9 Reasons Why a Clover Lawn is Better Than a Grass Lawn

lookin gout across an open area full of white clover

If clover pops up in your yard uninvited, you’re not cursed with bad luck. Clover has several benefits as a low-maintenance, eco-friendly grass alternative or companion plant. From tolerating tough growing conditions to requiring fewer harsh chemicals, we’ll discuss the 9 reasons why a clover lawn is better than a grass lawn. 

What is clover? 

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Clover is a dense ground cover known for its shamrock-shaped leaves and pollinator-friendly flowers. It’s a legume in the same family as peas, peanuts, and beans native to the Mediterranean. It traveled to America in the 1600s, where it quickly became a favorite among farmers as a cover crop and livestock forage. 

Clover then became popular among homeowners for use in lawns — until it was shunned as a weed about 50 years ago. It fell out of favor in the 1950s as broadleaf herbicides entered the picture. 

Broadleaf herbicides kill almost every plant besides grass, so as chemical companies pushed more herbicides into the eager hands of homeowners, the “ideal lawn” became a clover-free one. Clover gained a reputation as an ugly, undesirable weed. 

Now, it’s making a comeback as homeowners rediscover the benefits of clover. Clover has a secret superpower: It can fix nitrogen for other plants (and itself), providing a natural boost of fertilizer. Because of its nitrogen-fixing abilities, clover is considered a living mulch.

Though you can grow a single-species clover lawn, most experts recommend you mix clover with traditional grass or with a variety of different clover species for an even, green lawn. Overseeding your existing lawn with clover will retain your turfgrass look while giving you the benefits of clover.

Best types of clover for your lawn

With over 300 species available, clover grows worldwide. Within the U.S., it’s concentrated in cooler regions in the Northeast, Northwest, and Midwest. 

Here are the three varieties gaining popularity for cool-season lawns: 

  • White clover (Trifolium repens): The most well-known clover in the U.S. It’s a low-growing, rapid spreader. Outcompetes weeds and thrives in poor soil. Produces attractive white flowers that range from 4-8 inches tall.
    • Recommended pairings: Annual ryegrass, red clover, Kentucky bluegrass, Bermudagrass, hard fescue, or red fescue
  • Red clover (Trifolium pratense): Its pretty reddish-purple flowers have natural health benefits. Grows taller than white clover, ranging from 6 to 24 inches.
    • Recommended pairings: Perennial ryegrass, white clover, sweetclover, Bermudagrass, or tall fescue
  • Microclover (Trifolium repens var. ‘Pirouette’ and ‘Pipolina’): A new cultivar of white clover with smaller leaves and fewer flowers. Grows lower to the ground (4-6 inches tall). Blends well with other grasses because it doesn’t clump easily.
    • Recommended pairings: Tall fescue or Kentucky bluegrass

9 reasons why a clover lawn is better than a grass lawn

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If you’re sick of lawn maintenance eating into your precious weekends, then clover offers a host of solutions to common turfgrass lawn problems.

1. Clover needs less water than grass

Turfgrass typically needs 1-1½ inches of water per week, and watering can be the last thing you want to do bright and early on your precious weekends or after a tough day at work. 

Clover requires less water than traditional turfgrasses.

Sure, if you don’t have clover in your yard already, it’ll take a bit of work to establish your seeds. You’ll need to mist new clover daily. However, once your clover is thriving, you’ll just have to water it as needed.

2. Clover requires less weekly mowing

Mowing your lawn is a hassle, sucking time away from fun weekend activities. Plus, running a gas-powered mower is hardly eco-friendly. Most turfgrasses need to be mowed weekly and sometimes even more frequently during periods of intense growth.

Clover needs few to no mowings.

Depending on your desired clover height and lawn look, you may want to mow your clover lawn a few times during the growing season, but you don’t have to. Letting your clover grow long can make your lawn a lovely, meadow-like space. 

You’ll just want to mow your clover four to six weeks before the first frost to winterize your lawn

3. Clover is more heat tolerant than grass

During the peak of summer, some turfgrasses go dormant and turn a sickly shade of yellow. It’s hardly an attractive lawn look.

Clover can tolerate drought and stays green throughout the summer. 

Clover is considered semi-evergreen or evergreen, depending on the region in which it’s planted. It will retain its color through the summer (except in extreme drought) and can stay green year-round in areas where winters aren’t too cold, like in the southern U.S.

4. Clover doesn’t need frequent fertilizer applications

In general, turfgrasses need to be fertilized four times a year. That’s a lot of money, time, and chemicals down the drain (and into your local aquatic ecosystem).

Clover requires zero fertilizer.

If you’re planting a full clover lawn, your clover certainly won’t need fertilizer. As a legume, it makes its own. Likewise, if you amend your turfgrass lawn to include clover (at a clover-to-grass ratio of 1:4), you’ll eliminate the need for fertilizer for your whole lawn. You can keep your grassy look, save money, and be eco-friendly.

5. Clover does not require herbicides or pesticides

Sometimes, turfgrasses can’t adequately compete with weeds and insect pests. Your lawn may be attacked by chickweed, ragweed, and dandelions or overrun by moths, aphids, and maggots. 

Warding off weeds and pests with frequent applications of broad-spectrum herbicides and pesticides can harm your health and stress local ecosystems. Synthetic pesticides can be toxic to humans and pets, damage the environment, and do a number on your wallet.

Clover suppresses weeds, prevents pests, and does not require herbicides or pesticides.

Clover is a rapid spreader with dense roots and rapid growth that will naturally smother broadleaf weeds, so you won’t have to apply harsh pre-emergent or post-emergent herbicides. In fact, it’s important to avoid broadleaf herbicides on clover to prevent plant damage and death. It also attracts beneficial insects that prey on pests, so you won’t have to pay for pesticides.

6. Clover seed is inexpensive

Turfgrass seed can cost a pretty penny, especially if you’re buying a specialty seed mix. You could spend over $100 to seed an 8,000-square-foot lawn. 

Clover seed is very inexpensive. It’ll cost you only about $1 to cover 1,000 square feet. 

If your lawn is 8,000 square feet, you’ll pay approximately $8 for seed — plus, you’ll reduce your water and energy bill by choosing clover. 

7. Clover lawns do not need to be aerated

Routine aeration is necessary for even the healthiest turfgrass lawns, and boy, is it a hassle. You either have to manually core aerate, rent a machine, or pay a lawn care professional.

Clover minimizes the need for aeration.

Clover is a living mulch, which means your soil gets more nutrients and your soil doesn’t get compacted easily. When clover roots decompose, they leave macropores in the soil and attract hungry earthworms. Both macropores and worm movement keep your soil loose and prevent thatch buildup

8. Clover attracts beneficial insects

Watching beautiful birds, butterflies, and bees flutter about your yard is a fantastic mood booster, and it’s a great way to introduce your kids to nature. Unfortunately, a turfgrass lawn won’t attract pollinators.

Clover attracts a host of pollinators (especially honeybees).

Clover attracts honeybees and other pollinators, many of which are facing habitat loss. It gives them a comfortable, sustainable home, and you get a gorgeous show. 

9. Clover lawns tolerate shade better than grass lawns

Most turfgrasses thrive in sunny areas, and it can be tough to coax grass to grow in the darker corners of your lawn, under trees, or in shadows caused by walls and fences. You may end up with bare or brown patches where you want a lush area for relaxation.

Clover grows well in partial shade.

Clover can tolerate a variety of light levels, from full sun to partial shade (with two to six hours of direct sun per day). However, though clover is generally more shade-tolerant than grass, it can’t handle every level of shade. For densely shaded areas, you’ll want to choose more shade-resistant perennials like hostas or ferns. 

Disadvantages of a clover lawn

Clover is a great groundcover, but that doesn’t mean it is without its downsides. Here’s when clover may not be right for your lawn: 

  • Your lawn gets heavy foot traffic. Though clover can tolerate moderate amounts of foot traffic, it’s not as resilient as more traditional turfgrasses. Mixing clover with turfgrass can fix this issue.
  • You have a densely shaded lawn. Clover can handle partial shade, but most varieties aren’t cut out for heavy shade. 
  • You live in a cold, arid climate. Clover is fairly drought-tolerant and can thrive in cool weather (especially long, cool springs), but consistently dry areas that experience extremely cold temperatures are not hospitable to clover. 
  • You have a bee sting allergy. Clover attracts plenty of lovely pollinators, including bees. If you or your kids have an allergy, clover may not be the way to go.
  • You want to avoid reseeding. Clover requires reseeding approximately once every two to three years, whereas turfgrasses can go for longer without reseeding. 
  • You want a tidy lawn look. A clover lawn is hardly a jungle, but it also looks less tidy than a crisply mowed traditional lawn. 

FAQ about clover

How long does it take clover to germinate? 

It takes about a week for clover to germinate (though clover can germinate in as little as three days, depending on when you plant it). Remember to mist your clover daily to ensure good seed establishment. 

When should I plant clover? 

It’s best to plant your clover in early spring, from mid-March to mid-April. This is when the ground is soft from spring rains. You also can add clover to your landscaping in the fall months of September and October.

Will clover invade my garden?

Clover is a rapid spreader, which is fantastic when it comes to crowding out weeds, but it can also climb right into your garden. We recommend edging around your garden or weeding by hand to prevent clover from getting too close to your landscaping.  

If clover isn’t your cup of tea, or if you’d prefer to confine your clover to one area, there are plenty of ways to control unwanted shamrocks. 

Check out more of our clover articles here:

How to Get Rid of Clover Naturally

How to Get Rid of Clover Without Killing Your Grass

The Secret to a Clover-Free Yard

Hire a pro

Clover may be the misunderstood hero in the great American lawn saga. It reduces soil erosion, produces nitrogen, and is good for the environment. With clover, you can expect a green lawn all year long.

Contact a local lawn pro to start the process of switching over to a clover or mixed lawn today! From fertilization to edging, they’ll give you a luscious lawn at an affordable price.

Main Photo Credit: sixmique | Pixabay

Lydian Pine

Lydian Pine is a creative writer and studio artist whose work first debuted in a short story anthology. She graduated from the University of North Texas in 2020 and enjoys video games, theatre, and swimming. Lately, she has started to study entomology as a hobby.