How Do Peanuts Grow? The Difference of “Tree Nuts” & Where They Come From

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Gardening | February 15, 2024

Man looking at peanuts growing underground and wonders, how do peanuts grow, do peanuts grow on trees, and where do peanuts come from, wondering if there is a peanut plant guide showing how to plant peanuts and peanut plants.

Have you ever wondered how do peanuts grow? What makes them different from “tree nuts” like walnuts and pecans?

Interestingly, this tasty, highly nutritious snack is not a “nut” but a member of the beans and peas family.

In fact, peanuts have a very interesting and unique growing method.

This peanut guide explains the answer to the question, how do peanuts grow, and includes lots of very fun and curious facts.

What Are Peanut Plants?

A Peanut Plant (Arachis hypogaea) or groundnut is not a nut but a legume related to beans, peas, and lentils.

It grows 18-25 inches tall, sprouting striking self-pollinating flowers that dig inches below the ground and form seeds/ pegs.

Close up photo of the leaves of the peanut with drops of dews on it.

(Image: hgsarc12)

You may ask, are Peanuts seeds? And how do farmers plant them?

After harvesting, they set aside some of the Peanuts for the next season and typically process the rest into Peanut butter and other food products.

What Does a Peanut Plant Look Like?

A Peanut Plant is hard to miss with its striking yellow flowers that grow from the lower parts closer to the ground. It is tiny, shrubby, and grows 18-25 inches with dark green, ovate leaves and hairy stems.

It flowers like any other plant but fruits below the ground (like root veggies), forming hard brown shells at the tips of the shoots that dig into the soil.


(Arachis hypogaea)

Graphic image of peanuts in an oval frame on a green background.
  • Family: Fabaceae
  • Genus: Arachis
  • Leaf: Four leaflets per leaf, making them a tetrafoliate
  • Bark: Smooth grey
  • Seed: The shape can vary from being elongated to almost circular, and their seed coat is thin and papery, with a shade that can range from white to dark purple
  • Blossoms: The petals of the flower, which are about 10mm (0.4 inch) wide, are located in the area between the leaves and are a golden-yellow color
  • Fruit: The mesocarp is largely composed of several prominent veins running along its length
  • Native Habitat: Western Hemisphere
  • Height: Up to 25 inches
  • Canopy: Open, round-topped
  • Type: Medium sized deciduous

How Do Peanuts Grow? Do Peanuts Grow on Trees?

Peanuts have a unique growing method. Unlike the Black Walnut Tree, chestnut, and pecan, they don’t grow on trees since they are legumes, whose fruits grow in seed pods.

Instead of waiting under it for the nuts to fall, you have to dig under the plant since they grow below or at the ground’s surface.

After about 6-8 weeks after planting, the Peanut Plant develops yellow flowers.

After self-pollination, a shoot pierces into the ground allowing the nuts to grow; one plant can yield 30-50 Peanuts, explaining why they need ample space between them.4

Peanut Tree or Peanut Plant?

Peanuts are not trees but members of the Fabaceae group of plants, like beans, lentils, and peas. Then how do Peanuts grow that makes them different?

They flower above the ground like any other tree but fruit underground.

It grows into a tiny bush, reaching about 18 inches tall, and the brown shell that holds the seed is a special type of peapod.

Other nuts that grow on bushes include the Hazelnut Tree, chinquapin, beans, lentils, and chickpeas.

On the other hand, most nuts grow on trees,10 including almonds, Cashew Tree, Brazil nuts, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, macadamia nuts, and American chestnut.

Peanut Bush Varieties

Besides providing you with tasty snacks, Peanuts are also low-maintenance evergreen shrubs that you can use for landscaping.

They come in various species, and you can pick one based on its growing needs.

Graphics of varieties of peanuts bush showing Runner peanuts, Virginia peanuts, Spanish peanuts, and Valencia peanuts.

Below are four of the most popular options:

  1. Runner Peanuts: These are the best for making Peanut butter. They guarantee high yields and uniform shape, perfect for large-scale commercial use.
  2. Valencia Peanuts: With 3-4 kernels a shell, these Peanuts are preferred for their sweet flavor, red skin, and high-fat content.
  3. Spanish Peanuts: This South American native from Brazil has red skin and is rich in oil, ideal for butter formulas.
  4. Virginia Peanuts: This is the most widely grown variety throughout the country. The massive shells produce high yields; many love roasting and adding them to recipes.

How Do Peanuts Grow: Peanut Plant Flower?

It is interesting how Peanuts grow because the fruits form underground, unlike other nut trees.

The flowers emerge at the lower parts of the tree around 40 days after sowing the seeds.

Close up photo of the yellow peanut flower with the peanut leaves as its blurred background.

(Image: Harry Rose13)

These bright yellow flowers self-pollinate, and the petals drop off as the Peanut ovary forms. The plant’s fruits and seeds form at the end of pegs/ live shoots which dig into the soil, with the clusters at the end of the pegs.

Where Do Peanuts Come From? Growing Habits of the Peanut?

Peanuts have a unique growing habit, unlike other nut trees. The difference is that they start growing from above the ground, produce flowers, then fruit, and ripen underground in the following process.

First, you plant the seeds/ the Peanut in the ground, water, and care for it until it germinates and forms oval-shaped leaves that grow into a bush.

The next step is maturity, where the plant blooms and produces pegs or special stem-like sprouts.

Each tip end of the peg becomes a seed pod, and the pegs grow downwards and dig underground, allowing the seed pods to mature. The plants will then be ready to harvest in September-October.5

Do Peanuts Grow Underground?

Peanuts are not like other nuts that grow on trees. Instead, they fruit beneath the ground and belong to the same family of beans that grow in seed pods.

You have to dig them out from the soil the same way as how to grow carrots,6 and you can grow them from seeds or cuttings.

How To Harvest Peanuts Roots

The signs for harvesting Peanuts are when the leaves turn yellow, around late summer and early fall.

You can also confirm by removing some pods from the soil and checking that the surfaces have veins and the coats are brightly colored with dark insides.

When the soil is dry, you can dig out the plant, shake it to remove the dirt, and hang it with the Peanuts intact.

After about a week, you can remove the soil from around the pods, remove the Peanuts, and air-dry them again for another week; they should be ready for eating or processing.

Where Do Peanuts Grow and Where Can You Plant Them?

Peanuts are less demanding than other nut trees and will thrive, provided the prevailing conditions are favorable.

They only need fertile ground with loose soil, slightly high temperatures and plenty of water.

Image of peanuts on top of each other.

(Image: Pixabay14)

You can plant them in raised beds in your garden or containers. The open ground is perfect if you live in warm regions, but you must grow them in containers if you live in the cooler areas of North America.

They are easier to bring inside when it gets cold if growing in planters.

Planting Tips For Peanuts: How To Plant Peanuts in Easy Steps (Are Peanuts Hard To Grow?)

If you are concerned about whether Peanuts are hard to grow, you will be excited that it takes only a few steps. It is a low-maintenance job that you can do in the few steps below.

  1. Pick a Perfect Spot: You need a raised bed to grow Peanuts in your garden and ensure that the place receives a lot of sunlight. Otherwise, if in a cold region, you can start them indoors near a window before transplanting.
  2. Buy Peanut Seeds: While you can plant the seeds you buy from grocery stores, the ones from local gardens have higher success rates and guarantee better yields.2
  3. Plant the seeds: After removing the kernels from their shells, you can plant them in rows about 3 feet apart and dig them at least 2 inches into the ground.
  4. Keep the soil moist: Peanuts love well-draining soils, and it is best to keep watering them but don’t make the ground soggy.
  5. Hilling and mulching: Once the plant has reached a foot tall, you can hill around it and mulch them with organic matter. It will keep off weeds and help the soil maintain its moisture levels.

Growing Zones For Peanuts: Where To Grow Peanuts

Peanuts thrive in the warm parts of the planet, in Africa, Asia, Australia, and America, but more than half of the global supply comes from India.

They grow in hardiness zones 2-11 in the US, making them easy to plant in various parts of the country.

They are common in the East and South, where the temperatures are warmer and the soil drains properly. Where do Peanuts grow in the United States?

They primarily grow in 13 states: Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, Missouri, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Virginia, North Carolina, and New Mexico.8

When To Plant Peanuts for the Best Yield

Have you ever wondered when is Peanut season? The plant has a long season of over 100 days.

Farmers plant them some weeks after the last frost date and harvest them in September. However, if you live in the colder regions of the North, you can go for the fastest maturing varieties like the Spanish.

You also have a better shot by starting them indoors about five weeks before they need transplanting outside.

How Do Peanuts Grow?

Peanuts are unlike other nut trees whose fruits and seeds fall to the ground. It grows as a shrub and flowers on the plant but fruits underground thanks to the shoots that dig into the soil when it matures.

Like potatoes, you must dig out the plant once it starts withering, indicating that the nuts are ready for harvesting.

How Long It Takes To Grow Peanuts

Peanuts take 4-5 months to grow, depending on the variety you planted and whether you met all its needs. Therefore, you can harvest in the fall if you sowed them in summer, which is a short time, especially if expecting a bumper harvest.

You can tell they are ready for harvesting if the foliage discolors and turns yellow or the plant looks like it’s dying. Harvesting when the leaves are still green and vibrant is not advisable because the plant will still channel all its resources to develop the seeds.

What Are the Growth Habits of Perennial Peanut?

The Perennial Peanut is a flexible plant that grows in various parts of the state.

It helps form a perfect ground cover that you can plant as is or as an evergreen landscaping cover alongside other low-growing shrubs.

Graphic that shows the different peanuth plant growth stages which are dormant, swollen bud, bud burst, green cluster, flowers set, and fruits set.

The spreading growth habit makes it ideal for growing in areas with spoil erosion issues.

What Are the Watering Needs For Peanut Plants?

Peanuts are used to the warm, humid conditions of the tropical native regions, therefore, can be water hungry. They love the moist soil; you can provide water at least once a week or once the ground seems dry.

However, remember not to overwater to avoid root rot, and don’t irrigate at least two weeks before harvesting.

When you see the leaves turning yellow, it is a sign that the plant is exhausting its resources to promote the growth of the nuts, and it’s a cue to stop watering and wait until you are ready to uproot the plant.

How Much Sunlight Do Peanuts Need Each Day?

Since Peanuts are natives of tropical regions, they thrive best under warm temperatures and love the sun. You should provide them at least 6-8 sunlight hours daily to ensure the leaves and shoots grow better.

Be careful when planting in the open by avoiding shading trees and buildings, and if you live in colder regions, you can start the seeds indoors to prevent frost damage.

Best Companion Plants For Growing Peanuts

Peanuts are nitrogen-fixing plants that are beneficial to other crops.

Similarly, they also need flowering plants around them to help attract pollinators.

Graphics of best companion plants for growing peanuts showing vegetables like squash, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, potato, and beet; flowers like marigolds, hibiscus, cosmos, and nasturtium; fruits like strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries; and herbs like rosemary, parsley, and mint.

The following are the best companions for Peanuts.

  • Vegetables: Squash, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, potatoes, beets
  • Flowers: Marigolds, hibiscus, cosmos, nasturtium
  • Fruits: Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries
  • Herbs: Rosemary, parsley, mint

What Are the Best Growing Conditions for Peanuts?

You should check the following conditions to ensure your Peanuts grow healthy and strong.

  • Light

Peanuts enjoy the full sun and thrive best when they receive 6-8 sunlight hours daily.

  • Soil

Since they grow underground, Peanuts prefer loose, well-draining soil. It should also be slightly acidic with a Ph range of 6-6.5, and to be safe, avoid planting them in places where you previously planted peas or beans.

  • Water

Peanuts need at least an inch of water every week or deep irrigation once a week. However, they need more before germination and after the pegs have dug into the soil.

When irrigating, avoid the water touching the leaves and stop watering 10-14 days before harvesting.

  • Fertilizer

Peanuts are nitrogen-fixing plants and don’t need extra nitrogen-based fertilizers. They need more calcium for the pods and organic fertilizer to boost the growth of the roots.

Also, note that they are prone to fertilizer burn, and adding the booster before seeding is best.

  • Temperature

Peanuts grow best when the soil temperatures7 are between 86-93 degrees (F), and any higher can damage the flowers.3

They also enjoy humid conditions, although it should be dry for a while before harvesting.

Growing Peanuts From a Seed

You can use the seeds from store-bought Peanuts, but the best types are those sold in gardens and nurseries. Carefully remove them from the shells without ruining the skin, or they won’t grow.

You plant them 2 inches into the soil 3 feet apart in every row.

Close up image of a peanut seedlings planted on temporary plastic.

(Image: Francesco Gallarotti15)

Water the soil and keep it wet to facilitate germination, which should occur in about 15 days.

When the plant reaches a foot high, you can hill and mulch using extra soil and organic matter to control the weeds and maintain the soil moisture.

Growing Peanuts From a Cutting

Instead of planting Peanuts from seeds, you can take the shorter way out and sow stems cuttings.

You propagate it almost the same as how to grow celery and dig the part 3-5 inches in the soil.

Ensure that you provide enough water to facilitate the formation of the roots in 2-4 weeks, and never let the cutting dry out, or it will fail to grow.

Growing Peanuts From a Seedling

Depending on the prevailing conditions, you can grow Peanuts from the seeds or the seedling. Starting outdoors is OK, provided that it is warm enough for the seeds to germinate into seedlings.

However, if you live in the Northern US, where the temperatures can dip, it is best to start indoors and transplant them outside as seedlings.

You can sow them in containers and tend them indoors until the temperatures rise enough to take them outside. First, dig a hole that accommodates the seedling and transplant, adding more soil and watering it regularly until you see signs of growth.

How To Care for a Peanut Plant

Peanuts love humidity and high temperatures, explaining why they are native to the tropical rainforest regions of South America. You want to place them where they can receive as much sunlight as possible, and if growing Peanuts in containers, ensure that they have sufficient room to expand and grow the pods.

Watering frequently boosts their growth but don’t overdo it, or they will suffer root rot. Additionally, check that the soil is fertile and slightly acidic, but don’t heavily fertilize them because they are nitrogen fixers; otherwise, they will grow excessive leaves but fewer Peanuts.

Growing Peanuts is more effortless in the southern parts of the country where the conditions are favorable, but if living in the North, the best bet is to start them indoors and transplant them later. Also, remember to hill around them11 as you do with potatoes to give them sufficient growth space and prevent weed growth.1

Common Pests of the Peanuts

The common pests to watch out for that attack plant leaves are aphids, caterpillars, armyworms, and slugs. They feed on the leaf juices, leaving the plants unsightly, interfering with the physiological processes, and leaving them vulnerable to diseases.

Besides the leaf eaters, you also want to watch out for larger pests that love feasting on the tasty nuts. Rodents, squirrels, chipmunks, and other nut lovers always target farms and know how to dig for the Peanuts growing underground.

They are the most difficult pests because they directly steal your harvest, leaving you with trees without fruits underneath. Only mesh covers can help keep your Peanuts safe from hungry animals.

Natural Pest Control for Peanuts

Farmers know that crop rotation is the key to keeping off pests. Proper rotation ensures that you don’t plant Peanuts in a spot with a high pest infestation because the last season’s dangers can easily recur and affect the crops again.

If you don’t want to spray chemicals on your field, you can also create a natural pest repellant9 at home using items in your kitchen. Mix water with dish soap, garlic, and ash to make a safe and effective insecticide that doesn’t affect your crops.

How To Stop Peanut Disease

Peanuts are also susceptible to viruses and fungi that can be fatal unless under control. The botrytis blight, for instance, is a fungal disease that appears as several spots on the leaves, causing wilting and death.

Still, you can manage it by applying foliar fungicides and planting the early varieties.

Early leaf spot and rust fungi also manifest through flecks and lesions on the upper parts of the leaves, but you can keep them at bay by practicing crop rotation and spraying fungicides like the Bordeaux mixtures.

Rows of peanuts plants with their visible dark yellow flowers and dark green leaves.

(Image: Docujeju16)

Generally, if you want to protect your plants from diseases, ensure that you use quality seeds and practice proper spacing to avoid overcrowding which escalates infections. Also, remember to irrigate the crops regularly, add fertilizer when necessary to boost growth, and intercrop with millet and sorghum.

It is shocking to learn that the Peanut is not a nut tree but a legume that belongs to the same family as beans and peas. Another exciting feature is that the nuts don’t grow on the leaves and branches like walnuts and pecans.

The Peanut has the same growth habits as a potato, which you harvest by uprooting. It thrives when the soil temperatures are high and the conditions are humid, which explains why it is native to tropical regions.

You have a better chance of success if you live in the southern parts of the US. You may want to grow Peanuts in your garden for snacking or a large scale farm for butter processing.

By understanding the answer to the question, how do peanuts grow, you just might want to plant your own and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Frequently Asked Question About How Do Peanuts Grow

Can I Learn How Far Apart To Plant Peanuts?

Since Peanuts grow beneath the soil, they need sufficient space for the shoots to expand and grow as many pods as possible. Spacing also helps avoid pests and diseases; you can plant each seed at least 3 feet apart.


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