Sweet Pea Flower Meaning and Symbolism

The only thing wrong with a sweet pea, if there’s anything at all unattractive about these flowers, is that the perennial sweet pea (Lathyrus latifolius) has no fragrance.

It’s such a shame – they are beautiful, very delicate blooms which produce so many flowers off of each plant, and their appearance begs you to smell them. 

If that’s the only downside to some varieties of the sweet pea, well, there’s not a lot to go wrong, is there? The good news is that annual sweet peas, Lathyrus odoratus, are highly fragranced (see also Should You Choose Annual Or Perennial Sweet Peas?).

Sweet peas as flowers do carry a lot of symbolism, so keep reading to find out more about Lathyrus odoratus.

What does Sweet Pea Mean?

The sweet pea plant belongs to the Fabaceae genus of plants, which encompasses those which produce legumes or peas, and it’s the third-largest land plant family. 

While sweet peas do produce legumes, these are seed pods and are poisonous, so if you’re after peas that you can eat, grow a plant that’s been cultivated for that purpose instead.

It’s recommended that you don’t let these seed pods form, as that will stop the plant from producing as many flowers in the season as it’s capable of.

Like all seed pods, they cost the plant a lot of energy to produce.

The Latin name for the annual type of sweet pea, Lathyrus odoratus, and “Lathyrus” means pea or pulse, “odoratus” translates as fragrance. 

The common name is said to have come from a poem by John Keats, where he described sweet peas “on tip-toe for a flight/With wings of gentle flush o’er delicate white” which helped their popularity immensely. 

It quickly became one of England’s most popular cut flowers, for its scent and delicate appearance.

What do Sweet Peas Signify?

The sweet pea flower is another birth flower for April, as well as the daisy.

Sweet peas also signify a goodbye, or an end to something, as well as a blissful pleasure.

Sweet peas are also used as a sweet gesture of thanks and appreciation, and loyalty. 

What is the Cultural Significance of a Sweet Pea Flower?

A Franciscan monk introduced the Cupani sweet pea into Britain in 1699, which is the ‘original’ type of sweet pea. He discovered the plant growing near his monastery in Sicily in 1695. 

There is a bit of mystery surrounding the sweet pea and where it originally came from, as they naturalize quickly, and it’s difficult to determine the exact origins of the wild plant. 

It’s said that the sweet pea became the king’s favorite flower, stoking its popularity.

The Victorians in particular loved the flower, and it became the centerpiece at dinner parties.

In some parts of the world, it was believed that planting sweet peas would bring spiritual strength, love and peace, and would help deepen wisdom.

What does a Sweet Pea Tattoo Mean?

Sweet peas in tattoos usually stand for remembrance, for a lost loved one or a time in your life that has ended, a bittersweet or even blissful departure.

They’re also used for their delicate and beautiful appearance, resembling butterfly wings.

They also stand for abundance and a form of resilience, as the plant can flower all the way from summer until October, sometimes every day!

When Should You Give Someone a Sweet Pea?

Sweet peas are popular flowers for weddings, as some varieties can produce more flowers every day, providing a spectacular and delicate display without much fuss.

In France, the sweet pea is considered to be a good omen for a bride, and it often symbolizes good luck for the future.

They’re a good flower to give to someone who’s setting off on a long journey, who you won’t see for a long time.

The sweet pea is a symbol of how much you care for them, and how your thoughts will still be with them when they are away.

Sweet pea flowers are also a good way to say goodbye to someone.

They signify that though you’re sad that they’re leaving, you’re grateful for the time you’ve had with them, and you wouldn’t trade any of the good times to spare you the pain of a goodbye. 

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