Common Types of Clover for Your Yard

close-up of purple clover with a four-leaf clover next to it

Tired of spending all your precious weekends off laboring over your yard, but don’t want to give up your green landscape? You’re in for some luck: Planting clover might be the solution for you. 

Clover is an easy and affordable alternative to grass. Read on to learn more about common types of clover and the best one for your yard. 

Common types of clover

There are two main groups of clover: perennial and annual. Perennial clover is the more popular option since annual clover dies out more quickly. With perennial clover, you will need to reseed every two to three years. Annual clover will need to be reseeded every year. 

The most common types of clover are white clover, red clover, and strawberry clover.

1. White clover (Trifolium repens)

close-up of a common white clover
Simon | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

White clover is a low-growing, hardy clover species and is the most common type found in lawns. White clover makes a great ground cover because it grows quickly and spreads fast.

The best temperature for white clover is between 50 degrees and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. White clover tolerates cold, but it’s a little sensitive to heat. 

This type of clover is used by many vineyards and orchards. The florets range in color from white to pink. 

White clover mixes well with fescues, Kentucky bluegrass, and perennial ryegrass. Common varieties include micro clover and dutch clover.

  • Classification: Cool-season
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Spreads by: Stolons
  • Hardiness zones: 6a-9b
  • Sun: Full sun to light shade
  • Soil: Tolerant of most types of soil, sensitive to salinity, prefers moist soil
  • Drought tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs: Low
  • Potential for disease: Medium
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years

2. Red clover (Trifolium pratense)

meadow of vibrant red clover
Øyvind Holmstad | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Red clover is another popular groundcover that’s a bit taller and bushier than white clover. It’s also known as cow clover, meadow clover, and wild clover. 

In extreme cold, red clover may act as an annual and die after the first year. It can thrive in moist or dry conditions, as long as the soil is well-drained.

Red clover florets range from rose to magenta. This ground cover works best alongside tall fescue, orchardgrass, or dallisgrass. It also does well alongside bahiagrass and Bermudagrass. 

Fun fact: Historically, red clover was used to manage asthma, cancer, whooping cough, and gout

  • Classification: Cool-season
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Spreads by: Stolons
  • Hardiness zones: 4a-8b
  • Sun: Full sun or partial shade
  • Soil: Prefers well-drained soil, can tolerate soil with high levels of acidity
  • Drought tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs: Low
  • Potential for disease: Vulnerable to fungal diseases such as powdery mildew and stem rot
  • Lifespan: 2-3 years

3. Strawberry clover (Trifolium fragiferum)

light pink strawberry clover
Andrey Zharkikh | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Turn your lawn into “strawberry fields forever” with strawberry clover. Strawberry clover grows similarly to white clover but can replace white clover in areas that are coastal or near river estuaries. It has a higher salinity tolerance than other varieties.

Strawberry clover has white or pink flowers that are smaller than the white florets. It attracts birds of all sizes, thrives in cool climates, and has a high tolerance for flooding. 

  • Classification: Cool-season
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Spreads by: Stolons
  • Hardiness zones: 4a-9b
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Tolerates clay soil with poor nutrients, also can grow in waterlogged, saline, and alkaline soils
  • Drought tolerance: Moderate; tolerates short periods of drought
  • Maintenance needs: Low
  • Potential for disease: Low
  • Lifespan: Around 3 years

What is clover?

Clover is a legume and a member of the pea family. It originated in Europe and made its way to North America and the United States in the late 1600s. 

There are more than 300 species of clover. It can be grown to harvest and use as forage or hay. Clover is commonly grown in food plots to attract deer, turkey, and other wildlife. 

Clover has a deep root system, which helps lawns stay green year-round in northern climates, and it helps fix nitrogen, among other advantages.

Benefits of planting clover

Clover wasn’t always considered a weed, and it’s not all bad. Clover seed used to be a standard element of grass seed mixes before broadleaf weed herbicides were invented in the 1950s. 

These are some of the benefits of planting clover in your yard:

  • Reduces erosion
  • Drought-tolerant
  • Reduces weeds
  • Stays green throughout the summer
  • Eliminates the need for synthetic fertilizer
  • Reduces runoff pollution
  • Attracts bees and other pollinators
  • Soft-feeling
  • Doesn’t need to be mowed
  • Holds moisture
  • Adds nutrients to the soil
  • Edible
  • Fixes nitrogen

If you don’t love the look of a clover-dominant yard, you can mix it in with your regular grass seed. While you’ll still have to care for your grass, the maintenance will be a bit lower thanks to the benefits of planting clover.

What is nitrogen-fixing?

Legumes such as clover have a special quality that makes them a valued cover crop: They’re a major source of nitrogen for the soil. 

Rhizobium bacteria in legumes help convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form that plants can use. Then, when the clover decomposes, nitrogen is added back into the soil. This reduces the need for nitrogen-based fertilizers.

Research has shown that red and white clover can provide up to 200 pounds of fixed nitrogen per acre of soil. 

Drawbacks of planting clover

While clover is a great option for many homeowners, there are a couple of instances where you’d want to think twice before planting it in your backyard:

  • If you have active kids and pets: Clover isn’t as tough as some grass types.
  • If you have family members who are allergic to bees: Clover will attract plenty of bees.

Another major downside of clover: It can be invasive to gardens. You have to put up a barrier between clover and other plants high enough that the clover will not creep up and take over. 

In terms of looks, clover can seem more lumpy, uneven, and patchy than traditional grass. The look deters some homeowners from planting it. However, in most cases, the benefits outnumber the drawbacks when it comes to planting clover. 

Other types of clover

close-up of rose clover
Jean and Fred | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Perennial clover is a favorite of homeowners, while annual clover is typically used in farming for pastures and foraging. There are also some perennial varieties that are better for vast fields than small backyards. 

Here are some other kinds of clover you might come across that aren’t usually fit for lawns:

  • Crimson clover: An annual clover commonly used to extend the grazing period for farm animals.
  • Ladino clover: A large variety of white clover typically used for hay and silage. 
  • Alsike clover: A perennial clover similar to white clover; typically used for pastures and hay production, not typically used for homes since it grows around 1 to 3 feet high.
  • Arrowleaf clover: A winter annual clover with white to pink flowers. Used for hay, grazing, and wildlife foraging. Arrowleaf clover isn’t typically used in residential areas because it can grow up to 4 feet high.
  • Berseem clover: Also known as Egyptian clover, this is a quick-growing summer or winter annual with yellow flowers; grows up to 4 feet high, typically used as a manure crop. 
  • Rose clover: A winter annual clover with lavender flowers and growth similar to crimson clover; used in pastures and as a vineyard cover crop.
  • Subterranean clover: An annual winter clover with white flowers; commonly used in pastures in Oregon and California. 


1. When can you plant clover?

You can typically plant clover in the spring, or in late summer/early fall.

2. Where can you plant clover?

Most clover varieties can thrive in soil ranging from sandy loam to clay and can live in conditions ranging from partial shade to full sun. 

3. How fast does clover grow?

Clover can germinate in less than a week and sprout two to three days later.

4. Is clover considered invasive?

Clover can quickly spread and overwhelm native plants, but it is not a huge issue as long as you keep your yard and garden separated with a border.

5. How common are four-leaf clovers?

The chances that you’ll find a four-leaf clover are 1 in 10,000. Fun fact: The most leaves ever found on a clover stem was 56.

A lucky legume

Planting clover seeds will help you cut down on mowing and invite helpful honeybees to your yard. It’ll also bring some color with its pink and white flowers and keep your yard green year-round due to its extensive root system. 

In many cases, it’s a wonderful alternative to grass and will give both you and your yard a well-earned break. Who knows? You might be able to spend your new free time hunting down lucky four-leaf clovers.

Need a hand implementing your new clover yard? Lean on a lawn care professional to get the job done right.

Main Photo Credit: Dustin Humes | Unsplash

Sav Maive

Sav Maive is a writer and director based in San Antonio. Sav is a graduate from the University of Virginia and is a loving cat and plant mom.