Clover Comeback

How to Grow a Clover Lawn

By George and Becky Lohmiller
April 17, 2017
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.

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Reader Comments

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How to plant clover

The Editors's picture

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?

The Editors's picture

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!!!

A low-maintenance grass that

The Editors's picture

A low-maintenance grass that tolerates sandy soil and partial shade is blue fescue. Zoysiagrass, seashore paspalum, and bermudagrass have the highest wear tolerance. You can mix clover seed with the grass seed as clover is drought tolerant and also resists pet urine.

Dogs and clover

Is it ok for dogs to eat large 3leaf clover

In the clover

The Editors's picture

Hi, Sharon: Clover is not poisonous to dogs, but shamrocks are. If your dog is constantly eating clover and grass, make sure that this is not because it just needs something to chew on: Provide a good chew toy. Thanks for asking!

Clover for Municipal Green Space

Do you have any information about Municipalitiy green space using clover to save maintenance cost ?

In the clover

The Editors's picture

Not offhand, but no doubt this is done. If you have already tried Googling, then your next step should be to check with municipal government publications, websites, chats, and forums, and ask around there. Even if you are from a small town, your local, county, or state government should know where to get you started. Another option is to research clover seed companies and ask them if they have any such clients with whom they’ve worked. They’d love to get the PR. Good luck!

When to plant

Can u scatter clover seeds over my existing lawn in January? (Now) or should I wait for spring?

Hi Dana,

The Editors's picture

Hi Dana,

It all depends on where you live and the weather. Plant when there is no more frost and night time temps. are staying in the 40’s or warmer. Rake the soil lightly and then spread the seed.

Is it possible to buy clover

Is it possible to buy clover sod....where the clover is already germinated and growing?

Hello; Just wondering if my

Hello; Just wondering if my front lawn area would be suitable for clover/grass. Currently my lawn is, mostly parched and may be dead. It is south facing, slightly sloping, base soil is very sandy ( I think the builder put sod right on the sand, and I'm in a 3b zone.

Also, if suitable, could I plant the clover/grass by overseeding over the current dead grass/lawn?
Any comments appreciated.

thanks

Hi, Terry: Please see the

The Editors's picture

Hi, Terry: Please see the answers to Lucy and Bethany below. If you feel that you have enough water available in one way or another to support a green yard, then, yes, you could give clover a try. Clover is very versatile and hardy, yet you should consult with a local nursery or seed store about what type might work best for you. Be sure to mix with grass seed to help with broadcasting. And we would definitely take a leaf rake to what remains and really try to vigorously scratch up and get rid of as much of the present dead material as possible. Sure, you could overseed, but the results might not be as good. Show a little love to your new clover. And thanks for asking!

I planted the micro clover ,

I planted the micro clover , it has small buds unevenly spread, we layed it down with top soil, we are going to plant more around the yard to even it out . we were wondering, when can we mow our lawn with out damaging the new clover?,also we ordered crimson clover for around our flower beds, I hope it is not poisonous to our cats ?

Good afternoon! I live in

Good afternoon!
I live in Alberta and my husband and I just moved into our first home. The lawn was in rough shape and I am a naturalist so we decided that clover would be a good choice for our bumpy, patchy, weed filled lawn. I bought 2,000 sq feet worth of dutch white clover seed, mowed the lawn, and racked to get dead grass out and move the soil a little. I scattered the seed all over the lawn (and used the whole bag before I got the whole lawn as I wouldn't mind the wait for it to spread). It looks like in one shady area the clover is in full effect with beautiful tiny white blossoms. Everywhere else is still just grass and weeds. I planted one week ago and it has been a rainy week and I have also been watering lightly in the morning and evening when needed to keep it from drying out.
What appears to be wild grass has sprung up absolutely everywhere...
Do you have any thoughts as to what might have happened? Does clover look like wild grass while it is in the process of establishing itself?

Let me correct myself...

Let me correct myself... after a little investigation it seems the plant with white flowers is chickweed and some clover is growing well around it.

Clover usually takes about a

The Editors's picture

Clover usually takes about a week to germinate. It's best to sow the seeds in early spring before grasses and weeds start growing and competing for water. To see a clover seedling go to www.nps.gov/wica/learn/nature/...

Does clover spread faster if

Does clover spread faster if the flowers are cut?

What happens to a clover lawn if all of the flowers are cut? Will it continue to spread through its roots, or begin to die off?

I have a nice patch of white clover that has taken over about one third of what was a very weed infested and extremely neglected lawn. Vetch was, and still is, a problem. Cutiing vetch at the ground level doesn't stop it from coming back, but it does slow it down. I am encouraging the clover to grow over areas that were formerly infested with vetch. I still need to pick the vetch, but not nearly as much as the clover seems to keep it in check. Will clover eventually crowd out most, if not all, to the vetch?

I filled in a low area with

I filled in a low area with some loam from the neighbors field. I never put seed or hay down and the following year the entire area filled with clover. that was 3 years ago and now the grass is 3 feet tall and clover is getting more sparse, like less than 50 percent. I don't know how to keep my clover from being drowned out. I don't know if I should mow it at like 6 inches or weed wack the grass or put alot of ash from the wood stove over it?

If you mow, the clover won't

The Editors's picture

If you mow, the clover won't flower as much. You can try adding in more clover.

Does clover stay green all

Does clover stay green all year? I live in NC and have zero topsoil - need something that will grow quickly on clay (after I plant the annual rye). I like the low maintenance of clover but want something that will stay green.

We planted clover with our

We planted clover with our fescue this year and it has come up beautifully and we have a lush green lawn. However, the closer has not flowers. does it take a year before they bloom or is this a variety that may not bloom?

If you mow, the clover won't

The Editors's picture

If you mow, the clover won't flower as much. Also, if you were using microclover (small white clover), it produces fewer flower heads compared to normal clover types. It all depends what you want. Clover flowers mean bees in the grass. If you seek pollinators, this is a good thing. If it's a lawn for playtime and you don't want to be stung, that might be a different story.

I'm wanting to replace my

I'm wanting to replace my lawn with clover for various reasons like low water and low maintenance. Do I need to plant some grass with it or is it ok to plant on it's own? Also if I seed it over the current law which is full of crab grass and weeds, will it eventually crowd out the unwanted weeds and crab grass or is it better to just rip tout the existing "lawn" and start over?

Yes, clover chokes out weeds

The Editors's picture

Yes, clover chokes out weeds fairly quickly. Clover is usually blended with lawn seed and will help the lawn, too: its deep root system reduces soil compaction and it naturally fertilizes the soil with nitrogen. 

I am anti herbicide,

I am anti herbicide, pesticide and synthetic fertilizer so my at Augustine grass in south Florida was way too much work. Took the grass out n seeded one section last week with white Dutch clover. I am watering daily and I see some teeny tiny clover but not everywhere. I def over seeded n I'm concerned south Florida isn't the place for it. I was aware it would prob need irrigation here. How long before I'll know if it is a viable option here. I did not mix with sand. That was not mentioned by the seed co I purchased from. Help! I don't want to put in st August sod!

Hi Sue, Dutch clover

The Editors's picture

Hi Sue,

Dutch clover germinates in 7 to 10 days. If you have bare spots after 10 days sprinkle some more seeds on those spots. The clover grows best with temps. between 50 and 85 degrees F but will tolerate hot and dry conditions after it is established.

I planted an all Dutch white

I planted an all Dutch white clover lawn and mowed it for the first time today!!! While it is beautiful and green, I worry about its durability. I have a 70lbs dog who has not been allowed on the clover lawn yet. Do you think it will be durable enough for her to play on? Or should I over seed with grass seed? If so is there a wild grass seed that would work well in Northern California? Thank You for your time!!

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.

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