Everything You Need To Know About Clover Lawns

single purple clover with blurred background

Treehugger / Autumn Wood

While it is defined by many as an eco-friendly alternative to lawn grass, people may still consider clover to be a lawn weed. In fact, there are plenty of pesticides and products on the market that will tell you how to get rid of clover. 

But there are also a lot of reasons to grow a clover lawn. As we become more conscious of the harmful effects of using pesticides on lawns, we are naturally going to see plants like clover popping up and sticking around. And by keeping your lawn covered with this versatile, low-maintenance plant, you're actually doing a small part to protect the environment.

The Benefits of a Clover Lawn

Flowers in grass
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Among the benefits of having and maintaining a clover lawn, clover is visually interesting. Not only is it easy to grow and guaranteed to “green” up your space; it also has a fun texture much different than grass. Plus, who doesn’t want the opportunity to look for a four-leaf clover?

Appearance aside, clover naturally gives back to your soil. As a nitrogen-fixing plant, it pulls nitrogen gas out of the air and converts it into a nutrient. This is important to soil because, when growing other plants, nitrogen is naturally lost. Clover, therefore, does the work of a fertilizer, eliminating that additional expense for gardeners.  

This plant is also drought-tolerant, easy to grow, and will thrive in both sun and shade. Many landscapers and gardeners suggest converting to a clover lawn gradually rather than digging up your lawn and making it happen all at once. You might start with a clover and drought-tolerant grass seed mix of 80:20, and then alter your ratio as you see fit and based on the results. (Clover will naturally spread over time, so you may not need to try too hard to get more of it.)

Types of Clover

While you can find several varieties of clover, there are a few that are best for backyards and lawns. If you're feeling bold, try mixing a couple options in your space. Remember what you planted and where, so when you have success, you’ll know which variety to spread further.

Dutch White Cover (Trifolium repens)

Meadow with white clover (Trifolium repens)
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Dutch white clover is the most common variety, providing lawns with that class clover look. It will stay green throughout the year and produce plenty of flowers, which are popular among bees looking for nectar. This type of clover is considered aggressive and invasive in some areas, which is important to keep in mind when monitoring its growth.

Microclover (Trifolium repens var. Pirouette)

Microclover is a variation of white clover. This one has smaller leaves and far fewer blooms, but it is a lot more tolerant to foot traffic and mowing. It also has smaller leaves and grows closer to the ground. For those looking for a cover that will stand up to pets and kids, it might be the perfect option.

Strawberry Clover (Trifolium fragiferum)

Trifolium fragiferum
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Strawberry clover isn’t as well known as white clover. Native to the eastern Mediterranean and southern Asia, it may not thrive in areas prone to extremely high or low temperatures; however, it does well in nearly all kinds of soil. This clover features florets that, when ripe, take on a pinkish hue and resemble (you guessed it) strawberries.

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)

Red Clover Blooming In Lawn
Friedrich (Klimpi) Loosli (Klimperator) / EyeEm / Getty Images

Red clover can be more of a tender plant compared to other clovers. It produces beautiful purple flowers, which make it a popular choice for meadows and wildflower gardens, as well. It grows quickly and best on well-drained soil, but like strawberry soil, can thrive on a range of soil varieties.

What If I Already Have a Grass Lawn?

You don’t have to tear up your grass lawn in order to grow a clover lawn. One of the easier options for getting started is to add seeds to your existing space a little at a time. For this method, all you have to do is toss out seeds and water them, just as you would with grass seed. As the seedlings sprout and grow, the clover will expand further and further into the grass. 

Gardeners can also benefit from adding clover seed during aeration, the process of loosening up compact soil to help it breathe. Aeration helps the soil become more welcoming to organic fertilizer, water, and seeds. Because of this, right after your aerate is a great time to add clover seeds to your lawn. It will help the seedlings establish quicker and stronger, help your lawn grow better, and benefit indoor plants.

Don’t forget that there is an option to just dig up parts of your lawn if you so choose. It can feel overwhelming to do this all at once, so take it in sections. If another goal is to add more garden beds and spaces for flowers to a traditional lawn, remove chunks of your lawn to start fresh. As you plant perennials, mix in clover in between or in those hard-to-grow areas. In this approach, you’re treating it like a ground cover, which adds an element of diversity to the space. 

Even if you’re not looking to entirely convert your lawn to a clover haven, know that it’s perfectly fine (and even healthy) for this common plant to show up in your grass and backyard. You don’t have to go to great lengths to get rid of it, which equals less maintenance for you and environmental bonus points.

Takeaways

  • Clover lawns are visually stunning, give nutrients back to the soil, and are a nectar source for bees.
  • There are many clover lawn options to choose from. While the white clover is the most popular and easiest to find on the market, other varieties may better suit your lawn conditions.
  • Adding seeds a little bit at a time is a convenient way to get your clover lawn started. Other options include adding clover seed during the core aeration process or digging up parts of your grass lawn.
View Article Sources
  1. "Trifolium repens." Missouri Botanical Garden.

  2. "The Role of Clover." Science Learning Hub.

  3. "Lawns and Microclover." University of Maryland Extension.

  4. "Strawberry Clover." USDA.

  5. "Red Clover." USDA.