If planted in the late winter or the early spring season, peas and pea plants will usually survive a light frost. The plants may also be hardy enough to survive a light covering (or two) of snow. Peas, however, will normally not survive hard frosts at temperatures below 28 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pea Plant Hardiness
Peas are the seeds of pea pod fruit on the pea plant, Pisum sativum. Pea plants must be planted annually as they can not survive harsh winter conditions, besides this, they are not a perennial species.
Native to Mediterranean climates, domestic pea plants actually can survive quite of range of USDA hardiness zones (from zone 2 up to and including zone 9). That said, when planted, they will not survive in sustained temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pea plant seeds will germinate in soils of at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit — but tend to fare better at temperatures of 60 degrees Fahrenheit or greater (within 25 degrees above that temperature).
For this reason, pea plants are among the first garden plant seeds to be sown, some six to four weeks before the last winter frost. Pea plants are also generally planted in the late winter or early spring (with some cultures holding St. Patrick’s Day as a traditional pea planting day).
Pea Plants and Frost
The three varieties of domestic peas, Snow, Sugar Snap, and Garden Peas (P. sativum saccharatum, macrocarpon, and sativum, respectively) are susceptible to damage from frost if the outdoor temperatures are below 24 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
That said, pea plants can withstand light bouts of frost (perhaps at temperatures of 29 degrees Fahrenheit up to the freezing point of 32 degrees) and the occasional light covering of snow. So long as late winter snow does not pool up or freeze over significantly, the pea plants should survive.
Because of the peas plant’s comparatively better resistance to frost than most other plants, pea seeds are usually planted in the months from February to April in most locations in the Northern hemisphere. Colder and more mountainous regions may wait until May.
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Ideal Conditions for Pea Plants
Besides the spring, pea seeds can be planted in the summer — some eight to six weeks before the first late fall/early winter frost. The pea plant’s springtime resistance to frost, however, is not matched in the fall.
For these reasons, timing the fall crop is important, and many gardeners favor the spring season. In order to counter the effects of frost on the spring pea plants, gardeners will plant pea seeds in separate indoor-oriented pots or use outdoors cold frames.
Pea plants will survive light spring frosts at temperatures between 29 and 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Below this — and especially at temperatures of 20 degrees Fahrenheit and under — pea plants are not hardy enough to survive.
In the fall, pea plants are not as resistant to oncoming frosts. Though fall growing periods are possible, a spring planting season from February to April is favored.