A quick look at any seed catalog shows you that you can grow tons of pea varieties in your garden. That makes it hard to pick!
I always grow several pea varieties in my garden. I like to see the differences, and I use peas for lots of things. My kids like to shell the garden peas and eat them fresh while watching me garden. We use snap peas and snow peas in recipes, and we shell tons of garden peas to freeze for casseroles throughout the year.
If you’re wondering what you should grow, let’s look at some of the best pea varieties to grow in your home garden.
The 3 Types of Peas You Can Grow
Peas are divided into three different types. All three are delicious yet different, and you need to know the differences to help pick the peas that you want to grow.
English peas are sometimes called garden or shelling peas, and they don’t have edible pods. You need to wait until the peas are plump before shelling and eating them. These are some of the fastest-growing pea varieties, but you have to put work into harvesting hundreds of pea pods.
Snow peas have flat edible pods; you might recognize these from stir fry veggies. The seeds inside of the pods aren’t allowed to plump before harvesting. These require more days to maturity than other types of peas.
Sugar Snap Peas
Sugar snap peas are a cross between English peas and snow peas. The pods are crisp and edible, so you don’t have to shell them, but the seeds plump up. You get the best of both worlds with this type of peas.
15 Best Pea Varieties
There are a ton of pea varieties out there and it’s always fun to play around with ones you’ve never tried. Not sure where to start? Here are some of the best options out there.
If you want an early garden pea variety that is perfect for short growing seasons, consider growing ‘Alaska‘ peas. These plants produce large yields on tall vines. The catch is you have to make sure to provide support.
Alaska peas are an English heirloom variety that dates back to the 1880s. The peas might not be as sweet as some of the other garden pea varieties, but the plants are more productive than many snow peas or sugar snap peas.
‘Avola’ is a cold-hardy, early maturing English pea variety that grows on compact plants that only reach up to two feet tall. These are perfect for container gardening or small-space gardens.
Despite their size, ‘Avola’ pea plants produce large yields of tender pods that contain up to eight sweet peas. These are fantastic for early spring or late fall sowing.
‘Canoe’ peas mature in 70 days, and they produce pods that are full of peas. Sometimes, a single pod holds up to 12 sweet peas in long, curved pods. The shape of the pods is how this pea variety received its name.
This is a highly productive English variety that grows on nearly leafless stems. The peas are deliciously sweet, and since they aren’t large, they don’t require much support.
If you want one of the best heirloom English pea varieties, take a look at ‘Capucigner,’ a pea bred by Capuchin monks in the 1500s. The plants produce purple-blue pods with olive-green peas. They are great for soups, and the plants have beautiful white-pink flowers that make this plant ornamental, as well.
5. Desiree Dwarf
‘Desiree Dwarf’ is a unique pea plant because it produces beautiful, violet-blue pods on little bush plants. You don’t have to provide support or staking for these plants, so they’re perfect for containers or small gardens.
This plant produces small pods that you can pick when they’re as tiny as snow peas, but these are English (garden) peas. When left to plump up, the peas are perfect for soups or stews.
6. Green Beauty
‘Green Beauty’ is a snow pea variety that produces a harvest within 60 days. That’s one of the fastest producing snow pea varieties on the list, and the pods are huge. The pods are green, tender, and reach up to eight inches long when at full maturity. These peas are seriously delicious and some of the sweetest peas out there.
‘Green Beauty’ plants are vigorous and productive. The plants typically reach up to eight feet tall, so you have to provide ample support for the vines.
7. Hurst Green Shaft
‘Hurst Green Shaft’ is an excellent sugar snap pea variety that produces heavy yields with long pods. Each pod holds around 10-12 peas, and the plants have a longer season than average. The plants typically produce pods from June to July, and they’re resistant to some of the worse plant diseases, like downy mildew and fusarium wilt.
8. Kelvedon Wonder
‘Kelvedon Wonder’ is an early-yielding English pea variety that produces a heavy harvest. These are some of the best peas for succession planting throughout the spring and summer because they’re resistant to several different pea diseases and handle heat well.
‘Kelvedon Wonder’ is a compact plant that only reaches up to two feet tall. It’s a great variety for containers and small gardens, and this dwarf variety doesn’t require any staking or support. Expect the plants to produce a large harvest with small pods that contain up to eight peas in each.
One of the most popular pea varieties is the ‘Lincoln’ garden pea. This is an English heirloom introduced in the early 1900s. Gardeners know that ‘Lincoln’ plants produce huge yields of tasty peas.
‘Lincoln’ peas handle warmer weather than other varieties, so they’re great for summer growing or those living in southern climates. The pods are tight and easy to shell, and they grow on compact vines. This is one of the best pea varieties for growing in containers.
10. Little Marvel
‘Little Marvel’ is another small-sized, vigorous bush pea plant that matures in only 60 days. The plants produce heavy yields with delicious tasting peas. They grow well in home gardens, and have been a beloved heirloom plant since the early 1900s.
Since ‘Little Marvel’ is a bush English pea plant, no staking is needed. They grow best in containers and small gardens; you can tuck these plants in corners, and they reach about three feet tall.
11. Magnolia Blossom Tendril
‘Magnolia Blossom’ is a hyper tendril snap pea plant that produces enlarged tendrils rather than tons of leaves. This leads to a wider, open habit of growth that allows for better airflow and reduces plant diseases that might infect your pea plants.
These snap peas are delicious. They taste amazing in salads and stir-fries, but they also taste great raw with dip. ‘Magnolia Blossom’ plants are large, reaching up to eight feet tall, so you need to support the plants.
They’re also productive, giving you large yields of sweet snap peas. The vines have bi-color flowers, so they’re perfect as ornamental plants.
12. Mammoth Melting
‘Mammoth Melting’ snow peas produce large, sweet, flavorful pods on a plant that takes around 70 days to mature. These plants reach up to four feet tall, so they need a small amount of staking. ‘Mammoth Melting’ peas need cool weather to produce large yields, and the pods taste great in stir-fries and salads.
Make sure you pick the peas before they get too large.
This is an heirloom plant that continues to be one of the most popular pea varieties for gardeners.
Here’s another one of the most popular pea varieties. ‘Terrain’ produces large, curved pods that hold up to eight sweet peas. The plants produce peas for several months, and they’re known for being resistant to different diseases, like downy mildew and fusarium wilt.
This English variety is great for succession planting.
14. Tom Thumb
Without a doubt, ‘Tom Thumb’ is the best English pea variety for container gardening. The plants only reach up to nine inches in height, so they don’t need any support or staking. It’s easy to tuck this pea plant into small spaces in the garden.
‘Tom Thumb’ peas are an English shelling pea type, but the pods are sweet and tender when harvested young. They handle the cold well, perfect for cold-frame growth early in the spring or late in the fall. ‘Tom Thumb’ is one of the most frost-tolerant pea varieties you can grow! This is an heirloom plant that originated in England in the 1850s!
If ‘Tom Thumb’ is perfect for cold climate gardeners, ‘Wando’ is ideal for those in the south who need a heat-resistant English pea plant. Not only are they great for warmer climates, they’re also a great choice if you want to grow peas in the summer.
Wando peas are an heirloom introduced in the 1940s. They’re shelling peas that produce medium-sized peas that taste great whether fresh or frozen. The plants reach up to six feet tall, so they require staking and a support system.