Are your pea plants growing tall, with plenty of green foliage, but no flowers or pea pods? If so, you know how frustrating it can be to put in all that work in the garden and not see anything at harvest time. You are also probably wondering what you can do to solve the problem and grow the pea pods you crave.
So, why are your pea plants not flowering? Pea plants will not flower if the weather is too hot. If you plant too late in the season, you may run into this problem. Excessive nitrogen can also prevent pea plants from flowering. Choose a fertilizer with less nitrogen, since too much causes growth of leaves and stems at the expense of flowers and pea pods.
Of course, there are other reasons that pea plants may fail to flower, such as
- cold temperatures
- poor soil conditions
- lack of water or sunlight
Also, remember that it will take pea plants between 8 and 9 weeks from first planting to flowering. Of course, the exact time will also depend on the variety of peas that you plant. So, don’t worry if you don’t see any flowers in the first couple of months after planting.
If you have already waited 9 to 10 weeks and are not seeing any flowers on your pea plants, then it’s time to consider the possible causes. Let’s take a closer look at some of the reasons that pea plants fail to flower, along with some ways that you can address these problems.
Extreme temperatures, whether too hot or too cold, will prevent your pea plants from flowering. Peas germinate best at soil temperatures of 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 21 degrees Celsius), with air temperatures no higher than 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius).
If peas are planted too late in the growing season, you will run into temperatures that are too hot for them. Germination rates will decrease, and plants that do grow will stop producing flowers when it gets too hot.
Even plants that already have flowers may stop producing pea pods, or drop their flowers entirely! This means that the plant is in survival mode due to the extreme heat. If you face this problem, there is not much you can do to solve it this year.
In future years, you can try to plant either earlier or later. If you live in a region with a longer growing season, you can plant in the fall. Depending on when the first frost usually occurs, you can work backwards to determine when you should plant your peas.
Your other option is to plant your peas earlier in the spring. One way to do this is to start your peas indoors until they germinate (sprout), and then transplant the seedlings into your garden. The advantage of this method is that you control the temperature and light level in your house.
To germinate your peas, you can put the peas on a damp paper towel, seal the whole thing in a plastic bag, and put the bag in a sunny spot for a few days. Once the peas start to sprout, you can plant them in the soil, either outside or indoors to start them off. For more information, check out my article on the time to germinate peas.
If you don’t have the space indoors, then you can plant peas outdoors 4 to 6 weeks prior to the last danger of frost. Check out this tool from the Farmer’s Almanac to find the frost dates for your area.
Of course, before planting, keep an eye on the weather forecast. If frigid weather is expected after you sow, take measures to protect your plants from the cold. Peas can survive a snow, but temperatures in the teens or 20’s Fahrenheit (-7 to -2 degrees Celsius) will kill them.
If your plants are small enough, you can cover each one with a cloche, which is a plastic or glass cover that traps heat from the sun and keeps the plants warmer. A cloche can also keep some insects at bay while your plants are young.
If your plants are more mature, you can use special garden cloth or row covers to protect them if an unseasonably cold night is approaching. For more information, check out my article on how to protect your plants from cold and frost.
It is difficult to control the weather, but you can protect your plants by planting late enough to avoid late frosts in the spring.
If you are growing in a cold region with short summers, you can try using a greenhouse to keep your pea plants warmer on cold nights. Be sure to close the door of the greenhouse before nightfall to keep the heat trapped inside, and open it during hot days to avoid excessive heat.
Poor Soil Conditions
There are numerous soil problems that can prevent your pea plants from flowering: nutrients, pH, and water will all have an effect. All of them are intertwined, so it is difficult to isolate them, but let’s take a look at each one in turn.
If there is too much nitrogen in your soil, then your pea plants will grow tall and produce lots of leaves and stems. However, all of their energy will go into producing this green growth, at the expense of flower production. No flowers means no pea pods, which defeats the whole purpose of planting them in the first place!
Remember that peas are a legume, meaning that they work with bacteria in the soil to fix nitrogen from the air. This means that peas need less nitrogen from fertilizers or compost than other plants.
To prevent the problem of excessive nitrogen, use a fertilizer with low nitrogen content, such as 5-10-10. Note that the three numbers represent N-P-K, or content by weight of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the soil. So, a 5-10-10 fertilizer mixture would be 5% nitrogen, 10 percent phosphorus, and 10 percent potassium by weight.
Lack of Phosphorus
Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for all plants, and it promotes both rooting and flowering. If your soil is lacking in phosphorus, then your pea plants may produce very few flowers, or it may produce none at all.
To solve this problem, you can add bone meal to your soil. Before you do, however, make sure that a phosphorus deficiency is really the problem.
To do this, buy a soil test kit online or from a garden center. You can also send a soil sample to your local agricultural extension for testing, although a fee may apply.
While you’re at it, you may want to check the pH of your soil, since improper pH can also cause problems with your plants, including a lack of flowers (more on this below).
Improper Soil pH
If your soil pH is too high or too low, then your pea plants will have difficulty absorbing nutrients from the soil. This is true even if there is plenty of a given nutrient in the soil.
Generally, peas prefer a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.5. As mentioned above, a soil test kit can help you to determine whether you are in the right range. To learn more, check out my article on soil testing.
If your soil pH is too low (acidic), you can add lime (calcium carbonate) to raise the pH. Note that this will also add calcium to the soil. Calcium is a necessary nutrient, but an excessive amount can cause problems, such as blocking the uptake of potassium or magnesium by the plant.
If your soil pH is too high (basic or alkaline), then you can add sulfur to lower the pH.
Improper Watering or Sunlight
Both too much and too little water can affect the growth and development of your plants, including whether they flower or not.
Ideally, pea plants like well-draining soil. Water in the morning, and avoid getting the leaves wet to prevent fungus or diseases.
If you over water, or water in the evening and the night is cold, then the soil may stay too wet for too long. This can lead to root rot, which can eventually kill the plant, and could certainly lead to few or no flowers. For more information, check out my article on over watering your plants.
If you are in doubt, feel the soil with your hands. If it feels dry, add more water! Check the weather forecast, and avoid heavy watering if a rainstorm is on the way.
Peas also need enough sunlight in order to develop properly. They prefer 6 to 8 hours of full sunlight per day, although they can survive in some shade.
If your pea plants are in an area where they are shaded most or all of the day, then consider planting them somewhere else next year.
By now, you should have a better idea of what is preventing your pea plants from flowering, along with some ways to solve the problem. Even if it is too late to save this year’s harvest, take what you learn and apply it for next year.
I hope this article was helpful. If you have any questions or advice to share, please leave a comment below.