Clover in Lawns – Friend or Foe?

In a traditional lawn, the usual goal is to promote a dense, thick turf that naturally excludes broadleaf and grassy weeds.  However, for several reasons, clovers, both white clover and a newer plant trend – microclovers – has been gaining some attention.


If you want to get rid of broadleaf weeds such as white clover and dandelions, the recommendation is to treat in mid fall with a product such as Trimec, Speedzone or Roundup for Lawns, following label directions to the letter.  The alternative is to promote a moderate amount of clover growth instead of killing it.


White clover has long been a favorite of low maintenance lawn growers, who enjoy the scattered color and varying textures that it brings to the turf sward.  Additionally, clover makes its own nitrogen, so it fits well in a turf setting where the desired outcome is a green cover, but not a recreational surface or strong landscape element.


Microclovers are simply a selection of white clover with a lower growing habit and smaller leaves.  It mixes well with most turfgrasses grown in our area, without forming objectionable clumps.  As well, since it is a flowering clover, beneficial pollinators such as several species of bees have been observed to use them as a food source.


The down sides to using clovers is their tendency to dominate desirable turf species under very low maintenance regimes, lack of tolerance to shady conditions and susceptibility to broadleaf weed control products, and occasional disease occurrences.


If you’re interested in trying something new, consider allowing a little white clover to grow instead of killing it or introducing a microclover into your existing Kentucky bluegrass or tall fescue lawn.  Renovation techniques commonly used for increasing a lawn’s density are appropriate for microclover – mowing low, powerraking, seeding with a drop seeder, keeping the seedbed moist and having patience.

John Fech
Horticulture Extension Educator at Nebraska Extension
John Fech is a horticulturist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture. The author of 2 books and over 200 popular and trade journal articles, he focuses his time on teaching effective landscape maintenance techniques, water conservation, diagnosing turf and ornamental problems and encouraging effective bilingual communication in the green industry. He works extensively with the media to extend the message of landscape sustainability, making over 100 television and radio appearances each year.
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