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Ask Dr. Hort: On the hunt for perennial peanut

Perennial peanut, Arachis glabrata

UF/IFAS

Perennial peanut, Arachis glabrata

On the hunt for perennial peanut

Q: I am wanting to buy peanut cover with little yellow flowers that they use in medians, but in seed form by the bushel. Any ideas? David Eluik

Dr. Hort: Unfortunately, perennial peanut, Arachis glabrata, produces very few seeds and is propagated vegetatively from underground rhizomes (stems), so your choices are plugs, 6-inch pots (1 gallon) or sod.

Perennial peanut first came to Florida as a forage crop for cattle. For this purpose varieties such as "Floragraze" may be purchased as sprigs. Over time, different selections were obtained for better flower production and ability to grow very flat and be quite drought tolerant, resulting in some named cultivated varieties (cultivars) for the landscape.

"Ecoturf," "Arblick" and "Needlepoint" are now found growing in medians, rights of way and as an alternative to turf in peoples lawns.

Have we found the ultimate Florida ground cover? Perennial peanut is a prostrate (flat, ground-hugging) growing, drought-tolerant, cold-hardy plant that's resistant to diseases, insects and nematodes. It's salt tolerant and requires no mowing, pesticides or fertilization. It flowers profusely in bright yellow to orange through the warm months, especially the dead of summer, and requires no irrigation after establishment.

To be fair and balanced, it does look a little rough during a cold winter and doesn't hold up to foot traffic.

David: Have you any suggestions where to buy sod/plugs? Which is better? And when is the best time to plant?

Dr. Hort: The following link gives you all of the information to decide what to purchase: edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep135. Sod will be the most expensive, but an instant lawn. Plugs or containers will have a grow-in period where weeds will have to be controlled. A good place to start would be Council Growers, councilgrowers.com, to purchase the product. When to plant depends on irrigation. If irrigation is available, try January through March, while it is still dormant. If no irrigation is available, try the end of June to August during the rainy season. It all comes down to price, irrigation and how large the area is to cover.

Snail shells appear in a cluster, but how, why?

Q: What causes snail shells to show up? We came into our office one morning and found 25 to 30 shells gathered together in our parking lot. We didn't cluster them together. That's just the way they appeared. They're a little bigger than the size of a golf ball and we never saw the snails, just the shells. They're brown with black bands and located about 150 feet from a retention pond. Other than someone just dumping them there, we can't figure out how they got there. Robert Obara, Lutz

A: The shells appear to be those of "apple snails," Pomacea spp., which are primarily algae and soft vegetation eaters. They are sold in pet stores for aquariums and also reside in your retention pond. They usually remain inactive and somewhat hidden during the day and come out to feed at night. They are a favorite snack for limpkins, turtles and fish.

But why the dozens of empty shells in your parking lot? My wife, Leslie, has a thought. Is it possible that you had a major rainstorm and the pond raised, carrying the floating empty shells into your parking lot? It sure sounds plausible.

Need help? Dr. Hort (Greg Charles) answers questions about garden problems. Email him at drhort@tampabay.rr.com or mail questions to HomeLink, Features Department, Tampa Bay Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Describe problem in full, and include your name, city of residence and contact information. If possible, include a good-quality photo. Fuzzy ones won't do. Photos cannot be returned. Please do not send plant samples.

Ask Dr. Hort: On the hunt for perennial peanut 03/16/13 [Last modified: Thursday, March 14, 2013 9:18pm]

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