Clover Lawn: Should You Grow One?

A clover lawn has many benefits that you may not know about. Should you be growing one?

I was raised to believe that clover is an undesirable weed that needs to be removed. In reality, clover is one of the best things for a lawn.

Did you know that lawns were once formed of clover before someone decided that grass, frequent irrigation, and weekly mowing sounded like a good idea?

Today, I’ll try to persuade you that you should grow clover in your yard.

Why Clover Is No Longer Popular

If you’ve ever tried to grow or maintain a lush, green lawn, you know how difficult it can be. It involves proper watering schedules, mowing heights, re-seeding rates, and weed management.

It also involves the use of herbicides. Before the mass production of herbicides, and before the commercial landscaping industry began promoting a flawlessly uniform grass lawn, clover was frequently mixed with grass seeds. 

However, herbicides kill clover, so the plant was rebranded as a weed and removed from seed mixes to not interfere with the mass use of herbicides.

Reasons to Have a Clover Lawn

  • It is a drought-tolerant plant that requires very little water once established.
  • It chokes out weeds and is a favorite of honey bees.
  • It does not dry out and becomes brittle or prickly like grass during dry, hot months.
  • It does not require fertilization or chemical treatments.
  • It is not easily discolored by dog urine.
  • It will make a wonderful compost supplement if you choose to mow it.
  • It helps maintain soil moisture levels.
  • It can grow in poor soil and actually contributes nutrients to the mix.
green grass and fresh flowers during morning  sunshine

Downsides of Having Clover

Clover blossoms attract bees, which sting if threatened. If you have little children, teach them to look for bees before they walk or sit on the lawn. Also, if you are allergic to bee stings, it might be better to avoid clover on your lawn.

Clover is not as resistant to foot traffic as grass, so it will quickly look downtrodden if you have a lot of foot traffic around your home.

It spreads similarly to grass and will seed if not mowed. Take note if you are concerned that it will spread to your neighbors’ yards.

The Basics of Care

Clover needs water, sunlight, and lime (in most soils) to germinate well. 

Clover does not grow in acid soil, so lime is required to raise the pH of the soil to a neutral level (6.0 to 7.0 for the best performance). Lime also helps release phosphate and potassium from the soil, which helps clover grow, so no fertilizer is needed.

Get a soil test to determine the pH of your soil to ensure effective clover seed planting. This will help guide you to use the right quantity of lime to maximize germination.

Clover is a resilient plant that can tolerate various light situations (from full sun to partial shade). Plan to plant clover in the spring or early summer, when the earth has softened and is moist. In most areas, you may also plant in September or early October.

Because clover seed is so little, you may wish to combine it with lime or fertilizer to prevent it from being blown away by the wind. Strong fertilizers should not be used on clover since they might burn the plant’s delicate roots.

Types of Clover to Plant

There are numerous varieties of clover. Perennial clover, which returns year after year, is ideal for a low-maintenance lawn.

Dutch White Clover

Although it also has other uses, Dutch White Clover is the most commonly planted clover on lawns. 

This perennial clover can be utilized as a cover crop, groundcover, erosion control, or component of your pasture mix. The lovely white flowers create a sweeping white carpet.

This perennial seed is suitable for planting in USDA Zones 3 through 10.

It spreads quickly and crowds out weeds, and it grows thicker and stronger with each passing year. It can reach a height of 3 to 5 inches. White Dutch grows well in poor soil and is resistant to cold, heat, drought, and foot traffic.

healthy green clover grass with flowers

Red Clover

Red clover is a perennial that grows wild in meadows throughout Europe, Asia, and North America, where it has naturalized. The red blooms at the tips of the spreading stalks are frequently preserved and used medicinally.

Red clover is a hardy, low-cost plant grown in USDA zones 4 and up.

It adds loamy topsoil and a modest amount of nitrogen, inhibits weeds, and breaks up heavy soil. It can be easily overseeded or frost seeded into mature crops. Some of its most common uses include forage, grazing, seed harvesting, nitrogen plowdown, and hay in warmer regions.

Strawberry Clover

Strawberry clover is a warm-season perennial legume that tolerates heat and salt and is commonly used as a cover crop and in landscaping.

It’s a low-growing, deep-rooted clover that thrives in orchards, lawns, vineyards, and pastures. It can be grazed or mowed and can endure heat and alkali. It attracts beneficial insects and aids with nitrogen fixation in the soil. On top of that, it can tolerate flooding for up to two months and thrives in salty tidal streams.

When to Plant

Plant clover in the spring after the threat of frost has passed and the temperature at night is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. The best time to spread clover in the spring is from mid-April to mid-May, to coincide with spring rains.

It requires between 4 and 6 hours of sunlight. If you have access to irrigation, plant clover in late summer to early October.

If you decide to plant it, do it at least six weeks before the first frost. If you reside in a region where freezing conditions are rare, you can plant it at any time of year.

Closeup picture of lawn with green and white clover grass

How to Plant

Clover thrives in soil with a pH range of 6 to 7. If the pH of your soil is too low, consider adding agricultural lime to it. It can be found in any home and garden store. Consider adding elemental sulfur to your soil if it is overly acidic.

Two ounces of clover seeds can cover an area of 1,000 square feet. When the seeds are combined with sand, they are easier to distribute. Rake the seeds into the soil lightly, no more than 1/4 inch deep. Water newly sown seedlings every now and then to keep the soil moist.

Clover seeds germinate in 7 to 15 days when conditions are warm. Clover can grow to be 6 to 8 inches tall.

If combined with lawn grass seeds, clover seeds should account for 5 to 10% of the overall seed weight. Fertilization is not required.

Use a Mix of Seeds

Personally, I would advise against having a monoculture lawn. This means having a lawn composed of only one species, whether it is grass or clover.

Instead, have a variety of various grasses and clovers. Include zone-appropriate grasses, red clover, white dutch clover, and other types as well. This mix is easy and cheap to cultivate and maintain and better for the environment. Above all, there is a randomness to it that matches nature’s beauty.

Alaine Connolly
Alaine has been working way too hard in horticulture since 1992, beautifying golf courses, resorts, and hotels. She is a part time landscape designer who works full time caring for a 28,000 square foot public garden. At home, she maintains her own 400 square feet plot. Alaine lives in northern Illinois - zone 5b.
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