Clover Comeback

How to Grow a Clover Lawn

By George and Becky Lohmiller
February 25, 2021
Clover Plant

At one time, most yards had at least some white clover growing in them. It was a world before chemicals, and clover was part of seed blends because it improved the soil—and the condition of the lawn. Gardeners are returning to recognizing the benefits of clover in lawn grass mixtures—or even as a replacement for grass. Learn more.

Move on from the quest for a perfect lawn of just turf grass. It’s not natural and ends up requiring chemicals. Before World War II and the advent of chemicals, clover was used as a great companion with turf grass. It was added to seed blends, along with fescues, ryegrasses and Kentucky bluegrass, because it helped grass thrive.

See the incredible benefits of clover below and you’ll wonder why you don’t grow clover!

Benefits of Clover

  1. Being a legume, the clover plant fixes poor soil! Clover has the ability to convert nitrogen into fertilizer using bacteria in it’s root system, practically eliminating the need for additional fertilization. 
  2. White clover (Trifolium repens) is the most common clover for lawns. Left uncut, white clover grows 4 to 8 inches tall and produces small white flowers that are often tinged with pink. It’s a rapid spreader that crowds out broadleaf weeds while growing harmoniously with grass.
  3. Like white clover, red clover (Trifolium pratense) is native to Europe, but has been naturalized in North America. It produces attractive purple flowers and typically grows taller than white clover (a little too tall compared to lawn grass).
  4. Clover is among the first plants to green up and thrive in the spring.
  5. It’s extremely drought-resistant plant and will keep its cool-green color even during the hottest and driest parts of summer. 
  6. Clover will also thrive in areas that are poorly drained or too shady for a conventional lawn.
  7. The flowers not only create a beautiful visual effect, but also bring in bees, butterflies, and beneficial insects that prey on garden pests
  8. Honeybees rarely sting when they are away from their hive, but if they make you uncomfortable or you are allergic to bee stings, simply have the lawn mowed more often when clover is in bloom. Or, grow clover on surfaces where there is little activity on the lawn and the desired result is more aesthetic than functional.

Red clover blossom.

Planting Clover

You can plant clover by itself for ground cover, but it stands up better to foot traffic when combined with lawn grass.

  • Only 5 to 10% by weight of tiny clover seed needs to be mixed with the recommended amount of grass seed to create a thick stand.
  • When adding clover to an existing lawn, first mow it close and remove any thatch to allow the seed to fall to the soil surface.
  • To sow clover alone, mix it with enough sand to facilitate spreading. About 2 ounces of clover is needed for every 1,000 square feet of lawn.
  • Since clover has a low growth habit, it can go without mowing all season long if desired. Or, just mow a couple of times a year to maintain its appearance.

Luck of the Clover

Finding a four-leaf clover is considered good luck. Surely it must be, because on average there is only one of them for every 10,000 clovers with three leaves. But even if you never find a four-leaf specimen, just having clover growing in your lawn will keep it greener longer with minimum care, which we consider to be extremely good luck.

Looking for more ground cover options? See a few more hardy ground cover plants.


Reader Comments

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Hi Jennifer, The clover lawn

The Editors's picture

Hi Jennifer,
The clover lawn is not going to be durable enough for a 70 lb dog. Adding some grass seed would help. Centipede grass is slow growing and low maintanance. It will grow well in Northern California. Perennial rye grass is another option.

we have a very shaded

we have a very shaded around-a-bout in the consists of dirt and moss..mostly dirt..mowing is a dust mess..also in the very front..which gets quite a bit of sun..that won't grow grass..I've been researching what would work in this area..Moss has been one that is recommended For the shaded area ..but can only handle so much travel on it. My question is what type of clover would you recommend. Appreciate any input..Ty so much.

Ok - I realize you may not be

Ok - I realize you may not be able to answer me - I'm 68 - work full time - live in a trailer park - have a very small yard and have an Irish Wolfhound! When I bought this place the yard was a patchy mess. Have a huge maple tree in the small back yard. Planted sun/shade lawn seed early last Fall. Came up wonderful - had a very cold winter with not much snow cover and most of it died!!! I can get evicted if I don't have a nice looking yard. Researched clover & should have mixed it with my grass seed!!!! Question is can I just spread it in the patches and in area all new grass died?

Hi, Lucy: You can indeed

The Editors's picture

Hi, Lucy: You can indeed spread it by itself in the bare spots, but it's really advisable to start from scratch -- literally. Scratch up and rake your whole yard to get it as clean and ready as possible. Then either mix with grass seed (ask your garden center for a different type, we would suggest) or mix with a little sand to facilitate spreading. Clover is a good choice -- you'll be fine!

I overseeded my lawn last

I overseeded my lawn last year with micro clover but I am not sure what to do for spring and fall maintenance. Should you rake it? I am afraid raking will just pull up the clover. Advice please.

Hi, I really want to plant

I really want to plant clover/grass mix in my back yard (I live in NC). My concern is that the back yard seems to have some drainage issues, although I think a big part of why grass has never done well is because of all the large trees we have and that our soil is very sandy. From what I've read, clover will still grow well with a lot of trees and in sandy soil, but would the poor drainage potentially keep it from growing well? Also, I have three dogs and a 6 year old who are in and out of the back yard a lot; would I have to keep them off the lawn for a couple of weeks while the seeds are germinating?

Hi, Bethany: One of the great

The Editors's picture

Hi, Bethany: One of the great things about clover is that there is always a type that will grow under just about any condition(s), including shade and sand. You should experiment. Get some white clover seed, plus seed from two other types recommended to you by your local nursery or the NC extension service. Then set up a couple of 3x9 test plots (three 3x3 test areas for the 3 types) in different spots in your yard. Keep the tramplers off them and see what comes in best. Then plant according to directions, and you'll have clover all over!

I am strongly considering

I am strongly considering seeding a Micro-clover/grass mix. I've been trying to find out about how durable it is however. We play fetch with our dog everyday and I was wondering how well it will stand up to her running. I'm sure no lawn will be perfectly durable but is a micro clover mix a good option for us? Or something different? Also I heard that clover is invasive. Will it take over garden beds that are not guarded by a mow strip?

I have several questions. I

I have several questions. I live in Las Vegas and I went to a dog park that had a lush green lawn but it wasn't grass. I did my research and a clover lawn is what I found. So I know it can grow and thrive in this desert weather. I want to plant this in my backyard which I have an area that is just dirt, almost clay like. My first question is how would I plant this type of lawn with this hard dirt? The dog park lawn didn't look like it had any grass with it and looks as if it has never been mowed and it was real compact and low. Which clover is this? Thanks!

Hi, Raquel: Well, the odds

The Editors's picture

Hi, Raquel: Well, the odds are that you may have a challenge on your hands, but you can still come out a winner. If you have really hard-packed dirt, you are going to have to scratch it up really well with a gravel (not leaf) rake to give your seeds some "purchase." Use a broadcast seed spreader and then be prepared to protect your seeds (from birds, mainly) with a light cover of straw until they sprout. The lowest-growing, most compact clover is wild white, but others might do the trick, too. The thing to do is ask your local garden center for more specific advice.

I used dutch white clover

I used dutch white clover seed mixed in with my existing (I use the term loosely) lawn and just thought I'd mention that it isn't completely resistant to dog urine burn, the main reason I planted it. My question is, does clover need to go to seed to come back in the spring? While mine is growing well, I worry that its not growing fast enough for flowers to develop.

Hi, Jennifer: Dutch clover is

The Editors's picture

Hi, Jennifer: Dutch clover is a perennial, so it should come back at least somewhat, even without self-seeding for new growth. Thanks for asking!

I recently found out from a

I recently found out from a friend who deals in herbal/ayurvedic medicine that clover grass has beneficial medicinal properties such as purifying blood. Leaf has a likeable light sour taste.

I'm so glad you are talking

I'm so glad you are talking about clover lawns. This is something that I am doing at Urban Seedling in Montreal, my vegetable gardening and edible landscaping company.

We have white clover in our own backyard and I love seeing the insects coming around to pollinate my vegetable gardens!

Could I sow clover seed in

Could I sow clover seed in the fall and expect it to come up in the spring? Can I sow it anytime during spring, summer, and fall as long as the seed is in soil and receiving regular watering?

I planted red clover last

I planted red clover last fall (October)and it came up in the following spring. I live in Southeast Tn. We even had had a very cold, snowy winter.

Is there a non flowering

Is there a non flowering clover? as we want the benefits of the ground cover, but not the bees that are attracted to the flowering clover.

Our search has not turned up

The Editors's picture

Our search has not turned up a non flowering clover; the plant in its various forms/varieties reproduces with seeds from the flower, so the flowers are key to its survival.
We have a few other options at
Hope this helps!

Honey bees will bother you. I

Honey bees will bother you. I used to extremely afraid of bees on general, but after talking to a beekeeper and botanist and they explained that bees really only attack if absolutely necessary. They will usually just *head bump* you if you get annoying. ONce I learned that little fact, I am all good around their kind.

Also, the heck with yellow jackets, they are not bees and need to die a fiery horrible death. They are jerks in the insect world

we want to grow clover that

we want to grow clover that will be used by our local wildlife rehab center. We'll need bags of it on a regular basis. Any suggestions as to harvesting it without ruining the plot or making the harvest unusable?

hi, Would white clover do

Would white clover do well for over-seeding a Phoenix summer lawn combined with Bermuda do you think? We have full sun and shade areas and the Bermuda does really poorly in the shade, the fescue we tried didn't do well in shade either-maybe it was the heat. I was hoping to fill the bald spots in full sun and the shade spots with clover...thanks!
Lisa in Phoenix, AZ

White clover can do well in

The Editors's picture

White clover can do well in Phoenix lawns with the proper care. White clover has shallow roots, but does better in lawns than other types of clover, such as strawberry or red; it needs moisture when germinating but after that it can handle drier conditions.
White clover alone is good for low to moderate foot traffic. When mixed with grass seed, it can be used in high-traffic areas and can also tolerate drought better than when alone. You can seed the clover into an existing lawn or sow in bare spots; the clover will not need fertilizer.
Good luck!

thank you!

thank you!

Three young men lived in the

Three young men lived in the house before I bought it. They did not water the lawn, so consists of clumps of grass interspersed with bare ground and weeds. It is impossible to mow. I am hoping to put it all in clover except for a flower bed. I hate mowing and get asthmatic from the grass. My parents had clover and they didn't worry about mowing because it doesn't get as tall as grass. I want that.

Just a note to say:I live in

Just a note to say:I live in the south and had a problem with grass not growing under my trees so, I planted white clover under my trees and was very pleased with the coverage!!! Hey no mowing that is even better.

Does anyone know if cover is

Does anyone know if cover is poisonous to dogs. I would love to plant some in our dog area.

Hi Ives, Everyday clover is

The Editors's picture

Hi Ives, Everyday clover is not listed as being poisonous to dogs on the ASPCA site.
On vet sites, we see that "red clover" can both help certain medical conditions but also is unfriendly and possibly toxic in large quantities. Perhaps it's OK if your dog doesn't start ingesting lots of clover and simply plays (and pees) in it. To be safest, for your particular dog and its medical condition, we’d recommend that you ask your vet. Or, just not plant clover.
And of course, stay away from pesticides if the dog eats plants in the lawn.

One of the benefits of white

One of the benefits of white clover is that it doesn't turn yellow or burn when a female dog urinates on it. I have not found any info indicating that white clover is unsafe for animals. I am overseeding my lawn with it in the spring.

Clover isn't poisonous to

Clover isn't poisonous to dogs, or just about anything. The only issue is if it dies and spoils, it can be slightly poisonous to grazing animals.

Anti-clotting + temperature question

Yes, have read that anti-clotting drugs were developed after it was found that harvested red clover hay, as it broke down, was causing cattle to bleed internally.

What effect do the varieties (running buffalo, white/Dutch/repens, red, crimson) have on soil and surface temperatures? While growing and after cuttung?