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Perennial Peanut Grass: An Evergreen Ground Cover

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Perennial peanut grass is a perennial flowering evergreen ground cover that thrives in warm climates. 

Perennial peanut grass with yellow flowers

When we moved into our new place, my son was excited to find that there was perennial peanut grass growing. He’d seen it in use at a farm he worked on and was a big fan. It was new to me, but I’m always up for learning about a new plant.

Reasons to love Perennial Peanut Grass

 

  • It’s a pretty, perennial flowering ground cover.
  • It out-competes less desirable grasses and weeds.
  • It’s a nitrogen fixer.
  • Perennial Peanut is resistant to pests.
  • It can be used as forage for livestock. (My bunnies love it.)
  • The flowers are edible.
  • It shades the ground, helping to hold moisture in.
  • It’s drought tolerant.
  • It’s great for erosion control.

It makes me think about when I worked in a retail nursery many years ago. Customers would come in asking for an alternative to grass lawn in an effort to cut back on water usage and general maintenance. There were several options to offer — until they said they also wanted to use the area like they would a lawn. That made it harder.

I’ve been observing it for more than a year now, and I have to say: Perennial peanut would have been a great solution.

7 chickens pecking on perennial peanut grass

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Evergreen groundcover

We have peanut grass (arachis glabrata) growing in several areas. A good portion of the ground in our orchard is covered with it. That’s also where our chickens range, and in spite of two dozen hens tromping on it (and nibbling on it) every day, it remains thick and lush.

Perennial peanut grass handles human foot traffic well, too. Where this evergreen ground cover is mowed, it’s nice for walking on. It’s also taken over a couple of wilder areas where we don’t mow. In those areas, it’s close to a foot high, but has prevented the aggressive weeds we have here from taking root.

(Note: There are different varieties of perennial peanut grass that may vary in height. I’m not sure what specific variety we have.)

evergreen groundcover growing below ferns

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Of course, the biggest drawback to perennial peanut grass is the fact that it’s only an evergreen ground cover in frost-free climates.

In areas where it gets frosty but the rhizomes don’t freeze, it dies down for winter and sprouts back as the weather warms. Some people seed an annual rye grass over perennial peanut grass for green during the winter months.

yellow flower of perennial peanut grass

Propagation of perennial peanut grass is generally done by transplanting the rhizomes. It’s easy to dig a shovel full out of the center of the peanut grass and transplant to another location. Once it takes root, it will start spreading, slowly taking over the area, creating a pretty evergreen ground cover. Just be aware that it can creep into areas where you don’t necessarily want it.

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

22 comments… add one
  • Jeannie Oct 27, 2015, 11:48 am

    Hi Kris,
    Thanks for another interesting article!! Do you think the perennial peanut grass would work well as a lawn alternative in the Sierra Foothills of California, where there is a bit of snow every winter? Would it need to be replanted every year, or would it spontaneously resprout from the rhizomes?
    Love your site!!

    • Kris Bordessa Nov 4, 2015, 11:12 am

      Hui! Aloha Jeannie! Hard to say – Teri pointed out that it has deep roots, so maybe a shallow snow layer wouldn’t impact those?

    • Robyn Barnes Feb 27, 2017, 3:49 pm

      How interesting… I just stumbled on this page today while researching perennial peanut grass to see if it would work in the exact same part of northern California! Jeannie, I wonder if you have tried it and if it does well…? I am just south of Oroville about 20 miles or so…. 🙂
      Thanks, Robyn

  • Teri Oct 27, 2015, 8:42 pm

    We love our perennial peanut too. And it is the goats’ favorite thing to eat. I would take it out of your garden though, because once it gets established it is never leaving. Its roots go down 5-6 ft. (That is why it is so drought tolerant.). It will be really hard to plant vegetables if it gets too big for its britches, and that can happen really fast! It is great in orchards, however. The only weed that seems to get the better of it once established is that pesky honohono grass.
    It is super easy to start. Just take long cuttings, throw them on the ground, cover areas of them with soil and keep watered for a few weeks. It will send down roots every few inches where it is next to the ground. It loves sun, but does fine in the shade too.

  • Michelle W. Aug 18, 2016, 11:29 am

    Looks beautiful but I keep seeing Hawaii on your page and I am wondering how draught tollerent this really is. I live in the panhandle of Oklahoma and we have several day of 110 sometimes higher, and we have about 3-6 inches of rain a year during our times of draught.

  • Cindy N. Feb 15, 2017, 8:30 am

    I’m wondering, because I did not read, if it will grow in shade/semi shady areas?

    • Kris Bordessa Feb 15, 2017, 10:00 am

      I have it growing in semi-shade and it does well. I haven’t tried it in deep shade.

  • Casey Mar 16, 2018, 3:05 pm

    Hello! We are in the full-on-sunniness of Cuba and I’m sold! This sounds like an excellent alternative to the sparse, patchy spider gradd we have growing (no, turning brown) in our lawn. How would you sow it on soil that’s already degraded? Would you recommend to sow it on the surface, or loosely pull up the top inch or so? This is dirt that’s so dead there aren’t even worms in it. I’ve had to truck in the soil for my garden and have been heavily supplementing with kitchen compost.

    Thank you for an informative post.

    • Kris Bordessa Mar 24, 2018, 1:14 pm

      This ‘grass’ is generally planted from rooted cuttings, so you’d need to spade open the soil and insert a cutting.

  • Elizabeth Bergin Jan 4, 2019, 12:22 pm

    If you are using it as a lawn alternative – how often do you have to mow it. I live in St. Petersburg Fl

    • Kris Bordessa Jan 4, 2019, 6:15 pm

      If it’s a mowed area, it tends to stay low. I’d say every 2-3 weeks? (I’ll have to pay closer attention!)

  • Connie Mar 1, 2019, 11:05 am

    Peanut Grass do you have a lot of Bees in your yard? Wee have a little dog?

    • Kris Bordessa Mar 3, 2019, 12:27 pm

      Not as many as I would like!

  • Javi Aug 4, 2019, 3:25 pm

    Hi. Thanks for this info. I found it super useful since i got to live in place where is all around. I wonder if i can eat it as greens and clorofile source, similar to alfalfa or clovers?

  • Linda Hayman Sep 14, 2019, 4:45 am

    The article says it is good for erosion control. We would like to plant peanut grass in our drainage swale that receives alot of stormwater runoff from the hill where we live. The City stormwater guy claims that it won’t stabilize the sandy soil sufficiently to keep the soil in place during a heavy (Central Florida) rain. Do you have any input to that issue?

    • Kris Bordessa Sep 20, 2019, 12:51 pm

      Nothing from a professional standpoint, but it’s pretty deep rooted. I would *think it would work…

  • Leisa Oct 8, 2019, 4:21 am

    I would love to us this plant in my fenced in backyard. What are ways to control/stop spreading past a fence line?

    • Kris Bordessa Oct 8, 2019, 8:35 am

      It’s pretty deep rooted, and spreads underground. If you’re concerned about crossing a fence line, I wouldn’t use it.

  • Moku Apr 26, 2020, 1:29 pm

    Thank you for the article. It really helped us in making a decision on what we want to use for ground cover. Only problem is we can’t find anyone locally, big Island, that carries seeds. If you don’t me along, where did you get yours?

    Mahalo

    • Kris Bordessa Apr 28, 2020, 7:08 am

      It was on site when we moved in. It’s easiest to grow from starts, and anyone who has it could get those for you. Where are you located?

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