Constant mowing and watering are a couple of reasons why many people replace their lawns with drought-tolerant, no mow alternatives. One of the most common replacements for lawns are rocks of different types and shapes. Although rocks work well to give you an attractive landscape that’s very low in maintenance, they don’t equal the beauty and softness that a manicured lawn can bring. Fortunately, there’s an alternative you can use to replace your high-maintenance lawn that’s quite similar, but without the constant mowing and watering.
The perennial peanut (Arachis glabrata) has gained popularity in Florida and Hawaii in recent years as an effective and attractive ground cover for commercial and residential lots. It’s also used as cover crop for orchards. Also known as, “Florida’s alfalfa” because it contains the same nutrients found in alfalfa used for foraging, the perennial peanut makes an excellent plant material for erosion control, golf courses, highway or parking medians, and hard to grow areas.
Perennial peanut is ideal in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Hardiness Zones 8b to 11. It grows best in sub-tropical to tropical areas. It prefers sandy loamy soils, but can tolerate any type of soils with a pH of 5.5 to 7.5.
Plant perennial peanut during late spring or early summer, when the soil has warmed. Avoid planting during very dry season; wait until sufficient rain falls for germination and establishment. Perennial peanut can establish from seeds, cuttings and potted plants. It grows readily and establishes dense ground cover from seeds; however, growing from cuttings or potted plants may be your best bet since seeds are not readily available or easy to find.
Spread seeds about 3/4 to 1lb per 1000 square feet of moist (not over-watered) soil. The seeds germinate in two weeks, but it would take at least two months to establish a dense ground cover.
When using stem cuttings instead of seeds, make sure that each stem is about 4 to 8 inches long. Bury each stem approximately 3 to 5 inches deep in the soil at least 10 inches apart. The cuttings will start to root in at least two weeks and dense in as little as two months. Keep the cuttings moist to encourage rooting.
Planting potted perennial peanut is as easy as planting any potted plants. Just dig a hole that’s slightly larger than the pot, remove the perennial peanut plant from the pot, and loosen the roots and then place in the hole. Avoid exposing the roots, keep them covered, but don’t bury too deeply.
Whatever type of planting method you choose to establish your perennial peanut ground cover, make sure to water regularly until the plant has established. The establishment period for the perennial peanut is from two to five months. After that, just water sparingly each week. In dry spells, perennial peanut can last without water for days.
There’s no need to use nitrogen fertilizers on perennial peanut because it can get it from the air in the soil.
Perennial peanut grows an average of 6 inches tall and spreads up to 15 inches each year. Mow once it reaches 5 inches high every two months to keep it dense. Trim the edges so that it will not spill over your planting bed to the sidewalk or curb.
Although generally pest-free, perennial peanut attracts snails and slugs during the establishment period when keeping the soil moist with regular watering is necessary. Use pesticide during this period to kill slugs and snails.
Weeds can be a problem during establishment period. Hoeing, pulling by hand or using herbicides can solve this problem. Once established, perennial peanut can prevent overgrown weeds from dominating your planting bed that is why it is a choice of many to plant in orchards.