If you are tired of mowing your lawn, take heart. There is a perennial peanut plant that produces no nuts but provides a beautiful lawn alternative. Using peanut plants for groundcover fixes nitrogen in soil since they are a legume. The plant is also tolerant of shearing, salt spray and performs well in tropical, sub-tropical and warmer temperate regions. Peanut groundcover establishes quickly and has an added bonus. The pretty little yellow flowers are edible and can be used in salads.
Groundcover Peanut Varieties
The peanuts we know and love as the main ingredient in our PB and J sandwiches is an annual plant. However, it has a relative that is perennial and can be used for year around groundcover. Other groundcover peanut varieties would be the edible running types, but these will die back in winter and require replanting when temperatures warm up.
The ornamental peanut is Arachis glabrata and native to Brazil. It has many benefits besides quick establishment. This perennial peanut is useful as groundcover.
The runner peanut is the most commonly grown ground nut for peanut butter and produces 80 percent of the U.S. crop. It is known as Arachis hypogaea. There are several cultivars of this plant used in commercial peanut production. Some of the most prevalent are Southern Runner, SunOleic and Florunner. Any of these would make fun and different short-term peanut plants for ground coverage, such as that needed on recently constructed ground.
Long term sod replacement, however, would only be achieved by planting the perennial variety of peanut. The perennial peanut groundcover will last for years and bloom every summer. Some of the more popular cultivars are Florigraze, Arblick, Ecoturf and Arbrook.
Why Use Peanuts as Groundcover
Replacing lawn with peanuts as groundcover saves water. Lawns are notoriously thirsty and can be watered several times a week in summer to keep them green. While peanuts like average moisture, they can tolerate periods of drought without severely diminishing appearance or health.
The plants outcompete many of the toughest weeds and can be mowed or sheared to keep it the height you need.
The edible flowers have a nutty flavor and add punch to salads and other recipes.
Its salt tolerance is outstanding and in climates that have light freezes, the plant will die back but regrow in spring. Perennial peanut plants for ground coverage grow together quickly to form a 6-inch (15 cm.) tall mat of attractive leaves and flowers.
Although no nuts are produced, the plant does secure nitrogen and its rhizomes make it easy to start more plants if necessary.
How to Grow Peanut Plants for Groundcover
Perennial peanuts prefer light sandy soil. In areas where the soil is heavy, mix in generous amounts of compost to loosen and add some grit to increase drainage.
Plant in full sun to partial shade. It is recommended that planting occurs when dormant in winter.
Keep the plants evenly moist and mow when the height becomes a nuisance. The plants can be mowed every 3 to 4 weeks. Mow to a height of 3 to 4 inches (8-10 cm.).
The plants do not need nitrogen fertilizer, as they secure their own. Use perennial peanuts on berms, paths, lawns, medians and anywhere else you desire an easy sod-less groundcover.