Partridge Pea Guide What You Need To Know

A Green Manure Cover Crop

partridge pea plant

The partridge pea plant, also called Chamaecrista fasciculata, is a member of the legume family and is an easy way to increase the amount of nitrogen in your garden naturally.

It is not legumes themselves that move the nitrogen into our soil. The bacteria rhizobia need to be present in your soil to have this conversion.

The partridge pea captures the nitrogen in the air, moving it to its roots where this bacteria will convert it into a usable format in the soil for other plants.

It has bright yellow flowers that start to bloom in early summer. The flowers will be around until the first frost if it gets sufficient rain. Pollinators like bees are highly attracted to them, making them an excellent way for us to help the bees easily.

It prefers full sun and well-draining soil and grows on average to 2 feet but can reach a height of 3 feet.

Partridge peas require a pH level between 5 to 7.5. They do well in most soil types, sandy loam, clay loam, and loam, as long as the soil drains well.

Is The Partridge Pea an Annual or Perennial

The Partridge Pea is an annual; it will die every winter and then need to get regrown from seed.

The plant will self-seed, so you must watch out if you are trying to only grow it for a single season as a cover crop.

Once flowering gets done, pods will begin to develop, and these pods are what contain the seeds of the Partridge Pea.

An interesting fact I found was that they could reach a perennial status. They survive with 24 inches of water per year, but when they can get 35 inches of water in the year and a warm climate, they can achieve perennial status.[5]

Growth Stages For Partridge Pea:

1) Germination
2) Sprout
3) Vegetative
4) Early bud
5) Mid bud
6) Late bud
7) First bloom
8) Mid bloom
9) Full bloom

Planting Partridge Pea

Due to their hard outer shell, you can increase the germination rate by laying your seeds down in the late Fall (winter sowing) so that the cold winter can help create small cracks in the shells.

You can also soak the seeds in water overnight to help the seeds to germinate easier if winter sowing is not an option.

You want to lay the seeds somewhere that gets a lot of light. It will grow in partial shade but produce fewer flowers and seeds than in full sunlight.

The soil needs to have a pH level between 5 and 7.5. If your ground is commonly water-logged, it is not likely for the plant to survive.

Before we plant our Partridge Peas, we will have to prepare the soil first. Use a spade to help break up the ground and provide better aeration. Use a garden rake to break up the dirt and level your garden plot.

You will aim to plant the seeds between .5 and 1 inch deep. Use a garden rake to remove half to one inch of soil and lay down your seeds.

Cover the seeds with the soil and water well, ensuring your garden plot is entirely soaked.

Partridge Pea Fertilizer Requirments

You do not need to add any fertilizer when growing Patridge peas.

The strong point of this plant is its ability to improve all aspects of lousy soil significantly over multiple seasons.

Partridge Pea Root System

The root system of Partridge Pea consists of a short taproot about 6-12″ deep. These taproots work well at helping to break up the surface of our soil.

Partridge Pea Flower

The flowers are a bright yellow with five petals and are about one inch in diameter with a red spot at the base. In the center of the flower, we see up to 10 red to purple stamens of every flower.

It will begin to flower in early to mid-summer and continue into Fall.

We can keep the partridge pea blooming by removing (deadhead) the flowers once you see them wilting.

Some sources say that the deadhead technique will stop the plant from rampantly reseeding. Deadheading is unlikely to work for seed control, and I do not recommend it.

The only real way to prevent seeding would be to kill the plant before it even gets the chance to enter flowering before it can even make seeds.

Partridge Pea Companion Plants

1) Buckwheat
2) Pigeon pea
3) Sunchokes
4) Sunflowers

Example of Buckwheat, Pigeon peas, and partridge peas.

In this scenario, the buckwheat would quickly germinate and move in, helping prevent weeds. The partridge pea and pigeon peas would grow later, and as the buckwheat fades, they would begin moving in on the soil closing the canopy.

By the time our partridge peas start dying out, the pigeon peas would be able to grow well since the first two plants leave residues in our soil that are shown to prevent weeds from moving in.

Are Partridge Pea a Good Cover Crop

The Partridge pea significantly improves organic matter content and quality over the long term.[5]

A study conducted in china showed continual use of partridge peas will improve microbial activity, increase organic matter, and consistently improve available nitrogen, soil phosphorous concentrations, and soluble organic carbon.

The chance of it becoming an invasive species where planted means we should keep them out of our garden plots used for most vegetable production.

They will work fine if you grow vegetables like pigeon peas, sunchokes, or sunflowers that do not mind competition.

Partridge peas shine as a cover crop on long-term soil restoration projects and pasture improvements.

Partridge Pea as Green Manure

You need to be careful if you are trying to use them as a source of green manure without reseeding your garden bed.

If the plant has been allowed to create pods, it has already begun to develop seeds.

Suppose you do not have a well-established planting area and are trying to improve the quality of a large area like your backyard. In that case, you should check out the Partridge pea.


The partridge pea plant is a valuable cover crop to help us protect our soil from erosion and add additional nitrogen to our soil.

We can collect them in composting or directly till them into our soil as a source of extra organic material to feed the microorganisms and worms further and improve the aeration.

We must be careful about it becoming invasive in our gardens because of its ability to self-seed and the sheer number of seeds a single plant can create.

It performs best when restoring an area of land with bad soil conditions. It's a natural way we can improve soil conditions through organic methods at a low cost.

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