Clover Lawns

As water and energy prices rise, many people are seeking alternatives to the traditional, thirsty, labor intensive American lawn. One of the most popular lawn alternatives is white clover (Trifolium repens), also known as Dutch clover or Dutch white clover.

Although many people now consider clover a weed, a healthy patch of white clover was considered a standard of excellence in lawn care until the 1950s, when the rising use of broadleaf herbicides that killed clover as well as more harmful weeds made the current grassy monoculture the ideal lawn of most homeowners. In recent years, however, clover lawns have been experiencing a revival due to their many benefits.

There are two types of white clover lawns: pure clover lawns, which are best for areas with low or moderate traffic, and mixed grass-clover lawns, which are best for playing fields and other high traffic areas.

Photo by mwri
Photo by mwri

Advantages of Clover

Clover lawns have many advantages over traditional bluegrass or bermuda grass lawns. 

  • Clover stays green all summer with little or no watering in most regions of the US. Clover is relatively drought-tolerant and it greens up early in spring and remains green until the first frost. In the South, it may remain green all winter.
  • Clover requires little or no mowing. White clover grows just 2-8 inches tall and requires little or no mowing to keep it orderly. However, some homeowners may prefer to mow in midsummer in order to deadhead old blooms and neaten the appearance of the lawn, or to prevent blooming.
  • Clover never needs fertilizer. Clover is a nitrogen-fixing legume, a plant that essentially creates its own fertilizer... and fertilizes nearby plants as well! Grass that is intermixed with clover will be healthier and greener with less effort than grass planted alone.
  • Clover never needs herbicides. In fact, most herbicides kill clover. Fortunately...
  • Clover out-competes other weeds. Anyone who has struggled to eradicate clover from a grass lawn can tell you how persistent it can be. Clover easily out-competes most other weeds and reduces the need for weeding or expensive herbicides.
  • Clover grows well in poor soil. Clover tolerates a wide variety of soil conditions, including the poor-quality subsoil common around many new homes.
  • Clover feels great on bare feet. Soft, lush, and cool, walking barefoot on a clover lawn is a luxurious treat. Clover's leaves and blossoms also have a mild, pleasant smell.
  • Clover is immune to "dog patches." The urine of female dogs discolors lawn grasses. Clovers stays as green and lush as ever.
  • Clover is inexpensive. Clover seed is extremely inexpensive. Average cost is about $4 per 4000 square feet. Homeowners who have been fighting clover as a weed get it for free, if they decide to stop fighting and let it grow.

Disadvantages of Clover

Clover lawns do have some disadvantages: 

  • Clover stains clothing more easily than grass
  • Clover is not durable enough for playing fields or very high traffic areas, unless mixed with grass.
  • Clover is a short-lived perennial and may require reseeding every 2-3 years to maintain an even stand in pure clover lawns. In mixed grass-clover lawns, clover will reseed itself adequately to maintain a consistent presence.

Clover and Bees

Clover is one of the favorite flowers of bees and it makes a delicious honey. However, many homeowners are wary of planting a clover lawn because they are afraid of bee stings.

It is possible to have a clover lawn without bees. If you are allergic to bees or have young children, you can discourage bees by mowing the clover regularly during its summer blooming season to prevent blooms.

However, if you are not allergic and have older children (or none at all), please consider letting the clover bloom. Bees are threatened around the world by a mysterious condition called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). When a hive is struck by CCD, the worker bees spontaneously abandon the hive and disappear, leaving the queen and a few larvae and immature workers to starve. The cause of CCD is still unknown, it it is believe to affect hives stressed from habitat loss, parasites, and pesticide use most strongly.

Honeybees are the primary pollinators for 1/3 of all human food crops. Some crops, such as almonds, are 100% dependent on honeybees to produce. If honeybee populations continue their rapid decline, food prices are likely to increase dramatically. To learn more about this crisis, please visit Help the Honey Bees, The Pollinator Partnership, or the Xerces Society .

Homeowners can help by ceasing the use of chemical pesticides and insecticides, and letting their clover bloom. For more tips on planting a bee-friendly garden, please visit Plant a Bee Garden.

Clover also attracts parasitoid wasps, which feed on aphids, scales, and whiteflies. These wasps are tiny and harmless to humans, and will be your enthusiastic allies in controlling insect pests in the garden. 

Photo by kaibara87
Photo by kaibara87

Planting and Maintenance

Clover lawns can be established by encouraging already existing clover patches in your landscape, by seeding, or a combination of both.

Clover is best seeded in early spring from mid-March to mid-April. It can also be seeded in fall. Tiny clover seeds are difficult to sow evenly - one way to improve your chances is to mix seed in with some soil, sawdust, or graded sand. If you have no clover in your lawn or nearby, you may need to add a bacterial inoculant to promote the best growth; if you have any clover in your lawn, however, the inoculant is probably already present in the soil. After planting, use a misting attachment to water daily until you can see the seedlings

Existing clover patches can be encouraged by mowing with the blades set at 1.5-2 inches, which favors clover over most traditional turf grasses. In the middle of summer, stop mowing to encourage clover flowering and seeding. Once established, most clovers are low-growing and require little or no mowing, unless you wish to discourage bees by mowing to prevent summer blooms.

Never apply herbicides to a clover lawn.

Clover is a short-lived perennial and may require reseeding approximately once every 3 years to maintain consistent coverage. It may successfully reseed naturally, however, or wild clovers may move in and take over aging stands.

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Comments 61 comments

hot dorkage profile image

hot dorkage 8 years ago from Oregon, USA

why does the mixed lawn self reseed where the pure clover lawn needs help from people?


kerryg profile image

kerryg 8 years ago from USA Author

hot dorkage, thanks for reading!

Basically, it's because the pure clover might not reseed evenly, and if clover is all you have, you don't want it to be patchy. In a mixed grass-clover lawn, the grass will cover any areas the clover doesn't, and vice versa.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

I remember the fun we used to have as children trying to find the 4 leafed clovers! Another excellent hub.


guhpraset 7 years ago

1. Will it grow in tropical area like Indonesia?

2. Are they have to be under direct sunlight? Will they grow under the shade of bigger tree, like rubber tree. I'm thinking to plant them in the rubber farm.


kerryg profile image

kerryg 7 years ago from USA Author

Guhpraset, that is a very interesting question. As far as I know, clover is native primarily to temperate climates such as Europe and North America. My understanding is that there are a few species from Africa and South America that may tolerate more tropical climates, but I am not aware of any from Southeast Asia.

Clover does best in full or partial sun, so a rubber plantation would probably not be the best place for it. However, I'm sure there are many alternative native groundcovers you could use instead.

This database might be helpful in your search: http://www.pfaf.org/

I also recommend you try contacting the IDEP, an Indonesian environmental and development organization that deals with permaculture and organic cultivation techniques, among other issues. Their website is here: http://www.idepfoundation.org/


tirsalope 7 years ago

How does clover fair in Arizona. We bought a home with a patchy lawn and would love to convert to clover.


kerryg profile image

kerryg 7 years ago from USA Author

tirsalope, sorry for the slow reply. I've been out of town.

Dutch Whiter Clover does indeed grow in Arizona, but prefers moister areas there, so unless you have a naturally moist lawn, you may not see as many of the benefits in terms of water conservation as those of us from wetter climates. There are several clover species that are native to Arizona, however. I would encourage you to contact the Arizona Native Plant Society for advice: http://aznps.com/

I also recommend researching a form of landscaping called xeriscaping. When many people think of xeriscaping, or dry gardening, they think it means your yard is covered in bare dirt and cacti, but the truth is that xeriscapes can actually be quite lush and beautiful:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xeriscaping


MrCold 7 years ago

Does clover survive in cold areas like Calgary? Where it can be as low as -44. Does it comes back to life in summer?


kerryg profile image

kerryg 7 years ago from USA Author

Are you talking about air temperature or windchill? I live in an area that occasionally gets a windchill that low (air temperature rarely below -15 Fahrenheit) and our clover is very healthy and greens up beautifully in spring. In general, clover is hardy to very low temperatures, but may not fight off weeds as aggressively in areas with very cold winters and cool springs.


W. Alexander 7 years ago

We live in Virginia, and have scraped out all of our grass in preparation for a clover lawn. Can we seed now in late June, or early July or do we need to wait? Some of our yard is almost completely shaded, is that a problem? We want it to be as tough, and low as possible; is wild white clover preferable to dutch white clover. We do have plenty of deer nearby, but we are planting it for us. Would the deer be a problem with a lower variety? Thank you!


kerryg profile image

kerryg 7 years ago from USA Author

Unfortunately, clover does prefer to sprout and establish itself under cooler conditions, so in general I would say waiting until fall is preferable, but talk to your local extension agent to get a second opinion from someone more familiar with your local growing conditions.

White clover is shade tolerent, but in full shade it might be preferable to develop a real shade garden: http://hubpages.com/education/Tips-For-a-Beautiful...

Either wild white clover generally is escaped dutch clover, so either should be fine.

Deer should not be a serious problem.


J. Allison 7 years ago

My neighbor who pays someone to keep her lawn immaculate is concerned that the clover in my lawn will spread to her lawn and that is unacceptable to her. The lawns are seperated by a driveway. I love my clover and my flowers love the bees. Will my clover spread to her yard? How does clover spread?


kerryg profile image

kerryg 7 years ago from USA Author

Clover spreads by runners or stolons across the ground, so if the lawns are seperated by a driveway, the clover is unlikely to spread across it.


Devon eco lodges 7 years ago

Really interesting - our lawn has turned to clover this year and we and the bees love it. Nobody has been stung yet, not even the kids. We're in the UK, in Devon. I've posted a link to your article on our blog. Thanks for some good information.


MJCook 7 years ago

When does clover seed mature? I have hundreds of blooms in a patch of clover in my lawn and the blooming has been happening for at least 4 weeks. Bees have been pollinating the blossoms. Some blossoms are now drooping and are turning brown but I cannot seem to find any seeds in the blossoms, only dried petals. I want to use the seeds to estabish another couple of patches in my back yard. Thanks for your help.

MJC


LisaR 7 years ago

Nice article, but I guess I'm in the minority here. I have two little ones, ages 4 and 1, and the clover is ALL over our lawn. My 4-year-old was stung in the foot last week by a bee. There are bees ALL over our lawn all day now. He won't go on the lawn at all, and my 1-year-old, who prefers to run around w/o shoes, cannot do so any more for the WHOLE summer. It's ridiculous that there's apparently no way to get rid of this. We tried mowing the grass shorter, but can't lower the mower enough to do the job w/o ripping up chunks of grass and earth. I think it's great that many of you want to help out the bee population, and I would, too, if it didn't interfere with my babies being able to enjoy their own yard.


annualcreditreport 7 years ago

I think planting small areas of clover or areas in less visible areas is a great idea... where I live we always have water shortages and if it can save water and still look good I'm all for it... thanks for the tip


oldwolves 7 years ago

Im all in. This fall I'm going to make the attempt to do half my lawn in clover. My only concern is the best way to spread the seeds. It seems they are to small for conventional spreaders.


sgtpepper 7 years ago

We have overseed with a grass/clover mix called Earth Turf, which has a new type of really small clover that blends in better than red or dutch white clovers - http://www.earthturfco.com

Stays green thru summer without water!


Tim 6 years ago

I am growing it without even knowing it. It sucks...I spent 400 bucks on bermuda, and all that grows is this.

Next summer Clover! Its OVER!


Stephanie_H 6 years ago from NC

What kinds of weeds does clover typically choke out? We have kudzu in a particular area of my yard that I've either (mostly) dug up or I'm keeping it under control by mowing. We also have some kind of grass (not sure what it's called; I just know it spreads by putting out runners) that I hope clover will get rid of.

How much shade is too much?


kerryg profile image

kerryg 6 years ago from USA Author

Kudzu is a killer, and I think it would probably be too aggressive for clover to choke out. There are a number of grasses that fit your description, and some are more aggressive than others. I do know that we've had good luck with crowding out crab grass with clover.

Have you considered buying or renting goats to help you keep the kudzu under control? I've heard weed control goats have produced good results against the stuff.


Stephanie_H 6 years ago from NC

I'm not quite sure if it's kudzu. It's a non-flowering vine that loves to stick it to trees. Their root systems are like a clump of brown, stubby fingers. I know it when I leave just one in the ground because it'll come back after a few weeks, just not as big.

I haven't thought about getting goats. I'm afraid they'd eat everything I didn't want them to eat.


Stephanie_H 6 years ago from NC

I've done a little research and found that my vine is actually common greenbrier and not kudzu! (Thank God) It's actually native to where I live, so maybe there's a small chance that clover can keep it under control.


 6 years ago

We tried a clover lawn once upon a time. We were not very happy with it. Seems to me to be a lot of work for busy folks so I'm not sure we'll try it again but you have me thinking. I've been thinking about a chamomile lawn but need to do some research to see how such a lawn would fair in the hot summers of South Carolina.


Jim B 6 years ago

What would be a good grass to mix with clover. I have 5 acres that I would like to plant with a clover and grass mix


Jen M 6 years ago

Hi! We have a small grassy area in our backyard that has always been difficult to keep healthy grass in. It gets way too much shade from the trees and it is generally pretty wet. And now that we've put in a trampoline for the kids, the grass underneath has been eliminated completely.

I've been looking for an alternative, something that would grow even underneath a trampoline, as the yard is a bit of a mudbowl without the grass and we have a dog who brings it all inside. :)

I was thinking that possibly clover was the answer, but I'm worried about the bees. The kids don't really run around on the grass much around the trampoline, but they are on the trampoline a lot, of course. And I don't want them stung.

Is there a type of clover that doesn't flower? Or could you suggest another type of ground cover?

Thanks so much!


tim-tim profile image

tim-tim 6 years ago from Normal, Illinois

Glad that you share the info with us. We have a big lot and all kinds of stuff growing. I don't mind anything except the dandelions and Poison Ivy and Posion Oaks. Thanks for the hub.


Marmar 6 years ago

I was wondering if you had any helpful links on creating a clover lawn with other landscaping items, such as rocks. I live in Memphis--it is hot and humid. My lawn gets direct sunlight--very little shade.


LewisSummer profile image

LewisSummer 6 years ago

I love the fact that this information is getting out there. It's such a stigma to have clover in a lawn, and when I tell others about my plan to have a clover lawn I get a lot of raised eyebrows. THANKS!


kirsten  6 years ago

I like the idea of a clover lawn but i need something that can withstand not just the urine burns but the traffic of my three dogs!! any ideas? maybe a mixture....


Monique 6 years ago

Not sure where you live Kristen, but there are fescue mixes that you can use to over-seed your current lawn. These fescues with clover can be used to create a drought resistant, dog friendly, low mow lawn that will stand up to your dogs. All that is required is overseeding for a few seasons in spring & fall so that you don't have to go through the hassle of ripping out the lawn you have in place. I know there is a Canadian Company called Green Earth that sells both clover and a fescue mix they call EcoTurf. I have never been let down by their products yet and that says a lot considering I live in Calgary where the Chinooks wreak havoc on our gardens.

Good luck & enjoy.


Charlie 6 years ago

I have a lot of clover clumps or clonals. The blooms are starting to turn brown. Can't I just mow to spread the seed?


Yuyuba 6 years ago

I am planning on dividing my garden into two parts, one a grass lawn and another as a clover lawn. What can I do to make sure that the clover doesn't start spreding to the grass lawn? Do I have to put something in the middle to separate them?

Thanks,


Beatriz Moisset 6 years ago

We always must remember that native plants have co-evolved with native species; they are always better suited to the habitat in question and more beneficial to wildlife, including pollinators and birds.

Unfortunately white clover (Trifolium repens) is not native; neither are most other clovers such as sweet clover (Melilotus officinalis) and species of Medicago. However the advantages (pollination, soil enrichment) probably outweigh the disadvantages; after all most grasses used as lawn are also non native.

It would be infinitely preferable to plant native clovers such as running buffalo clover (Trifolium stoloniferum) (http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=TRST4). It may be rather impractical to do this considering that it is an endangered species; on the other hand it would be well worth a try precisely for this reason.


LovesBees 6 years ago

The mixed lawns work really well i got a part of my yard that's covered in clover but has plently of grass between. Best part of my lawn.


TheListLady profile image

TheListLady 6 years ago from New York City

This is a super informative hub! In fact I have a clover front lawn. But I had no idea of all the information you provided - it was already there when I moved here 17 years ago. I'll bookmark this and keep in mind when I move to the country.

Super hub! Thanks again and rated up and more!


frbock 6 years ago

1 week ago, I overseeded my front lawn with something called microclover. I've got some popping up already. I didn't inoculate as I already have Dutch white in parts of the lawn. We'll see how it goes, this stuff has leaves about 1/3 the size of the Dutch White, and is supposed to only grow a couple of inches tall, and not bloom too much.


Joseph Astle 6 years ago

We grow Bees. We are looking for something to plant on about 3 Acres that the bees can feed on. Would the White Clover be the best for that? Or should we use a mix?


kerryg profile image

kerryg 6 years ago from USA Author

Joseph, white clover is a fantastic choice for bees and also produces a very delicious honey.

I would definitely encourage a mix of many different types of blossoms on your garden or farm, though. It is very important for beekeepers to provide a steady source of forage throughout the active season of the bees, and the more variety of flowers, the easier this is to ensure.

For a list of more great plants for bees, and links to other resources, check out my article on bee gardening: http://hubpages.com/living/beegarden


Afo 6 years ago

How can I get rid of all other weeds AND keep clovers ?Is there a weed killer which doesn't kill clovers ? (I have all kinds of weeds and clovers and I just want to keep the clovers and get rid of other weeds).Thanks


erthfrend profile image

erthfrend 6 years ago from Florida

Excellent article with great info! Ive always loved clover lawns. I live in Florida and would frequently see them when visiting states north of us on vacation. They smell so good and i love the way they look. I would love to have one too! Thanks for the tips!


Sandi 5 years ago

I didn't see an answer to Afo's question and I have the same exact question. I spent most of the summer and fall pulling weeds from my clover. Is there ANYTHING I can use like weed&feed to klii hte weeds and keep the clover looking beautiful???


Paul Viverito- paulvive@cfl.rr.com 5 years ago

Ilive in east central florida and have about 8000 feet of "lawn". The lawn is a mixture of weeds and grass and bare spots and god only knows what else. I plan on seeding with Dutch White clover, but at 79 yrs old I don't plan on doing much more than just spreading the seed over what already exists. What kind of results should I expect?


Travis 5 years ago

You say that clover is good for reducing dog spots from female dog urine - however, every source I have read says that clover is toxic to dogs.


Crissy 5 years ago

We live in Lincoln, California and we have a very small patio yard with an area about 6' x 10". We attempted a sod lawn but we were unsuccessful we believe because we have very poor and compacted soil. It is my understanding that clover can thrive in this type soil, is this correct? Also, is clover at all toxic to pets?

Thank you!!


Mandy Cee 5 years ago

I just bught a 10 lb bag of Dutch White Clover and am super excited to get in in the ground...it may snow once more here..can I still try and plant it? low 40s-50?


Luna 5 years ago

Is clover toxic to children or dogs? Both my son and my dog think it's tasty. :(


PaulieWalnuts profile image

PaulieWalnuts 5 years ago from Chicago

I'M SOLD! Where do I sign up? I'm allergic to grass! I hate grass, the lawn grass industry has manipulated and scammed us for decades. Awesome Hub, may you have many 4-leafs in your clover yard and than harvest and brew clover leaf tea from your own backyard.


Al Banyan 5 years ago

I would love to build an all clover lawn. If I constantly seed it, will it replace / compete with my current grass and eventually dominate or do I have to kill grass first? Mainly fescue? Tx a million


Shelly 5 years ago

I planted Dutch White Clover as an edging between my garden path and planting beds. It is working great. I plan to take a little out here and there as time goes by and replace w/ thing like strawberries or flowers I like. It will most likely get in my lawn (Yeah). My husband takes care of the sod and isn't as happy about it as I am. We spend too much on fertilizer, weed killer, water, ect. Clover was very cost effective as a boarder also.


SARAH 5 years ago

Hi

I live in singapore and am looking for clover seeds, if anyone can help me please email me at venkatos@yahoo.com

Thanks a million


virginia 4 years ago

I am also curios to know if there is an effective weed way to control weeds in clover.


arusho 4 years ago

Good hub, very informative. I like clover but my daughter isn't so fond of the bees.


kschimmel profile image

kschimmel 4 years ago from North Carolina, USA

Would clover be an option for a shady, muddy backyard? I'm desperate, since no grass has succeeded there. I want something I can do from seed.


Virginia 4 years ago

Years ago, my husband put down Bermuda grass, and I've always hated it. Is it possible to sow enough clover to eventually take over, or am I stuck with that awful Bermuda?


Winifred 4 years ago

Will over seeding work on top of thatch? I am constantly raking thatch out of my lawn.


Nettlemere profile image

Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

I'd never heard of people purposely cultivating clover lawns before, but what a great idea. I've been enjoying watching the bees on a local patch of clover recently and they certainly love it and it smells so sweet on a warm day too.


Carole 4 years ago

I bought Ladino clover at a feed store and the stuff is giant! I asked the guy for white clover! Need a breakdown of different types of clover. I live in Seattle.


marcie 2 years ago

how do you kill moss but not the clover have a micro clover lawn


ev 2 years ago

can i reprint your article on a facebook page supporting your ideas? Please let me know if that's any problem for you! thanks!

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