Varieties of Peas

Peas are delicious and healthy vegetables to grow. Learn about the different varieties you can consider.

Peas are a common plant in many people’s gardens. It’s simple to see why these cool-season plants are so popular, with a taste considerably superior to any store-bought pea. They are also rather simple to cultivate and come in a wide range of types, giving you plenty of alternatives to suit your preferences and available garden space.

Choosing which types of peas to grow in your garden isn’t easy, especially for someone new to gardening. So, let’s go over the three basic types of pea plants, how they differ from one another, and some of the most popular variations of each type.

After learning about the various varieties, you can choose which type of seed to include on your “to-plant” list for your next garden!

Three Main Types of Peas

Sweet peas are typically produced in gardens in three varieties: English peas, snow peas, and sugar snap peas. All three are consumed fresh or tinned for commercial sale. All three varieties are wonderful, but their pods and peas differ, giving each a distinct edible characteristic.

English, snow, and sugar snap peas are distinct from the species typically referred to as “field peas.” Field peas are dried and shelled for use by humans or livestock.

English Peas

English peas are also known as shelling peas, garden peas, or green peas. They are the most common of the three species of peas, and their pods are not edible. These are the ones you imagine your grandma shelling into large bowls after a crop. Before shelling and consuming the pods, they should be completely plump.

‘Green Arrow’ 

Days to Maturity: 60

Disease Resistance: Powdery Mildew, Fusarium Wilt

Green Arrow English peas are an heirloom variety known for their heavy yields. Plants grow to be about 28” tall with double pods forming at each node on the plant. They need some sort of trellis or support. Each pod reaches about 4.5” long and produces eight to eleven peas per pod. Mature pods shell easily.


Days to Maturity: 52

Disease Resistance: Pea Enation, Powdery Mildew, Fusarium Wilt

Maestro garden peas are considered one of the sweetest types of fresh peas and are known for their excellent disease resistance. They are a superb shelling pea, growing at a moderate rate. Plants grow 24 to 26-inches tall and produce 4.5” long pods containing up to ten peas. Maestro plants bear heavy crops and allow for multiple pickings.

An open pod containing eight green peas.


Days to Maturity: 60 to 65

Disease Resistance: Fusarium Wilt

The Lincoln garden is an English heirloom from the early 1900s. This type is known to produce huge yields of deliciously sweet, tasty peas. The open-pollinated plants grow two to three feet tall and do not need support or trellising. Pods grow 4-5” long and are tightly filled with six to nine sweet peas. This variety handles the heat better than many others.

‘Tall Telephone’

Days to Maturity: 68

Disease Resistance: None

Another heirloom variety, the Tall Telephone (also known as Alderman), is said to be some of the best tasting, sweetest peas available to plant because they don’t get as starchy as some others. Vines grow five feet long and are great climbers, making them excellent for small gardens. Pods are big and easy to see, so they are easy to pick.

‘Mr. Big’

Days to Maturity: 60

Disease Resistance: Fusarium Wilt, Powdery Mildew

In 2000, Mr. Big was the All-American Selections, edible vegetable winner. The improved variety plant is high-yielding, producing two consistently large pods per node. Each dark green 4.5” pod contains nine to 10 extra-large peas with a tender texture and sweet flavor. Mr. Big is also superbly disease-resistant and easy to shell.

Snow Peas

Snow peas have flat edible pods and are harvested before the seeds mature and fill out. These plants are often referred to as “sugar peas” or “Chinese pea pods.” They are milder in flavor than the other two types and can be eaten raw or cooked. The string should be removed before eating.

‘Golden Sweet’

Days to Maturity: 61

Disease Resistance: None

Gold Sweet snow peas are more of a novelty variety with their bright yellow pods and beautiful purple flowers. This rare heirloom variety comes from India and produces vines that grow up to six feet in length. The edible pods grow to be about 3-inches long, and their unique color makes them a lovely addition to recipes.  

Three peas pods that are still growing, yet to ripe.

‘Mammoth Melting Sugar’

Days to Maturity: 70

Disease Resistance: Fusarium Wilt

Mammoth Melting Sugar is one of the most popular snow pea varieties with gardeners. Plants produce five-inch long, sweet, flavorful pods that take more than two months to mature. When fully grown, plants can grow up to four feet tall, needing extra support. They also need cool weather to produce bountiful yields.


Days to Maturity: 60

Disease Resistance: Fusarium Wilt, Powdery Mildew

As their name suggests, Avalanche snow peas produce higher yields because of their afila-type vines. Plants are “semi-leafless,” developing self-trellising tendrils instead, putting more energy into producing pods. Dark green tender pods are five to six inches long and grow one or two per node. The semi-leafless nature makes the pods easy to see and pick.

‘Oregon Giant’

Days to Maturity: 60

Disease Resistance: Powdery Mildew, Pea Enation, Fusarium Wilt 

Oregon Giant was bred at Oregon State University for exceptional fresh harvesting and released for sale in 1991. This variety is a very popular type of snow peas boasting five-inch long, crispy flat pods. The short, sturdy vines grow to about 30-inches tall and have either one or two large, tender pods per node. 

‘Oregon Sugar Pod’

Days to Maturity: 60

Disease Resistance: Pea Streak Virus, Pea Enation Mosaic Virus, Fusarium Wilt, Powdery Mildew

Oregon Sugar Pod is a disease-resistant double-podded snow pea. The compact, bushy plants grow 28 to 30-inches tall and don’t require trellising. Plants produce 4.5” long, smooth pods that develop without strings. Pods are delicious whether eaten raw or cooked. Since it is resistant to many diseases, it can be grown earlier in the fall than other types.

A hand holding a growing peas.

Sugar Snap Peas

Sugar snap peas, or “snap peas,” are the best of the two other types combined. They are a cross between English and snow peas with an edible pod and seeds that are allowed to plump up a bit before harvesting. The crisp pods do not need to be shelled and can be used in recipes the same way as snow pea varieties. 

Many sugar snap peas are popular as snack foods.


Days to Maturity: 60 to 65

Disease Resistance: Pea Enation, Mosaic Virus

Cascadia is another variety bred in the Northwest at Oregon State University and was the first pea type to be bred for resistance against the pea enation mosaic virus. The open-pollinated is also moderately resistant to fusarium wilt and powdery mildew. It produces heavy yields of thick-walled, almost stringless 3” pods on three-foot-tall vines.

‘Sugar Ann’

Days to Maturity: 56

Disease Resistance: Powdery Mildew

A top-producing sugar snap pea, Sugar Ann is an All-American Selections winner, bred by Dr. Calvin Lamborn and Dr. MC Parker of Twin Falls, Idaho. It was one of the first compact snap pea varieties. The compact plants grow 10-24” tall, and pods are only 2.5” long. Plants are moderately tolerant of fusarium wilt. 

A sugar pea plant healthily growing in a  farm garden.


Days to Maturity: 65 to 70

Disease Resistance: Fusarium Wilt, Powdery Mildew

Known for being incredibly tender, the compact Tendersweet is perfect for growing in container gardens. Mature plants top out at 12-20” tall and can handle being slightly crowded. When in proximity to other plants, they use each other for support. The stringless, fiberless pods are sweet and crunch and grow to about 2.75” long.

‘Sugar Daddy’

Days to Maturity: 60 to 65

Disease Resistance: Powdery Mildew, Pea Leaf Roll Virus

A popular snacking sugar snap pea, Sugar Daddy was the first stringless variety developed. It is easy to grow, making it great for beginning gardeners. The high-yielding plant develops two to three-foot-long vines that can be left to grow unsupported or trellised. Plants are highly disease resistant and produce sweet, super tender 3” long pods.

‘Super Sugar Snap’

Days to Maturity: 64

Disease Resistance: Powdery Mildew, Pea Leaf Roll Virus

A classic favorite amongst experienced gardeners, Super Sugar Snap, is the sweetest sugar snap ever grown. This type is a disease-resistant improvement of the Sugar Snap variety. Plants grow vigorously and bear a quicker, heavier crop than many other varieties. Vines reach 55-65” long and produce thick-walled, three to five-inch plump pods for eating.

A healthy pod of a ripe green pea.

Tips on Choosing Pea Varieties

  • If your garden is prone to diseases, especially powdery mildew, look for varieties that are disease resistant.
  • If you live further north and have a short growing season, opt for an early-season variety that matures quickly.
  • Heirloom seeds have a long lineage and have been passed down through many generations. They are never hybrid plants (meaning a cross between two different varieties), and they have not been genetically modified.
  • Open-pollinated seeds can be grown, and the seeds collected from mature plants will regrow the same variety, time and time again. Heirloom seeds are always open-pollinated, but not all open-pollinated seeds are heirloom.
  • Hybrid seeds are produced by selectively cross-pollinating two different parent plants. If seeds from a hybrid plant are sown, you may not get identical plants.
Carley Miller
Carley Miller is a horticultural expert at Bustling Nest. She previously owned a landscaping business for 25 years and worked at a local garden center for 10 years.
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