How to Plant a Clover Lawn

Clover requires less water and fertilizer than grass; plus, it looks magical.

closeup clover lawn

Treehugger / Christian Yonkers

Amy Cox remembers the first time she learned she could grow a lawn out of clover. "Where has this been all my life?" she mused. "Why is this a secret?"

Cox is a partner at Pro Time Lawn Seed, an alternative lawn business in Portland, Oregon, that sells seeds for clover and other plants to make eco-friendly, low maintenance lawns. Her company helps not just individuals, but also colleges, cities, and states to plant unconventional lawns and parks.

"We’re up 86% this year from last year," she told me. "That’s been steadily happening over the last four years. It’s kind of an 'organic' growth."

Clover is becoming popular because it looks magical but doesn't require as much care as regular lawns. Since it doesn't need fertilizer or much water, it's also good for the planet. Plus, it's tough.

"Soccer pitches are using it in areas that get the most wear," Cox told me. "We love it in our dog park mix."

If you're wondering what it would take to turn your grassy lawn into a clover meadow, I've got you covered.

Decide What to Plant

closeup hand holds small clover
Treehugger / Christian Yonkers 

If you already have a lawn, you can just add clover to it—no need to rip out all the grass. Of course, that's up to you. Pure microclover lawns look gorgeous, Cox assures me. But many people like to mix different plants together for a ground cover that's more resilient than just clover on its own.

"If you happen to plant clover with other plants, it will fertilize them as well," Cox said. "That's one of the things I love about it."

Besides, it's easier to keep a mixed lawn healthy.

"Microclover by itself is a monoculture," she pointed out. "If something were to happen to it, there’s really nothing else to help carry on."

Prepare the Soil

closeup woman's hands hold soil
Treehugger / Christian Yonkers

This bit's a little open-ended. You can start from scratch or add clover seeds to your already existing lawn. If you've got grass thatches in your lawn, you might want to rake them out.

"Core aeration is always good for a lawn, especially one with compacted soil," Cox said.

You can use lime, compost, fertilizer, or whatever else you want to make the soil as ready for action as possible.

Aim to plant sometime after it starts warming up and at least a couple months before the first frost. So, late spring through summer works best.

Toss the Seeds

clover seeds in hand
Treehugger / Christian Yonkers 

Finally, the fun part. You're like the flower girl at a wedding, except instead of throwing dying flowers around, you're planting unborn ones.

Walk north and south, dropping a line of seeds as you go (don't bury them). Then walk east and west as you drop more seeds, so you crisscross the lawn.

Water

hand holds spewing hose
Treehugger / Christian Yonkers

Microclover doesn't need much water once it's growing strong, but baby microclovers could use a little extra love. For the first month or two, make sure the soil stays moist.

Keep Off

Don't step, walk your dog, or throw a rave on the area until the clovers are a few inches tall. Once your lawn goes through a winter, it will officially be a grown-up clover lawn. And don't forget the following step.

Maintain

hands touching small clover leaves
Treehugger / Christian Yonkers

You don't need to water microclover as much as grass, and don't even think about using an herbicide on it. You can add fertilizer if you want, but clover is pretty good at keeping itself fertilized since it naturally pulls nutritious nitrogen out of the air.

As you may have surmised, clover lawns need way less care than regular grass lawns. But you still can't just let them grow wild and expect them to look postcard-perfect (of course, if you like wild lawns, go for it). To keep your clover looking like a crowd of tiny green clones, mow about once a month.

For more information, visit Pro Time Lawn Seed.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Does a clover lawn require less water than grass?

    Yes. Clover has long, deep roots that pull water from further down than grass can. It requires far less watering and will stay green during dry periods.

  • How often does a clover lawn need to be mowed?

    Some people choose never to mow their clover lawns, since the plants top out between 2 and 8 inches in height, and many like the white flowers that attract pollinators. If you do not like the flowers, mow at a low height throughout the growing season to prevent blooming and reseeding. If you do like them, mow at a higher height in spring and fall, leaving the lawn untouched during summer.

  • Do I need to fertilize a clover lawn?

    No. Clover does not require herbicides. In fact, those chemicals will likely kill it. Clover is competitive and will likely take over other plants, thanks to a robust root system. It grows well in poor soil and does not require weeding.

View Article Sources
  1. Hillock, David. “Improving Garden Soil Fertility.” Oklahoma State University.

  2. Crimson Clover.” Michigan State University.

  3. Natural Organic Lawn Care.” Ohio State University.