Native to Sicily, southern Italy and the Aegean Islands, this bushy annual or climbing annual vine is a member of the legume family, Fabaceae, that also includes peanut, mimosa and black locust. The plant has a winged, hairy, angled stem up to 8′ long and alternate, pinnately compound leaves with 2 or more oval or lanceolate leaflets and a terminal branched tendril that enables the plant to climb. The flowers consist of a large upper petal (banner), 2 outer side petals (wings), and 2 fused inner petals (keel). The petals of the species are usually purplish but red, mauve, peach, lilac, white, and pink cultivars are available. The flowers are fragrant, 1-3″ across, and carried in clusters of 2-5 on long stalks from the leaf axils from spring to fall in cool climates. They attract butterflies, and are prized in the garden, especially on a trellis or arch, and for fresh arrangements. The hairy, narrow fruit is 1.6″ to 2.7″ long and contains 4-10 inedible seeds. Pods, seeds, and seedlings are poisonous. Over 50 cultivars are available that vary not only in color but also in flower size and plant size. The genus name, Lathyros, comes from the Greek word meaning pea. The specific epithet, odoratus, is the Latin word meaning fragrance. Photo Credit KENPEI Wikimedia Commons

Type: Herbaceous annual vine

Bloom: Flowers consist of the banner, 2 wings, and keel in purplish to white, pink, red, peach, and mauve, from spring to fall in cool climates.

Size: 6-8′ as vine; 2.5′ as bush; 2-3′ W

Light: Full sun; tolerates some shade

Soil: Fertile, humusy, medium moist, well-drained, cool

Hardiness: Does not tolerate heat or humidity

Care: Mulch to keep roots cool and moist; pinch back when 6″ tall to increase bushiness, apply balanced fertilizer monthly; avoid overhead watering; deadhead to prolong bloom

Pests and Diseases: Aphids, caterpillars, pollen beetles, thrips, slugs, snails, powdery mildew, gray mold, leaf spots, Pythium root rot, rust, and mosaic virus

Propagation: Seed (soaked or chipped)

Companion Plants: Rose, larkspur, cornflower

Outstanding Selections: Over 50 cultivars available

‘America’ (wavy red and white stripes)

‘April in Paris’ (large creamy-yellow blossoms and lilac shading)

‘Bijou Group’ (dwarf; good for containers)

 ‘Cupani’ (very fragrant, small, bi-colored flowers, with maroon upper petals and violet)

‘Old Spice’ ( shades of white, cream, pink, lavender, and purple)

Photo Credit: Aftabbanoori Wikimmedia Commons

By Karen