Plant Clover to Improve Soil Health

a patch of white clovera patch of white clover
<a href="/grass-and-groundcover-seeds/clover-seeds/white-clover-seeds">White Clover</a> is one of the most well-known clovers planted in the United States.

Clover’s reputation has waxed and waned over the last century. While clover was once considered a sign of a well-managed lawn, clover came to be considered a weed only after broadleaf herbicides hit the market. Today, gardeners are growing wise to the plant’s many benefits.

Plant clover in your yard, meadow, or garden, and it will work hard to improve soil health, attract pollinators and beneficial insects, and promote a healthy lawn and garden. Not to mention - clover is edible as well! Where will you plant clover in your landscape?

crimson clovercrimson clover
<a href="/grass-and-groundcover-seeds/crimson-clover-seeds">Crimson Clover</a> is not only beautiful to behold, it also works hard to rejuvenate your soil.

You Can Plant Clover Almost Anywhere

With a number of species available commercially, there is a clover for almost any planting situation. Some species thrive in full sun while others grow under shady conditions. One clover may prefer dry soils while others perform well in water-logged sites.

You can plant clover as a component of wildflower meadows or sow seed directly over your lawn. Many growers plant clover beneath fruit-bearing shrubs, vines, and trees to improve pollination and condition soil.

Clover is easy to grow from inexpensive seed. Sow in spring after the threat of frost has passed or in autumn, depending on plant species and your location. Try mixing clover into a wildflower mix or sowing as a cover crop in your fruit and vegetable gardens.

Seed can be sown directly over established turf grasses by mowing at a low setting and gently raking out any built-up thatch. Then mix seed with sand, sawdust, fine compost, or soil for even distribution and broadcast over the planting area. After sowing, water the planting site deeply and keep the soil surface moist until the clover germinates.

Clover grows very quickly, bringing with it unexpected beauty. In lawn areas, clover fills empty, brown patches and keeps lawns looking green and lush throughout the season. Plants bloom in a variety of colors, from pink and purple to deep crimson.

Flowers are produced over a long season and attract the beauty of butterflies to the landscape. Plant clover in large masses to cover bare soil or add ornamental interest in fields and weedy areas.

crimson clover and texas bluebonnet aka lupinecrimson clover and texas bluebonnet aka lupine
Soil-improving clovers can be interplanted with wildflowers to create a beautiful effect, as seen here with <a href="/grass-and-groundcover-seeds/crimson-clover-seeds">Crimson Clover</a>

Plant Clover to Improve Soil Health

Soil health is one of the most important reasons to plant clover. Clovers produce a combination of tap roots and fibrous roots that help aerate the soil and improve friability, or the loose texture of soils. Clovers can protect soil from wind and water erosion. When used as a cover crop or green manure, decomposing clover adds large amounts of organic matter to the soil.

Clover is a legume crop, belonging to the bean and pea family of plants. Legumes perform a unique service among the plant world. They fix nitrogen in the soil, transforming nitrogen gas found in air pockets of soil into organic compounds that can be used as food by plants. They do this by partnering with beneficial bacteria in the soil called Rhizobia, which grows in rounded nodules along the plant’s roots. Once legumes fix nitrogen, surrounding plants can use the nitrogen compounds to fuel growth.

This process, called notrogen fixing, rejuvinates nutrient-poor soils and reduces the need for fertilizers, which saves money and protects waterways from being polluted by fertilizer runoff. Farmers have long used clover as a rotation among their crops. Gardeners can use clover as a green manure or cover crop, too!

Another way to gain the benefits of nitrogen fixation is to plant clover among other plants. This can be done by incorporating clover into lawns, mixed plantings, or sowing clover as a living mulch or groundcover (See the photo below of lupines and crimson clover planted together in a wildflower meadow.)

In addition to fixing nitrogen, a living clover mulch keeps soil moist and cool. Lush green cover intercepts the sun, which helps to moderate soil temperatures and reduce evaporation.

Clover's strong root system and dense groundcover will also suppresses the growth of weeds, reducing the need for herbicides.

A honeybee visits a patch of red clover.A honeybee visits a patch of red clover.
A honeybee visits a patch of <a href="/grass-and-groundcover-seeds/clover-seeds/medium-red-clover-seeds">Red Clover</a>.

Plant Clover to Attract Pollinators & Beneficial Insects

Clover is one of honeybees’ favorite foods. If you’ve eaten honey, it was most likely clover honey! Providing food for honeybees reaches far beyond the production of nature’s sweetener -- feeding pollinators is critically important to crop production on any scale, from large farms to our own gardens. Around one in three foods we eat depends upon honeybees for pollination!

Unfortuantely, honeybee populations are in decline, and scientists link this loss to the eradication of clover, dandelions, and other flowering “weeds” from lawns across the country. Planting clover in your lawns and landscape is one way to help boost the honeybee population. You will also find many other types of native bees visiting clover blossoms, including bumblebees, which are also important pollinators.

You feel good about planting clover to provide habitat for native bees and honeybees, and your garden will benefit from these winged visitors, too. Just like commercial crops, many fruit and vegetable garden plants require bees for pollination. By planting clover among our crops, we invite bees into the garden to pollinate our plants, which will help boost their productivity for more delicious food to harvest. 

In addition to pollinators, other beneficial insects are attracted to clover. Garden predators such as ladybugs, minute pirate bugs (argh!), and lacewings feed on the pollen and nectar from clover. Tiny parasitoid wasps, which are specialized non-stinging predators, also use the nectar and pollen of clover. These predators and parasitoids feed on aphids, whiteflies, scales, cabbage worms, and other garden pests. When we plant clover and other flowers to attract these natural predators we take a big step toward managing pest problems in the garden.

red cloverred clover
<a href="/grass-and-groundcover-seeds/clover-seeds/medium-red-clover-seeds">Red Clover</a>, Trifolium Pratense.
crimson clovercrimson clover
<a href="/grass-and-groundcover-seeds/clover-seeds/crimson-clover-seeds">Crimson Clover</a>, Trifolium incarnatum.
strawberry cloverstrawberry clover
<a href="/grass-and-groundcover-seeds/clover-seeds/strawberry-clover-seeds">Strawberry Clover</a>, Trifolium fragiferum

Plant Clover for a Healthy Lawn & Garden

When we intermix clover in our lawns, turf grasses gain the benefits of improved soil health. Clover fixes nitrogen that feeds grasses, reducing the need for fertilizer applications. Because clover helps maintain soil moisture and suppress weeds, clover lawns require less water and herbicide. Now who doesn’t want an easier-to-manage lawn?

To top it off, clover is immune to “dog patch” – those yellow rings left behind when dogs relieve themselves on turf. And clover provides a lush green carpet that is soft and cool on bare feet.

Clover lawns also provide an indirect service to our flower and vegetable gardens. Deer and rabbits prefer clover over your garden treasures. Rather than sacrificing your lettuce crop or favorite hosta, plant a buffet of clover to satisfy hungry foragers. You’ll enjoy watching deer, rabbits, and even turkey while protecting your garden.

red cloverred clover
<a href="/grass-and-groundcover-seeds/clover-seeds/medium-red-clover-seeds">Red Clover</a>, the State Flower of Vermont, has a long history as a medicinal plant.

Plant Clover for Edible and Medicinal Use

In case you need one more reason to plant clovers, they are edible and medicinal. Okay, that’s two reasons. Red and white clover in particular, are packed with vitamins, minerals, and a wide range of nutrients that support a healthy, heart, liver, and other important functions.

Clovers also have a long history as medicinal plants. They are used as an ingredient in topical salves for pain-relief and anti-inflammatory properties.

Clover is high in anti-oxidants and favored as a cleansing tea. Clover is a powerful herb, so be sure to thoroughly research specific clover species and their suggested uses before consuming.

How would you eat them? Clover flowers make a colorful addition to green salads and spruce up stir-fries. Steep fresh or dried blossoms in your tea for a sweet, anise-like flavor. Choose young, bright blooms for the best flavor.

Shop for Clover

  1. Soil Boost & Pollinator Seed Mix

    Our Pollinator Cover Crop Seed Mix features a varied mix of easy-to-grow legumes, including Clover, Alfalfa, Vetch, and Sainfoin. Small white, pink, purple, and gold flowers attract ...

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    Pollinator Cover Crop Seed Mix Balansa Clover, Berseem Clover, Yellow Sweet Clover, Sainfoin, Hairy Vetch & Alfalfa Trifolium michelianum Savi, Trifolium alexandrinum, Melilotus officinalis, Onobrychis vicifolia, Vicia villosa & Medicago sativa
    As low as $9.95
    Per 1 Pound
    Our Pollinator Cover Crop Seed Mix features a varied mix of easy-to-grow legumes, including Clover, Alfalfa, Vetch, and Sainfoin. Small white, pink, purple, and gold flowers attract and nourish pollinators. Hardworking legumes suppress weeds, fix nutrients into the soil, improve soil condition, and prevent erosion. This is an excellent choice for groundcover and covercrops, as well as lawn replacement, or adding to a wildflower meadow. All of the seed we carry at American Meadows is non-GMO, neonicotinoid-free and guaranteed to grow.
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  2. Yellow Blossom Clover Seeds, Melilotus officinalis, Yellow Blossom Sweet Clover Seeds

    Plant Yellow Blossom Clover as a cover crop to bring potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen to the surface of the soil. This drought-resistant clover is a vigorous grower, withstanding m...

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    Yellow Blossom Clover Seeds Yellow Blossom Sweet Clover Seeds Melilotus officinalis
    As low as $24.95
    Per 5 Pounds
    Plant Yellow Blossom Clover as a cover crop to bring potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen to the surface of the soil. This drought-resistant clover is a vigorous grower, withstanding many conditions.
    Learn More
  3. White Ladino Clover Seeds, Trifolium repens, White Ladino Clover

    This legume is a vigorous, easy-to-grow clover that will produce large, white blooms. White Ladino Clover is perfect for using as a cover crop. Perennial. (Trifolium repens)...

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    White Ladino Clover Seeds White Ladino Clover Trifolium repens
    As low as $9.95
    Per 1 Pound
    This legume is a vigorous, easy-to-grow clover that will produce large, white blooms. White Ladino Clover is perfect for using as a cover crop. Perennial. (Trifolium repens)
    Learn More
  4. White Clover Seeds, Trifolium repens

    This legume is a vigorous, easy-to-grow clover that will produce large, white blooms. White Clover is perfect for using as a cover crop. Perennial. (Trifolium repens)...

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    White Clover Seeds White Clover Trifolium repens
    As low as $9.95
    Per 1 Pound
    This legume is a vigorous, easy-to-grow clover that will produce large, white blooms. White Clover is perfect for using as a cover crop. Perennial. (Trifolium repens)
    Learn More
  5. Strawberry Clover Seeds, Trifolium fragiferum Close Up Flowers

    Strawberry clover is a low-growing perennial used as a green manure and cover crop, particularly among perennials. Deep tap roots condition soil while stolons (horizontal roots) spre...

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    Strawberry Clover Seeds Strawberry Clover Trifolium fragiferum
    As low as $10.95
    Per 1/4 Pound
    Strawberry clover is a low-growing perennial used as a green manure and cover crop, particularly among perennials. Deep tap roots condition soil while stolons (horizontal roots) spread to form a dense mat of sod excellent for weed suppression. Pink flowers attract bumble bees, honey bees and other pollinators. Ideal groundcover beneath fruiting trees and vines. (Trifolium fragiferum)
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  6. Medium Red Clover Seeds, Trifolium pratense

    Medium Red Clover is a legume that is perfect for planting as a cover crop to loosen soil, or to provide nourishment to crops in between seasons. Short-Lived Perennial. (Trifolium pr...

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    Medium Red Clover Seeds Medium Red Clover Trifolium pratense
    As low as $7.95
    Per 1 Pound
    Medium Red Clover is a legume that is perfect for planting as a cover crop to loosen soil, or to provide nourishment to crops in between seasons. Short-Lived Perennial. (Trifolium pratense)
    Learn More
  7. White Dutch White Clover Seeds, Trifolium repens, Dutch White Clover Seeds

    Dutch White Clover is one of the most popular clovers used in lawns, but also has many other uses. Plant this perennial clover as a cover crop, groundcover, for erosion control or in...

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    Dutch White Clover Seeds Dutch White Clover Seeds Trifolium repens
    As low as $38.95
    Per 5 Pounds
    Dutch White Clover is one of the most popular clovers used in lawns, but also has many other uses. Plant this perennial clover as a cover crop, groundcover, for erosion control or in your pasture mixture. The elegant, white flowers create a sweeping carpet of white. (Trifolium repens)
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  8. Red Crimson Clover Seeds, Trifolium incarnatum

    Crimson Clovers strawberry-red blooms add fun color to any meadow. Growing to be 24-36 tall, this annual, non-aggressive clover will provide glowing red flowers throughout your garde...

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    Crimson Clover Seeds Crimson Clover Trifolium incarnatum
    As low as $5.95
    Per 1/4 Pound
    Crimson Clovers strawberry-red blooms add fun color to any meadow. Growing to be 24-36 tall, this annual, non-aggressive clover will provide glowing red flowers throughout your garden or meadow. Not to be confused with the tough perennial clovers that can take over a meadow, Crimson Clover can help enhance your soil and attract pollinators to the garden or meadow. Gorgeous on its own, as a cover crop or paired with other wildflowers. Annual.
    Learn More
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