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All About Red Clover

We’ll not often be excited when weeds pop up in our lawns or garden beds. But after reading about red clover, you may change your mind.

Red clover, Trifolium pretense, is a perennial herb used as a cover crop worldwide. This weed also has fantastic medical benefits as well as soil enrichment properties.

Keep reading to see why red clover is important and why you may want this weed to stick around.

Red clover flowers field

How to Identify Red Clover

Red clover is best identified by its pinkish purple flowers ranging from 3/8 to 1 ¼ of an inch in diameter. These oval flowers are made up of tiny petals that almost resemble miniature snapdragon flowers. These flowers bloom between April and October.

The foliage comprises three oval leaflets on the end of one stem. On each leaflet, there is a pale white v-shaped discoloration on the leaf. Unlike the white clover, these are harder to distinguish but are of the same shape.

It shows up in clumps and patches and grows incredibly quickly. You may also have heard it called other names, such as purple clover, meadow trefoil, and cow grass.

Why is Red Clover Considered a Weed?

Harvested flower heads

Even with its fantastic benefits, red clover is still identified as a weed because it competes with other cultivated plants. These plants are the flowers in your flower bed or the grass in your lawn.

The weed can grow in almost any soil type and withstand drought because of its deep taproot. This perennial weed is the most prevalent in lawns and areas where the soil is under-fertilized and in full sun. Of course, this doesn’t always need to be a home lawn. It also pops up in fields and beside roadways.

Red clover won’t harm your lawn or garden beds and is very beneficial – more about that later. It’s easy to care for if you decide to keep it around. You keep it mowed at a high height along with your grass.

How Does Red Clover Spread?

Red clover is self-seeding, requiring no human or animal interaction to spread its seeds. The weed’s flowers drop their seeds at the end of their growing season in early to late October.

How to Rid Your Lawn of Red Clover

There are two ways to eliminate red clover: organically and using herbicides. In this case, herbicides tend to work better than the organic route.

If you want to go organic, the best way to rid your lawn of the weed is by regularly feeding organic fertilizers and keeping the grass dense. This may mean re-seeding your lawn, but the grass will push out the clover in the long run, and adequate feedings will keep this weed at bay.

You may even want to try some organic weed killers as they have proven effective in safely eliminating pesky weeds.

You’ll have to keep up with the organic route, though – it’s not a one-shot fix-all. But this is the way to go if you enjoy being on your lawn without the risk of harsh chemicals.

Of course, sometimes, despite our best efforts, weeds don’t want to leave, which is when chemical herbicides can be helpful. When purchasing a weed killer, you’ll want to find one that contains dicamba, clopyralid, or quinclorac.

Spring applications seem to fall short in effectively killing red clover, so use these weed killers in the fall for best results.

Benefits of Red Clover

flowering clover. close-up shot

Soil Improvement

Red clover is the most wanted cover crop worldwide. Farmers will purposely plant red clover in soil they want to be enriched. It improves soil quality, eliminating the need for any commercial fertilizers.

This clover also stops soil erosion, keeps other weeds at bay, and enriches the soil using the nitrogen-grabbing bacteria found in its roots. This makes the soil nutrient-rich and ready for crops.

Medicinal Purposes

Red clover is a potent herb. This is why it has so many excellent medical benefits.

Red clover is often used as a supplement, which differs from a prescription medicine you may get from the pharmacy but has just as many benefits. Always check with your healthcare provider first, as taking this with other medications or medical issues can have adverse effects.

The weed is used in many ways, such as treating respiratory problems like whooping cough and clearing the lungs of common mucus from colds and mild cases of flu. It also aids in liver functions and acts as a diuretic while improving your circulation.

Red clover is also being studied for its benefits to menopausal women since it contains a chemical called isoflavones. This is an estrogen-like plant compound that can help with hot flashes and aid in bone health, reducing the risks of osteoporosis.

Studies about isoflavones are mixed, so the weed is still considered an herbal remedy. You may want to try it if your doctor clears you. Some women swear by its effects.


There are some uses for red clover in the culinary world. Both the flowers and leaves of this plant are edible. The flowers are sweet when consumed raw – try them sprinkled atop fresh garden salads.

You can also use the flower petals as a beautiful garnish for baked goods.

Potential Harm to Know About

clover flowers on white background

Red clover is a “more good than harm” plant, but there is a risk you should be aware of.

Studies suggest cattle shouldn’t be allowed to graze in areas where red clover grows due to its effects on their reproductive health. While the studies are few and further research is needed, take precautions to keep the weed away from any cows you have – to be safe.

Wrapping Up Red Clover

Even though it’s considered a weed, there is much more to the red clover than meets the eye. This powerful perennial is an herb with many healing properties for your body and garden.

If you feel like you need to learn more about these pesky garden tenants, check out our weeds page to learn all about different weed varieties, treatment options, and surprising information.