Sturt’s Desert Peas

I sowed seed of Sturt’s Desert Pea (Swainsona formosa) last week and now have them germinating. I nicked the side of the seed with nail clippers and placed the seed in small individual pots. There may be a few failures, but at least I am avoiding root disturbance.

I find nicking the seed to be more successful than the boiling water treatment. It is more labour intensive having to handle each individual seed but the results warrant it, I feel.

I still remember the first time I saw these growing in their natural habitat. We were heading for Arkaroola in northern SA and pulled off the road to have morning tea. It wasn’t until we were out of the car that we realised that we were in the middle of a huge patch of these plants and the first flowers for the season were just coming out. Fabulous photos (in those days, slides!) gave us great enjoyment later, too.

When you see the environment that they grow in it gives an appreciation of how far the roots must travel in order to survive the summer. The plants are sometimes perennial but probably best treated as annuals. They give a glorious display of their brash pea shaped flowers. Ants will carry the seed around the garden and they will pop up in the spots that you don’t want them but haven’t the heart to pull them out. The self sown ones always do better.

A lot of research has been done on breeding colours for export markets and on the growing of these plants. At one time it was always declared that you did not water these plants in the garden. After all look at where they grow in the wild in barren, parched locations. However, logically, they grow and flower when there is moisture available. So in the home garden they need water if you want growth and flowers. Apparently they do particularly well in self watering pots and also appreciate fertiliser. I haven’t tried this yet. I just want them in the ground, self sowing merrily away! To see some lovely photos of Sturt Desert Peas have a look at this web page.


2 Responses to “Sturt’s Desert Peas”

  1. anne flint says:

    I was given a sturt desert pea last year and had success, it had a mass of flowers and the center stalk was over a foot tall. I have saved seeds and was wondering when to try to grow them, some say september others april? I live in Wallaroo (yorke Peninsula) S.A.

  2. roughbarked says:

    Well, it does depend on how hard your frosts are. Naturally their flowering time can be from July to September. I have sown them in spring and had them flower right through autumn until the frost started. I’m currently sowing some, May 10 .. er that’s today. I’ll let you know how they go.

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