Clover Lawns Pros and Cons

Clover Lawns Pros and Cons

If you’re like many other people in the United States, you might not realize that clover wasn’t always considered a weed and a nuisance. In fact, many years ago, it was almost always included in grass seed mixes. Clover actually has lots of benefits, and today I’ll take a look at those (as well as its downsides) in this article all about the pros and cons of clover lawns.

How Clover has Historically Been Used in Lawns

The type of clover most often used on and in place of lawns today is white clover.

More specifically, this is Dutch white clover or just Dutch clover. Its Latin name is Trifolium repens.

When looking at the history of lawns you’ll learn that up until as late the 1950s, it was common to include clover in your lawn because it was considered a way of promoting healthy grass through natural fertilization (clover is Leguminous – more on that in a minute).

Why Homeowners Dislike Clover - The History of Clover in Lawns and How Our Attitudes Changed Based on Marketing of Herbicide Products

All of this ended when it became common to apply broadleaf herbicide.

These herbicides weren’t developed to treat clover, but when it was discovered that they killed clover in addition to other broadleaf weeds (and because it was so common in lawns), the companies producing lawn herbicides decided marketing it as a clover killer would be good for business.

Produce a product that says it kills clover in lawns and market it and people will soon believe that clover needs to be eliminated from their lawn.

The plan worked.

Your Clover Lawn Options

You can include clover in a lawn that is mostly grass, or you can start over and sow a pure clover lawn.

Clover Lawn Drawbacks and Benefits

A mix of grass and clover is appropriate in areas with more foot traffic. A pure clover lawn is really best for places that have moderate foot traffic at most, or large fields where you want to mow infrequently while enjoying moderate plant height and flowers that support pollinating insects.

Best Clover Blend for Overseeding

The Clover Seed Mix I Recommend

Ready to overseed your lawn with clover? I recommend Sunday’s Lucky Lawn clover and grass seed blend. It is a great quality micro clover seed mixed with fescue that blends seamlessly with most lawns. 

A single 5 pound bag will overseed 2,500 square feet!

Sunday Lucky Lawn Clover Grass Seed Blend

Save 12% on your order with promo code LAWNCHICK2023

Clover Lawns Pros and Cons Analyzed

Now let’s take a closer look at both the advantages and disadvantages of sowing clover in your yard.

Pros of Clover in Your Lawn

Clover has many benefits when used in or as a lawn.

For instance, it will stay green all summer because it’s resistant to drought. It takes on its characteristic green shade in the early part of spring and stays green until the first frost later in the year.

In southern states, your clover will stay green even in the winter.

Clover is also inexpensive to buy and can help your lawn care budget. You can cover as many as 4,000 square feet of space with just $4. If you already have some on your lawn, you won’t have to spend anything. Just let it grow and spread.

Why Plant Clover in Your Lawn

Additionally, clover can thrive in poor soil. It’s a nitrogen fixer as a legume, meaning it adds nitrogen to the soil as it grows instead of taking it out. This allows clover to fertilize itself and other plants around it.

You won’t have to worry about how your clover will do if you have soil that’s not the best quality. If you have a new home, this may be very helpful. The grounds of many new builds have low-quality subsoil.

Let’s take a look at more of the many pros of including clover on your lawn.

  • Clover helps your lawn get through a drought.
  • It attracts beneficial insects to your lawn, such as bees, which are necessary for plant pollination.
  • Clover needs no fertilization and will help to fertilize your lawn in itself because it adds nitrogen to the soil.
  • Clover is a great choice for dog owners who have trouble with their lawn. Dog urine won’t discolor it.
  • It crowds out weeds that you don’t want. Its roots have a dense structure that prevents them from growing.
  • Clover grows more slowly than grass and doesn’t get as tall. This means that you might not have to mow as often.

Cons of Clover on Your Lawn

Clover is not without some drawbacks, however.

You will probably have to re-seed clover every few years in order to keep it even. This is because it is a short-lived perennial. If you have a mixed clover and grass lawn instead of a pure clover lawn, however, you will probably find that the plant re-seeds itself adequately.

Pros and Cons of Clover Lawns

Clover simply isn’t strong enough to use it alone on areas that take a lot of traffic, such as sports fields. You can mix a tiny bit of it into your grass in these cases, but it will quickly get worn down as stand-alone turf.

Below are more potential disadvantages of having clover on your lawn:

  • Clover’s roots can spread out quite rapidly. Be aware of this, as the clover roots can end up getting into your flower gardens.
  • The bees that will be attracted to your lawn by the clover can be a problem if anyone in your household is allergic to bee stings.
  • Trying to overseed your lawn using clover will probably end up causing a patchy and unattractive look.
  • You’ll have to be careful if you want to sit on your clover, as it tends to stain clothing more readily than grass.

How to Take Care of Clover

Clover requires different care techniques than regular grass. It’s fairly simple to learn how to maintain it and take care of it properly.

It’s usually a good idea to plant clover in the early part of the spring, between mid-March and mid-April. If you don’t get around to it in the spring, you can do it in the fall instead, but summer is a tough time to start a lawn from seed.

Mowing a Clover Lawn

One of the difficulties of planting clover seed comes form how tiny the seeds are. This is why many people will mix it with something like sand, sawdust, or soil. This will help you spread it more evenly than you would be able to otherwise.

Once you’ve planted clover in your lawn, water it daily until germination, and then for 2-3 weeks after your seedlings sprout.

While that is the basics of planting clover, other care tips are:

  • Don’t use herbicides if you have a significant amount of clover in your lawn. Many will harm it.
  • You can encourage patches of clover already on your lawn by setting your mower blades to between 1.5 and 2 inches. Do this for your whole lawn if you have a pure clover lawn.
  • Clover requires a great deal of sunlight. Expect it to grow more slowly if you’ve planted it in an area with a lot of shade. In these cases, you should also use more seed, even doubling it.

How to Deal with Bees in a Clover Lawn

As mentioned earlier, bees are attracted to clover because of its white flowers.

Depending upon your viewpoint, bees can be both pro and con of clover lawns.

Bees in Clover Lawns - Both a Pro and a Con for Planting Clover in Your Yard

They’re a benefit to your property (and humanity) because they are pollinators. With lots of bees on your property, however, you will need to keep in mind the higher likelihood of bee stings.

This is especially true if you spend a lot of time outside or have kids that play on the lawn. It’s of special concern to parents whose kids have an allergy to bee stings.

You can cut down on the number of bees that come to your property by mowing the clover low. Doing so will keep it from flowering. This is especially true in the blooming season of the summer.

As long as you don’t have anyone allergic to bees in your household or among people who spend time on your property on a regular basis, it’s a great idea to let the white flowers on your clover flourish. This is because bee populations are under dire threat in every part of the world as a result of something called colony collapse disorder (CCD).

This is a serious situation for humankind. Bees are the most important pollinator for one-third of all food crops used by humans.

Weighing the Advantages and Disadvantages of Clover Lawns

For many homeowners including clover as part of your lawn is a great option that you may not have considered before.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Clover Lawns

The key is to understand all the pros and cons of clover. Understand your situation, and figure out what will work best for you and your family.

The area you live in and how you use your property play a significant role in determining if clover will be right for your property.

There are many potential benefits of having clover on your lawn. Still, some homeowners who prefer the aesthetic of a 100% grass lawn probably won’t want it in their yard.

Keep in mind the negatives, too, so you can decide how significant these are to you for your lifestyle and preferences.

by

Sarah’s blog, Lawn Chick, is read by over 2 million homeowners each year and she is regularly cited as an expert source of lawn care knowledge by major publications. Her goal is to meet you where you are, and help you achieve a yard you’ll be proud of. Ready to take the next step toward improving your lawn? Grab her free lawn care cheat-sheet: What to Do When - Take the Guesswork Out of Lawn Care, or upgrade your garage by browsing her favorite DIY lawn care products.

6 thoughts on “Clover Lawns Pros and Cons

  1. Aiden Ray

    This may seem like a really strange question but I have a Crescent driveway where the half circle in the middle of the driveway, I converted into microclover after I read multiple reviews, including your article. Tilled and everything. Looks awesome on the first month and a half. I trimmed it down slightly so that I could re seed another pound of microclover on the spots that were empty, but other than that, it’s about 90 full. (Cut it because seeds were set apart by 1 week) wanted them even before re-seeding. Now my question.

    Have you ever seen a lawn that has a mixture of microclover with dicondra seeds? Would that be a dumb of me to add that in ? Will one take over the other? I can’t seem to find any information on it, some Amazon reviews say that it fills in really nicely and super green and they’re both low growing. Only found 2 people that said not to because one would take the other over.

    • Hey, Aiden!

      Great question. To be honest I can’t offer much insight because I’ve never tried to grow both in the same plot.

      If I were you I’d go for it! My guess is that it’ll fill in nicely, and be more resilient than a monoculture would be. And if one overtakes the other – well, I think that’s ok … whichever will do a better job thriving in your driveway circle long-term will become dominant, which will give you better long-term results. That’s how nature is supposed to work, right?

  2. Bob

    I live in Washington (puget sound 18 in. rain mild winters, a couple freezes, snow once in awhile for a couple days at most).
    What happens to clove during winter?

    • Hey, Bob!

      In most cases clover will die back to the ground in winter and grow back fresh when soil temperatures warm the following spring. As a result, you may lose your ground cover during the winter months. Where I am (in New England), that’s no big deal because we typically have snow on the ground from December through spring. But in your case – where you don’t typically have snow sticking for long periods, I could see that being a drawback, or at least a concern.

      To be honest, though, I’m not sure if your clover would die back all the way, or simply go brown/dormant like some traditional turfgrasses, just because I haven’t spent much time in your part of the country, and know the microclimates in the pacific Northwest are all pretty unique.

      If I were you I’d try to find someone in your neighborhood who has some clover (as a ground cover, or simply as part of their yard) and ask them how it behaves during the cooler months. That will probably give you the best direction about what you could expect in your yard.

      Hope this helps!

  3. Bruce Karcheski

    Hi Sarah. I live in northern Utah and have very sandy soil. We in the SW are dealing with drought, as you likely know. Last summer most of my lawn succumbed to the heat and lack of water, and has mostly died. It is Kentucky blue grass and Bermuda (i think) and weeds.
    I am interested in planting clover.
    Should i rake or dethatch what i have b4 planting clover, of just over seed the yard?
    About how much seed do i need to cover about 20,000 sq ft?

    • Hey, Bruce!

      Happy new year. 🙂 How much prep work you decide to do will really determine how much of your clover seed takes. Since you said you have KBG and Bermuda (which both grow laterally and create some pretty thick sod) I would probably recommend dethatching prior to spreading seed just so you get better seed to soil contact with your clover.

      I’ve had great luck with West Coast Seeds and recommend either their Dutch White Clover (more traditional) or their Micro Clover Raw Seed (smaller, lower growing). They’re a Canadian company but ship to the US and they’re one of the few companies that ships the correct clover seed (some you order will just be any random clover which doesn’t help build a resilient lawn the way you want it to).

      According to their website you’ll want to order:

      • Micro Clover – 1kg (two units of the 500g) of raw uncoated seed to overseed 20,000 square feet
      • Dutch White Clover – 2.8kg (two units of the 1.4kg) to overseed 20,000 square feet.

      The Dutch White Clover seed will be the cheaper option for you by quite a bit and is probably the better choice for your application.

      Since you deal with heat and drought, I’d also recommend in the late spring or early summer using a fertilizer that’s high in potassium (the third number on the N-P-K fertilizer label). Potassium supports overall plant health and can help your clover and/or grass stand up to the stress of heat and drought through that tough period. The JG product that tops my fall fertilizer list right here actually works pretty well for an early summer application in the conditions you’re dealing with (it’s designed to support lawns going into freezing temps, but works just as well for lawns going into summer heatwaves).

      Good luck!

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