support. This will provide stability for your plants; otherwise, the stem may bow and droop towards the ground, and your crop may be wasted. 


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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.