The peanut originated in South America and bears best where summers are long and warm. It is tender to frost but worth growing even in the Upper South. Plants resemble bush sweet peas (Lathyrus), 1020 in. tall. After the bright yellow flowers fade, a peg (shootlike structure) develops at each flower's base and grows down into soil; peanuts develop underground. For best performance, give fertile, well-drained soil; sandy or other light-textured soil is ideal for penetration by pegs.
The four basic classes of peanuts are Virginia (roasting); Runner types (peanut butter, boiling), with two large seeds per pod; Spanish (candy, peanut butter), with two or three small seeds per pod; and Valencia (roasting or boiling), with three to six small seeds per pod. Buy seeds (unroasted peanuts) from mail-order suppliers.
Plant just as soon as soil has warmed in spring, setting seeds (with shells removed but skins intact) 1122 in. deep. Sow seeds of Virginia and Runner peanuts 68 in. apart; sow Spanish and Valencia peanuts 46 in. apart. Fertilize at planting time. Within 110 to 120 days after planting, foliage yellows and plants are ready to dig; loosen soil, then pull up plants. Let peanuts dry on vines in a warm, airy, shaded place for two to three weeks; then strip them from plants.