Clover, Over and Over: Reality of Clover Lawns

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Clover lawns are touted as the saving grace of the low green areas (aka lawns) we demand around our homes and buildings for folks who want to provide nectar and forage for pollinators. Everyone seems to have an opinion on this, from dime-a-dozen garden bloggers to well-known names like Bob Villa and big box store brands. You could swim in the conflicting opinions and perspectives, but this isn’t helpful at the end of the day. You need to have reasonable expectations for what to expect and under what circumstances to use clovers in your lawn areas.

The Realities

Clovers are great to mix into a lawn area, but not realistic to expect it to be the only thing there North Carolina has a great climate for growing a variety of plants. This makes it challenging for folks who want to maintain a monoculture of any kind of plant, but especially areas where they do not want to put a lot of effort into! A realistic clover lawn will also have other plants growing with it, especially grasses and other groundcover types of plants. This is okay. A “clover lawn” that the manager intends to be “low maintenance” and serve pollinators can and should contain more than just clover! The more inputs you put in the more likely you are going to do more harm than good.


Not all Clovers are the Same

There are three main species that are used for clover lawns and forages: White (or sometimes called Dutch), Red and Crimson clovers. Some Clovers are semi-

Red Clover - photo by Amanda Wilkins

Red Clover – photo by Amanda Wilkins

dormant or fully dormant in the summer and the coldest part of winter. Some can tolerate foot traffic and mowing, and some can’t. Make sure you research which clover is appropriate for how you plan to use and manage the area where you want to install your clover lawn.


Timing is Everything, and Spring is TOO LATE

It is usually spring when I start getting phone calls and emails about clover lawns, but this is too late for getting a clover lawn established, unfortunately. In the Piedmont of NC, incorporating clover into your lawn areas is best done in the late summer (August 15-September 15) for crimson clover, and early fall (September 15-October 15) for white and red clovers. You can try frost seeding white and red clover during February; but fall is still best because clovers prefer cooler weather and getting them in in the fall gives them time to get established before it gets hot.

Give It a Try, but Be Reasonable with Your Expectations

Remember: there is no such thing as a maintenance-free landscape; let alone a maintenance-free lawn. Lawns are a point of contention among homeowners, landscapers and land managers. Everyone’s vision for a lawn is different: some folks want a monoculture stand of one type of turfgrass and have no tolerance for any weeds; and clovers are usually seen as a bane. Others are okay with something they can mow that is mostly green. If you would like to incorporate clovers into your lawn, understand what you want out of your lawn area and plan your soil prep and seeding timeline for the fall!

Amanda Wilkins is the Horticulture Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.

Written By

Amanda Wilkins, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionAmanda WilkinsExtension Agent, Agriculture - Horticulture Call Amanda Email Amanda N.C. Cooperative Extension, Lee County Center
Posted on Mar 6, 2024
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