Can Perennial Peanut Replace Your Grass?

Kate Mitchell

October 19, 2023

What is Perennial Peanut?

Are you tired of always having to mow your lawn? Or do you have hard-to-reach spots that get overgrown too quickly? If so, perennial peanut might be the solution! This tough, low-growing plant requires very little maintenance, thrives in Florida's climate, and can even suppress weed growth. If you're looking for an easy care, environmentally friendly grass alternative for your landscape, read on to find out more.

Benefits of Perennial Peanut

Perennial peanut is a relative of common peanut - the edible kind. However, this variety doesn't produce edible peanuts. Instead, it grows small, bright yellow flowers from spring through summer until the first frost. Because they are low-growing, perennial peanut plants don't need mowing.

This plant will do well even in nutrient-poor soils because of its ability to produce nitrogen. Like other varieties of peanut, this plant can even improve soil fertility. It is somewhat salt-tolerant, so is well suited to coastal areas with high salinity. Perennial peanut's mat of rhizomes - that is, horizontal stems that grow under the ground - can be beneficial for erosion control as well.

Perennial peanut is a great choice in environmental terms. It doesn't need a lot of water or fertilizer and helps pollinators like bees by providing food for them. It also naturally resists pests and suppresses weeds, reducing the need for harmful chemicals.

In addition to all the other benefits, this ornamental peanut's flowers are edible too! They have a pleasant nutty taste and can be added to salads.

A small yellow flower with lots of bright green leaves in the background

Uses for Perennial Peanut

Perennial peanut is a versatile groundcover plant. It makes an excellent replacement for turf in lawns, especially those with infrequent foot traffic. If you want to use perennial peanut in an area that needs to be crossed often, consider adding stepping stones or creating a path to avoid trampling it down too much.

If you're not looking for a complete lawn replacement, perennial peanut is still useful to cover smaller areas. These might include places that are subject to erosion, or areas such as slopes that are difficult to reach with a lawn mower. It won't grow more than around a foot in height, so doesn't need to be mowed - but you can mow every few weeks if you want it to be shorter.

With its plentiful green leaves and pretty golden flowers, perennial peanut also makes attractive groundcover in garden beds. It won't grow more than 9-12 inches tall. It can be used in beds for weed suppression, as the thick rhizome mat will prevent the growth of most weeds.

Growing Conditions

Soil Type

Perennial peanut grows well in sandy soil, or sandy loam. Well-drained soil is very important. Perennial peanut needs alkaline soil; the ideal pH is 5.8 to 7.0. If possible, conduct a soil test before planting. If the pH is above 7.5, perennial peanut may struggle to grow unless sulfur or another material is added to increase acidity.

Climate and Sun Requirements

Perennial peanut is hardy in Zones 8b-11, meaning it can grow throughout Florida. In areas without frost, this plant will act as if evergreen. However, after a frost, perennial peanut will drop its leaves, revealing the brown stems beneath. UF Gardening Solutions recommends overseeding with ryegrass if you live in an area where frost occurs, to keep your landscape looking green year-round.

While perennial peanut will grow in part shade, full sun is recommended for this ornamental legume. Production levels of the beautiful yellow-orange flowers will be much higher in direct sunlight.

Ground covered in a plant with bright green leaves and small yellow flowers

Establishing Perennial Peanut

Perennial peanut should be planted at a time of year when the soil is warm but temperatures are not too hot. It also helps to have plenty of rain while this plant is getting established. Spring is therefore the best time of year to start growing perennial peanut. As the name suggests, this is a perennial plant, which will grow year after year.

To get started, plant perennial peanut rhizomes - the underground stems - 1.5-2 inches deep in sandy soil. Space the plants 2-3 feet apart to get a solid layer of ground cover. They will quickly grow to fill the entire area. During the establishment phase, you should make sure to water your perennial peanut plants frequently. You'll also need to weed in between the plants until they are established.

Grass and green leaves with yellow flowers

Watering, Fertilization and Drought Tolerance

Regular watering will help your perennial peanut to grow well. Ideally, you would provide around one inch of water per week. Make sure to allow the soil to dry out fully between waterings. Although it does best with regular irrigation, perennial peanut is relatively drought tolerant. Even when it's short of water, this plant should still be able to survive.

Because it produces its own nitrogen, perennial peanut won't need any additional nitrogen fertilizer. You can add a potassium fertilizer once a year during the growing season.

Common Problems

One limitation of perennial peanut as a grass alternative is that it does not stand up very well to high levels of foot traffic. If you're planning to use it for primarily ornamental purposes this won't be a problem, but it doesn't make a good turf alternative if you'll have kids or dogs playing regularly on the surface.

To use perennial peanut as a lawn substitute you could incorporate stepping stones or other hard-standing materials to reduce the need to tread on the plants.

A concrete path next to an area covered in perennial peanut plants

If the soil becomes waterlogged, perennial peanut will not grow very well and the leaves will turn yellow. Make sure the soil has time to dry out between waterings. On the other hand, if it gets too dry, this plant may begin to lose its leaves.

Final Thoughts

If you are thinking of redesigning your landscape for ease of maintenance or for environmental benefit, perennial peanut could be a great option for you. Whether you want to reduce water use or have areas that are difficult to keep looking neat, this plant may be the solution you need.

Get in touch with your friendly local landscaping experts at LawnMore Gainesville if you'd like help or further suggestions!

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