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How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Peanuts

Peanuts ready for harvest
Peanuts at harvest
Peanuts at harvest

Peanuts are easy to grow if you live where there are long, hot summers of at least 4 months (5 is better). The peanut is a warm-weather perennial that is usually grown as an annual. It requires 120 to 130 frost-free days to reach harvest.

The peanut is an odd and interesting plant. It grows 12 to 20 inches tall and bears two kinds of flowers: the first kind is showy, and yellow, and also sterile; the second kind is also yellow but fertile and is borne on a recurved stalk which touches the ground, penetrates it, carrying the fertilized ovary beneath the surface where it ripens into what we call a peanut. The peanut’s extraordinary fruiting habit is an interesting curiosity.

Harvesting the peanut is like that of any root crop– the peanut must be dug out when ripe. Usually, the whole plant is lifted with peanuts attached. The fruits are then cured and dried.

There are two general types of peanuts. The one most often grown is the Runner Peanut; it is a vinelike plant that sprawls and requires a considerable amount of room. The other is the Bunch Peanut which grows upright and is bushy. The bunch type is usually grown by those who harvest the tops for forage.

Runner-type peanuts are commonly distinguished by the shape of their nut when shelled. ‘Virginia’ peanuts are long and slender. ‘Runner’ peanuts are small and stubby. ‘Valencia’ peanuts are oval. ‘Spanish’ peanuts are round. Spanish types are the best for northern growing.

Here’s your complete guide to growing peanuts.

Peanut Quick Growing Tips

  • Sow peanuts in the garden 3 to 4 weeks after the average last frost date in spring, when the soil has warmed to at least 65°F (18°C).
  • To get a head start on the season start peanuts indoors 5 to 8 weeks before transplanting seedlings outdoors.
  • Peanuts require a long growing season, about 120 days of warm weather to mature. They can withstand light spring and fall frosts.
  • Peanut yield: Grow 10 to 12 peanut plants per household member.

How Peanuts Grow

The peanut plant grows from 12 to 20 inches (15-50 cm) tall, depending on the type; some are upright and erect in form, and others are more spreading or running. Plants form two sets of opposite leaves on each stem and sweet-pea-like yellow flowers at stem ends. There are two kinds of flowers; one is showy and sterile; the second is yellow but fertile. After pollination occurs, stalks on which the faded fertile flowers curve down to penetrate the soil after they have developed long pointed pegs called peduncles. The pegs push 1 to 3 inches into the soil. Below ground, each peg–which is a fertilized ovary–ripens into what is called a peanut.

Types of Peanuts

There are four basic types of peanuts: Runner, Spanish, Virginia, and Valencia.

Runner Peanuts

  • Runner-type has uniform medium-sized seeds, usually two seeds per pod, growing from a low bush. Runner types are ready for harvest 130 to 150 days from planting. The uniform sizes of the seed make these a good choice for roasting (often used as beer nuts) and peanut butter. Runner types are grown in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Spanish

  • Spanish-type has small, roundish seeds covered with reddish-brown skin, growing on a low bush. Spanish-types are ready to harvest 120 days from planting. The Spanish-type peanut has high oil content and is used for oil, peanut butter, and snacks. Spanish-type peanuts are commonly grown in Oklahoma, Texas, and South Africa.

Virginia

  • Virginia-type has the largest seed of the four peanut types; the seed is most often roasted. There are commonly two and sometimes three seeds per pod. The Virginia-type peanut stands 24 inches (61cm) tall and spreads to 30 inches (76cm) wide and is ready for harvest 130 to 150 days from harvest. Virginia-type peanuts are mostly grown from southeastern Virginia into northeastern North Carolina.

Valencia

  • Valencia-type has three to six small, oval seeds crowded into each pod. Each seed is covered with bright-red skin. Valencia peanuts are often roasted in the shell or boiled fresh and are often used in confections and cocktails. The plants grow to about 50 inches (127cm) tall and spread about 30 inches (76cm); most of the pods are clustered around the base of the plant. The Valencia type is ready for harvest 95 to 100 days from planting. Most Valencia peanuts are grown in New Mexico.
Peanut plant grows in garden
Peanuts grow best in loose, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. A sandy-loamy soil is best.

Where to Plant Peanuts

  • Plant peanuts in full sun.
  • Peanuts grow best in loose, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. A sandy-loamy soil is best. The soil must be loose so that the pegs can penetrate and grow.
  • Double-dig clay soil and add gypsum and aged compost.
  • Work in enough organic matter to make the soil loose and friable. Amend acidic soil by adding sandy loam.
  • Peanuts prefer a soil pH of 5.8 to 6.2.

Peanuts Planting Time

  • Peanuts require at least 120 frost-free days to reach harvest.
  • Sow peanuts in the garden 3 to 4 weeks after the average last frost date in spring, when the soil has warmed to at least 65°F (18°C).
  • To get a head start on the season start peanuts indoors 5 to 8 weeks before transplanting seedlings outdoors.
  • Peanuts require nearly all of the growing days to have an air temperature greater than 85°F (29°C).

Starting Peanuts in Northern Regions

  • Northern gardeners should start peanuts indoors in large peat pots a month before the last frost.
  • Sow seed 1 inch deep.
  • Place the pot in the sunniest spot possible and water it weekly.
  • Transplant seedlings to the garden when the soil temperature warms to between 60° and 70°F.
  • Transplant peanuts to sandy loam; sandy loam warms up quickly and will lengthen the peanut growing season.
  • A sheltered site that slopes to the south will be the warmest for peanuts growing in northern regions.
  • Grow under a floating row cover to hasten growth.

Starting Peanuts in Southern Regions

  • Plant peanuts directly in the garden around the date of the last expected frost.
  • Space seeds 2 inches deep and 5 inches apart in rows 2 to 3 feet apart.
  • Firm the soil and water well.
  • Thin peanut seedlings to 10 inches apart.

Planting and Spacing Peanuts

  • Sow peanuts in the whole shell or in the papery skin surrounding the seed. If you shell them, don’t remove the thin, pinkish brown seed covering, or the seed won’t germinate.
  • Sow seed 1½ to 3 inches (4-7cm) deep; set seed 6 to 8 inches (15-20cm) apart; thin successful plants or set transplants 18 inches (45cm) apart.
  • Plant peanuts in double rows to save space, staggering the seeds 18 inches (45cm) apart. Single rows can be spaced 12 to 24 inches (30-61cm) apart.
  • When the plants are 12 inches (30cm) tall, mound the soil up around the base of the plant so that faded flowers can set pegs down into the hill.
  • For a head start on the season, start peanuts indoors in individual biodegradable peat or paper pots that can be set whole into the garden.

More tips at Peanut Seed Starting Tips.

Hilling Up Peanuts

  • When plants are 12 inches tall, hill the soil up around the base of each plant.
  • Long, pointed pegs (also called peduncles) grow from faded flowers; the pegs push 1 to 3 inches down into the soil beside the plant.
  • Spread a light mulch of straw or grass clippings around each plant so that the pegs will have no difficulty penetrating the soil.

Watering Peanuts

  • Peanuts prefer regular, even watering.
  • Give peanuts about one inch of water a week (about 6.5 gallons).
  • Keep the soil moist until the plants begin to flower, then waterless.
  • Once plants are established, allow the soil to dry between waterings.
  • Empty pods, sometimes called “blind” pods, are the result of too much rain or humidity at flowering time.

Feeding Peanuts

  • Prepare planting beds with aged compost.
  • Peanuts, like other legumes, supply their own nitrogen. Avoid nitrogen-rich fertilizers which encourage foliage rather than fruits.

Caring for Peanuts

  • Mulch around peanuts to keep the soil surface from crusting and becoming hard; this will allow pegs to penetrate the soil.
  • Keep the planting beds weed-free and cultivate lightly to keep the soil loose.
  • Mulching around peanuts is effective weed control and will make harvesting easier.
Peanut plant in soil
Keep the soil moist until the plants begin to flower, then waterless.

Peanuts Companion Plants

  • Grow peanuts with beets and potatoes.
  • Do not grow peanuts in the shadow of tall plants such as corn or pole beans.

Container Growing Peanuts

  • Peanuts can be grown in containers but allow enough room for flower stems to dip into the soil to set pegs; choose a container at least 18 inches (45cm) across and at least 12 inches (30cm) deep.

Peanut Pests

  • Peanuts commonly have no other serious pest problems.
  • Fence rodents out of the garden.
  • Aphids can be washed away with a steady stream of water.
  • Potato leafhoppers sometimes yellow the foliage by feeding; Bordeaux spray will control leafhoppers.
  • Corn earworm sometimes feeds on the plant late in the season. Neem oil will control corn earworms.

Peanut Diseases

  • Peanuts have no serious disease problems.
  • Leaf blights, sclerotium blight, southern root rot, wilt, chlorosis, and fruit rots can occur. These can be controlled by crop rotation with grass or grain cover crops. Destroy infected plants. Plant healthy seeds.
The peanut plant develops underground seed ends called pegs or peduncles; these are the seed pods we call peanuts.
The peanut plant develops underground seed ends called pegs or peduncles; these are the seed pods we call peanuts.

Harvesting Green Stage Peanuts

  • Peanuts can be harvested when they are well-formed by not yet fully mature; these are called “green stage” peanuts. The hulls of green stage peanuts are still thin and soft.
  • Dig up green stage peanuts and take them off the vine.
  • Boil the nuts inside the hulls in salted water.
  • After 5 to 10 minutes, remove them from the water, drain, salt, and roast in the oven 10 to 15 minutes. These can be eaten nuts shells and all.

Harvesting Mature Peanuts

  • Peanuts will be ready for harvest when the leaves turn yellow and begin to wither, usually 120 to 150 days after planting.
  • The inner shells of ripe peanuts will have gold-marked veins; you can check for the gold-marked veins periodically by pulling out a few nuts from the soil and shelling them.
  • Dig up the entire plant to get the pods.
  • Lift pods with a garden fork, pulling up the whole plant.
  • Pulling or digging the plants and roots is easier if the soil is just moist.
  • If you wait too long to harvest peanuts, the pegs will become brittle and break off in the ground–making harvesting more difficult.
  • Where the growing season is short, the main crop will be under the center of the plant; the peanuts on the outside edge will not have time to finish ripening.
  • Shake away loose soil and hang the whole plant to dry for about two weeks in a warm, dry place. When the leaves become crumbly, remove the pods.
  • Seeds can be removed when the hulls are completely dry.
  • Each plant will yield about 40 to 50 pods or shelled nuts.
  • Harvest before the first frost, or after frost when the vines start to turn yellow

Curing Peanuts

  • Cure peanuts in the sunshine for a few weeks; bring them indoors if rain is forecast.
  • In cold climates or wet weather, hang peanut plants to cure in an airy but shaded place, a garden shed or attic.
  • Peanuts should cure for about 2 months.
  • When the leaves are dry and crumbly, take the nuts off the vines, roast them, and store them.
  • If peanuts are not dry, place them in a mesh bag or cardboard box to dry another 2 or w weeks.
  • If peanuts become moldy, place them in the trash. Peanut mod is a dangerous carcinogen.

Storing and Preserving Peanuts

  • Raw, unshelled peanuts can be kept in a dry, dark, well-ventilated place for up to 3 months.
  • Dried-shelled peanuts can be stored in a cool, dry place for 10 to 12 months.
  • Shelled peanuts can be sprouted, frozen, used for peanut butter, or roasted for snacks.
  • 1shelled peanuts can be stored briefly in airtight containers and refrigerated.
  • For long storage, peanuts can be frozen.

Roasting Peanuts

  • To roast peanuts, spread them out in a shallow pan or on a cookie sheet and roast at 350°F. Stir frequently. Roast for about 15 to 20 minutes.
  • To know if a roasted peanut is done, remove shells at intervals to check.
  • When the skin slips off easily and the nut is light brown and tastes “roasted”, it is done.
  • A properly roasted peanut will have a brittle shell and an inner skin that comes off easily.

Peanut Varieties to Grow

  • Runner (130-150 days): ‘Florunner’; ‘Southern Runner’.
  • Spanish (120 days): ‘Early Spanish’; ‘Pronto’; ‘Star Spanish’.
  • Virginia (130-150 days): ‘Carwile’s Virginia’; ‘Jumbo’.
  • Valencia (95-120 days); ‘Georgia Red’; ‘Tennessee Red’; ‘Valencia A’.

About Peanuts

  • Common name. Peanut, goober, groundnut
  • Botanical name. Arachis hypogaea
  • Family: Legume
  • Origin. Brazil, South America

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. Harvesttotable.com has more than 10 million visitors each year.

Comments

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  1. Writing from Colorado Springs, CO, USA at 5,969 feet above sea level, growing zone 5b. I’m late in the season to even attempt, but for next year, I’m wondering what other methods I can implement to help peanuts grow here. I’m practicing Back to Eden methodology. I excavated one foot of the Colorado clay from my front yard, and backfilled with wood chips. With a clean slate, I make a hole in the mulch where I plan to grow, then fill with garden soil; and further amend with worm castings and partially aged compost (with 4 different earthworms species) from my compost bin. I fully plan to sow indoors for 8-10 weeks before Mother’s Day, which is roundabout when our last frost date is. I also utilize captured rain water from rain barrels when I can, and am in the process of reconfiguring my drip system when I have to use chlorinated city water.

    In addition to warming the ground with black tarp, what else am I missing that I can do to help give peanuts the best chance of surviving; not just for the growing season, but helping it also come back as a perennial?

    Additionally, as the sun is so brutally strong at elevations so high, and air is so dry, would the use of shade cloth be recommended? Many thanks for your sage advice!

    • Shade cloth placed directly above the plant will shield the plant from mid-day burning sun; the plant will still get sun in the morning and afternoon. In Zone 5b, it will be difficult to grow peanuts as a perennial without growing in a winter-heated greenhouse. You can try protecting the plants from cold using a plastic tunnel; this will allow you to start earlier and grow later into the season. See this link: Plastic Tunnels for Growing Vegetables

  2. Hi Steve. I became fan of your site. I am working and living in Kuwait for the time being and I am trying so hard to start and learn gardening. I am sure peanut will work here. I seeded indoor. Temp is around 9-20 degree C. But there is no soil here. ONLY sand. I am following your instructions and am quite sure to have good results. I find at least 7-8 different websites or youtube videos’ information all in one aricle of yours. My main question is: every seeding is timed as “first frost or last frost”. The problem is there is no frost here. But summer can reach 50 degree C.So I can not adjust planting dates. What would my calendar be like?.

    • The optimal soil temperature for growing peanuts is 70 to 80F (21-26C). It is likely you will want to grow peanuts in the cooler time of the year, perhaps in winter or spring, or fall. Time your planting so that the peanuts are maturing and come to harvest when the soil temperature is optimal. Check with a local agriculture agency or library for the range of soil temperature throughout the year. In the United States, Zone 10 and 11 growers–southern growers–grow crops in what is called the reverse season–in winter instead of summer.

  3. Thanks for this article. I’m in Texas and accidentally grew peanuts. In fact, a squirrel would take raw peanuts from my neighbor’s food box and plant them in my garden without realizing that they would sprout.

    This is a new experience for me, so I’m a little wary on whether any of the peanuts I”m growing are safe to eat. 1 is in a grow bag, 1 is in a ceramic pot, 2 are in a long and shallow ceramic planter (very crowded), and one in a shallow pot that also had gladiolas in the same pot (the gladiolas eventually died and dried out, so I removed them, but left the peanut plant without realizing it would actually give me peanuts!).

    My main question – the peanuts that shared the same soil as the gladiolas, are they safe to eat? Or would the toxicity from the gladiolas seep into the peanuts?

    Also, I noticed a peanut on the surface of the soil turning green from sun exposure. Would that be safe to eat? Or is it like potatoes where they can become toxic?

    Thanks for your help!

    • Roast the peanuts before you eat them; this should eliminate bacteria or fungi. If you are unsure about raw peanuts, avoid eating them.

  4. I am sutjar samir Kumar from india, we are regular growing peanut /groundnuts crop here sucesessfully like 3 hectare every year, if you want looking my farm you can video call me +919016929155whatsapp in this season,
    if you are going to cultivation this crop, its is not simply as you are reading at internet, this is required lots of fertilizer at the right time or machinery iqupment,
    if you are holding large land in any country or want cultivation you can contact me, I will aggrange all thinks or risk free business. I hope you are happy, thanks

  5. I live in North Carolina with my service dog, Maximilian. Everyday we fill a small bucket w/peanuts and everyday some squirrel, or squirrels, empty it. I have a small garden where the basket hangs and now I have peanut plants that I didn’t plants growing in various spots. It’s nice to have extra help and if I had more land maybe I could become as rich as Jimmy Carter. I purchase the nuts at our local Farmers’ Market. Because they are able to sprout I assume they have not been roasted. The plants grow rapidly and are great for filling out a bare space. The peanuts bring the squirrels, my Max likes to chase them providing him w/additional exercise and I get thriving peanut plants. Sounds good to me!

    • Yes, the squirrels have spread the peanuts for you–the new plants are called “volunteers”. Sound like you and Maximilian are starting a peanut farm! Go Maximilian!!

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