Clover Comeback

How to Grow a Clover Lawn

George and Becky Lohmiller
Clover Plant
Pixabay

At one time, most lawns had at least some clover growing in them, with many consisting almost entirely of clover plants. Today, many lawn enthusiasts are trying to limit the use of pesticides and are again turning to clover.

Benefits of Clover

  • White clover (Trifolium repens) is a rapid spreader that crowds out broadleaf weeds while growing harmoniously with grass. It will thrive in areas that are poorly drained or too shady for a conventional lawn.
  • Like white clover, red clover (Trifolium pratense) is native to Europe, but has been naturalized in North America. It typically grows taller than white clover and produces attractive purple flowers.
  • Being a legume, the clover plant has the ability to convert nitrogen into fertilizer using bacteria in it’s root system, practically eliminating the need for additional fertilization.
  • Clover is an extremely drought-resistant plant and will keep its cool-green color even during the hottest and driest parts of summer.
  • Left uncut, white clover grows 4-8 inches tall and produces small white flowers that are often tinged with pink. The flowers not only create a beautiful visual effect, but also bring in bees, butterflies, and beneficial insects that prey on garden pests.
  • 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.

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 5-10% 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.

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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How much topsoil is needed?

I have had mixed results with my micro clover/grass mixture in our hot, dry summer this year -- in some places it has stayed quite lush, in other places totally dried up and brown. It seems to have had the worst time in areas surrounding a shallow rock outcropping where I think the soil is not very deep -- only a couple of inches -- over top of a solid rock substrate . I would like to replant these areas next spring and am wondering how deep the soil needs to be for the clover to thrive, given this rock base?

Micro-clover Scam?

Thanks for the article! Quick question though-- we bought micro-clover seed and it took to the lawn quite well. We were told it is half the size of Dutch clover and doesn't flower as much. Well, our lawn has tons of flowers and clover is big. We contacted the company and they said it has to be mowed short and a lot. We thought it was low maintenance. And we suspect we were lied to and were sold Dutch clover than micro-clover. We researched and then read that micro-clover is a modified version of the Dutch and if you do not do keep mowing it, it could actually revert back to Dutch clover. Cannot find the source to this reading. So was curious if you guys have heard of this. Thanks

Micro-clover big here too

I over seeded some tough areas where grass never lasts and included a good dose of micro clover in October of 2017. I'm also noticing it's not very small. However the leaves look different here, sort of larger than white clover with a white streak to them. I cut at 3" until July when I bump it up to 3.5" and leave it there until September.

clover

I have clover with the little pink flowers growing in my front flowerbed. One side of me says pull it out and the other says leave it!! What are the pros and cons of growing clover along with other flowers?

clover in the garden

Some clover species, such as white clover, can be used as ground covers. The white flower has a tinge of pink to it. Red clover, with a medium pink flower, is a taller species, and can be used as an accent in the flower bed. Clover (Trifolium) fixes nitrogen in the soil, which can be beneficial to other plants when the clover dies. Some clovers are annuals, others are perennials. White clover is a perennial, although it has a shorter life in the south. Red clover is a short-lived perennial. Clovers attract pollinators, such as bees. One down-side is that clover can be invasive, and the roots can compete with other plants (but also compete with weeds). You’d need to keep it in check, but it is fairly easy to pull up. Ornamental clovers are available for the garden, too.

Expanding Clover Growth

I have large areas of clover in old pastures where we now live. I would like the clover areas to expand and get larger and larger. Should I continue to not mow the clover areas to have the areas of clover expand? Any other insights to have the white clover areas expand (transplant some - it seems difficult?). Thank you in advance.

Mow normally, it will expand

At least mine did. I stopped using weed and feed fertilizer three years ago and my lawn has gone from some spots of clover to about 25% at this point, not counting the areas near walkways that I purposely over-seeded with micro clover. The flower heads contain and spread the seeds, the plants also multiply through shoots I believe.

Clover

This article is somewhat misleading using the term "Low Maintenance Lawn", because I have about an acre which I try to keep maintained as well as possible. I have several patches or areas of clover in my yard, and those patches grow MUCH FASTER than my centipede grass that is the main grass in my yard. Not only do I have to cut the clover patches probably twice as often as the other, it also grows in much thicker, therefore "clumping" coming out of my mowers discharge chute (especially if it's moist, due to the morning dew). I do like the clover for one reason...I enjoy watching the deer feed on it! One last thing, I live in the deep south with plenty of rain & high humidity.

Low Maintenance

You’re right, clover does grow quickly in ideal conditions! If you’re looking for a short lawn that you never need to mow, clover might not be the best choice, but in terms of fertilizing and watering, clover is considered fairly low maintenance. 

Planting Clover

I was going to buy some clover seeds this spring. They didn't have any. Said that you have to plant clover in the fall. Just to let ya'll know when to plant.

Timing

Just wondering if it is too late to sew....5/14/18...eastern NC (close to New Bern).

A long time ago growing up my

A long time ago growing up my friend's Mom and us picked a bunch of white clover flowers and she coated them in bisquick and cooked them up in a skillet, so good!

Clover comeback

Planning to make clover planters around grounds and deck.

Alfalfa seed from Picks eds didn't grow

About 20 years ago I seeded about 5 acres of pickseed alfalfa on brown red clay.I was told you won't see much growth in the first 3 years as it spends that time growing it's root system deep. Today I only find the odd alfalfa seem growing in grass an lots of weed. that has taken root on its own. No grass seed was seeded. The ground was well scraped seeded an rolled after seeding. I cost a lot for the darn seed. I over seeded every 4 years but nothing.. grass an weed grow like crazy. I also put 18-18-18 fertilizer on as told by my feed store

El Paso, TX

Would white clover and fescue be a good mix for a small-medium lawn in El Paso, and would it help choke out goathead burrs? Also, any negative impact to dogs/cats?

Goatheads! (uh, Burrs, that is)

Hi, Rhett: White clover and fescue would be a good mix, but chances are that they are not going to do anything to goathead burrs, whose roots run very deep. Easy for us to say, but we would take the time and trouble to try to get rid of the burrs first (do an online search for how). Then we would put in our nice new lawn, which would have no negative impact on cats or dogs unless they ate a huge amount of it–which is true for just about anything. Thanks for asking and good luck!

Clover in Clay

Hi, I need some help. I have a small lawn around 25 to 30 sq metres most of which is on a bit of an incline, very shaded, very much clay and currently hardly and grass at all, mainly muddy clay and a few weeds. I'd like to try the clover lawn but have a few questions. Which type of grass seed would I be best mixing it with and would I need top soil or sand to cover the seeds or just rake it into to the clay?

In the Clover

Hi, Nick: First of all, prepare your site by removing the weeds (and as many roots as possible). Lightly scratch it with a rake to a depth of about ¼ inch, just to give the seeds a little head start. Then broadcast a seed mix of clover and fescue (suitable for your climate) onto the area. Finally, cover with a very light (¼- to ½-inch) layer of topsoil, then a very light layer of straw. Keep well watered. Good luck!

Clover in clay

When we built our house we had a lot of heavy clay and poor soil to dump, the quickest cheepest solution was to dump it on some ground we had, not thinking that it would be almost impossible to reseed afterwards as we could not afford to cover the whole area with topsoil (60m x 15m strip of ground) We decided to take a chance and collected grass clippings from all our neighbours to cover the area. Everyone thought we were mad, we created a thin mat of grass clippings and a couple of weeks later reseaded it with a mixture of wild grass which I guess had clover seeds in it.The first year was a bit patchy, the second better, by the third year we now have a field of thick wild green grass and clover. Hope this helps anyone who finds themselves in our situation.

Replace grass with clover to create a low maintenance lawn

Hi.
We live in the north west of England. We have just retired and anticipate going on holidays that would last about a month.
We have a lawn at the front of the house that is in good condition but needs mowing every week or at least every 2 weeks and are concious that a month without mowing would show thieves we are away and also be unsightly for the neighbours.
We have been reading about clover lawns and have decided to take the plunge and replace the grass with Clover or a Clover / Fescue mix and have covered the grass with an aim to kill it over the autumn and reseed in the spring.
Just a couple of questions.
Is Microclover used by itself for a lawn normally successful or is a microclover/fescue mix better?
If you recommend the microclover/fescue option have you any advice for what fescue to use the minimise the amount of mowing.
Thanks
Paul & Elaine Brown

Seed Mix

We recommend going with a mix–it will result in fewer weeds and insect problems, better drought tolerance, and a reduced need to fertilize. A microclover/tall fescue mix is suitable, though you might want to consider using “No Mow” seed–a mix of bunch- and creeping-variety fescues that require very little mowing.

 

dry patches in clover lawn

I have large dried out patches in my clover lawn. They seem to appear around the root system of a maple tree. (I have been told that maples are thirsty and greedy !!! especially in hot dry weather!!) What can I do this fall to help enrich, revive this 3 year old clover lawn...

Clover Lawn

Water, water, water! And add fertilizer high in nitrogen.

I need to put a pre-emergent

I need to put a pre-emergent down next Spring for crabgrass, how will this effect the timing of overseeding with clover and grass seed?

Pre-emergents' properties

Well, we learned a few things, Anne. There are numerous pre-emergents on the market and you need to determine which best serves your purpose. We can not directly answer that; have a conversation with the expert at your local nursery. Here’s why: pre-emergents can last in the soil for weeks to months. Some eliminate specific weeds; some eliminate just about any new seeds. The soil on which you put the pre-emergent can not be disturbed (even by birds or critters) during the treatment period (see weeks, months above). Application season varies, too.

So this is really a conversation you need to have with a vendor who knows the various products and what will best suit your needs on so many levels.

We hope this helps.

clover as a lawn

We hope to cut back on mowing at our new house by planting clover only. Will our plan work with top soil-how much? on a sandy gravelled construction site? Also have some straw and wood chips. How do we layer these materials to work best for a New England late-spring planting?

How to plant clover

Good idea. You probably need a few inches of topsoil. Clover has deep roots but it does not do well in deep sand and/or gravel.
Check the pH of your soil; it should be around 6.5. Adjust, if necessary (see here for guidance, if nec: http://www.almanac.com/content/ph-preferences). Rake the soil smooth. Spread the seed. Cover it with about one-quarter inch of soil. (You can spread straw if you have it but not wood chips; they would be too heavy.) Do not pack it down. Water daily to keep the soil/seed moist, until you see it growing.

Growing Dutch Clover

I live in Amarillo, Texas and it's pretty dry around here, my back yard has a lot of trees and get some sun. I broke up ground with a metal rake and tossed some Clive seed on top, and didn't cover. I've been watering for 4 days now and I can still see the seed on top the soil. Scared it didn't take and wondering if i did something wrong. How can I tell if it took?

In the clover?

Hi, Cynthia: Provided that your soil is the proper 6.4 pH (for most clovers), is rich enough, and you scraped enough to give the seeds some purchase, they can take at least a week to 10 days to get going. They do need to be kept moist – but not flooded, of course. And watch out for the birds! Thanks for asking and good luck!

clover

I live in SW Fla...have 5 large dogs. My back yard is a mess! I also have 2 large oak trees. There is hardly any grass and was wondering if clover is the answer? The soil is sandy,minimal dirt.Help!!!

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