Growing Sweet Peas in a Windowsill


Sweet peas are such beautiful looking and smelling plants, and now a days there are so many different varieties, that there really is no reason to let lack of space stop you from growing them.

Recently, someone asked me this question:

“I’d like to plant some sweet peas in a windowsill – windowsills are all I have. But I’m concerned that they won’t get enough sun. Can you tell me how much sun exposure sweet peas need? I have fantasies of pink and purple flowers climbing up the security bars come springtime…”

Sweet peas generally need full sun to flower profusely, preferably morning sun, because most varieties don’t do too well in hot temperatures. Areas with direct afternoon sun tend to be hotter than those with morning sun. If you don’t think your intended spot gets 6 hours of sunshine, you might try a perennial sweet pea (Lathyrus latifolius) as opposed to an annual sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus) because the perennial types seem tolerate more shade than the annual kinds. Although, as I mentioned, they won’t flower as much with less than 6 hours of direct sun. Long periods of dappled sunshine or indirect light might be able to make up for the lack of direct sun, depending on how bright the area is.

When growing sweet peas from seed, you need to “scarify” the hard outer coating of the seed. You can do this by rubbing the seed lightly with sand paper or nicking them with a nail clippers. In Mediterranean climates like Southern California or most parts of Israel, you can plant sweet peas as early as right now (late autumn), for mid-winter flowers, or in early spring, for late-spring flowers. Or, if you’re really organized, you can plant some right now and some in spring to extend your bloom time. If you live in a harsher climate, you can start them inside 4-6 weeks before your last frost and then transplant them as soon as your soil thaws or just sow the seed directly outside at that time.

For those small space gardeners who don’t want a vining variety to cover security bars or balcony railings (which the traditional varieties would be happy to do), there are newer types that form nice mounds for hanging baskets or pots, and don’t require a trellis. For example, check out Little Sweetheart or Knee High.

Are you an experienced sweet pea grower? What special tips or tricks do you have to get the most out of your plants? Do you have any recommendations for varieties that will flower without direct sun?

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