How to Manage Clover in Your Lawn

Clover is a legume, meaning little nodules full of bacteria live on the clover roots and help “fix” nitrogen from the air. This is great for your lawn, because that nitrogen can then be transferred to your grass, as a natural nitrogen fertilizer! Clover is also great for bees and other pollinators and can be seeded with grass to make a great flowering lawn. But we do understand that homeowners don’t always feel lucky to have clover in their lawn, and it can be a tricky weed to get rid of. 

Our lawn care approach is focused around integrated pest management (IPM). This sustainable solution is based on prevention, monitoring, proper identification, and treatment of pests - including unwanted clover.

How to Prevent Clover In Your Lawn

  1. Know your lawn: Clovers can outcompete unhappy grass, particularly in low-nitrogen, high-phosphorus soils or in wet and shaded areas of the lawn. Make sure you plant the right grass for your region, and practice proper lawn care basics to grow a happy, healthy lawn. 
  2. Fill in the grass: 
    1. Cool-season lawns: We recommend overseeding once a year to keep your lawn thick and lush. A thick lawn will crowd out the weeds and make it harder for them to germinate and grow. You can even dormant seed in the late fall or winter to help pre-load your lawn with grassy goodness before spring!
    2. Warm-season lawns: Unfortunately, overseeding isn’t always an option, since many of the warm-season grasses can’t be seeded. If you can’t overseed, just make sure to plug or sprig bare areas to fill them in before the weeds take over!

How to Manage Clover in Your Lawn

ID the weed: Clover has “trifoliate” leaves, with three (or if you’re lucky, four!) leaflets. There are a few clover species that are common in lawns:

White clover: leaflets are rounded and have a white “watermark”; flowers form white globes, sometimes with a pink or brownish base.

 

Strawberry clover: leaflets are more oblong with lighter colored veins, but no watermark; flowers form a pink globe, and will transform to a puffy white or tan fruiting head that looks like an unripe raspberry.

 

Red clover: leaflets are oblong or oval, often with a white or light green v-shaped watermark; flowers form a pink or purple-pink globe.

 

Remove flowers: Clover flowers produce a lot of little seeds which spread and build up in the soil over time. Remove the flowers as soon as you see them to reduce seed production. You can pick flowers by hand (save them for a little bouquet, or make a flower crown by weaving them together!) or mow them off in the early morning to avoid harming pollinators who might feed on clover during the day.

 

Hand pull what you can: The more clover (and weeds in general!) you can pull by hand, the less herbicide you have to spray! 

 

Treat the rest: For clover, we recommend our Dandelion Doom, a selective herbicide that targets broadleaf weeds like clover. We offer a 32 oz. spray for small patches, or a concentrate that is better suited for larger applications. As with most weeds, the earlier you can spray the better – young weeds are generally easier to get rid of than mature plants. If you do have a large, thriving clover patch, it may take more than one application for full control. Bonus? All of the “lookalikes” mentioned above can also be controlled with Dandelion Doom! 

 

Sunday ProTip: Protect the pollinators by removing flowers from weeds before spraying herbicides! 

 

Patch bare spots: After you get rid of clover clumps, make sure you patch bare areas – this will ensure that your grass grows back thick and strong, and prevents future weeds from invading those areas. 

  1. For cool-season grasses you can seed bare patches.
  2. For warm-season grasses, you may need to patch small bare spots with plugs or seed, depending on the species.

Other Weeds That Look Like Clover

Below are some common clover look-alikes, along with quick tips on how to tell them apart from clover:

Black medic: leaves are also trifoliate, but leaflets have a little “spur” or point at the tip that isn’t present on clover leaves; flowers are small, yellow, and form black grape-like clusters of seeds.

 

Creeping Charlie (ground ivy): leaves are kidney-shaped and scalloped on the edges; stem is square (like all plants in the mint family!) and has a minty scent when crushed; flowers are purple.

 

Chickweed: leaves are shiny and oblong; flowers look like tiny white stars.

 

Woodsorrel (Oxalis): distinct 3-heart-shaped leaflets per leaf; leaflets may fold in half in the heat or at night; flowers are 5-petaled and yellow. 

Sunday ProTip: Woodsorrel is easy to hand-pull due to its shallow roots! No chemicals needed here!

 

A few weeds will occasionally pop up, and that’s okay – but if you consistently have a lot of clover in your lawn, that’s usually an indication of some underlying issue. Growing the right grass, mowing at the optimum height, and fertilizing and irrigating properly will help grass grow strong and help fight clover infestations over time.