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All About White Clover

White Clover. It grows throughout our lawns, causing constant annoyance to homeowners all over. Trifolium repens is a ground-covering plant that plagues front and back yards throughout the US.

But how bad is it? Does it harm lawns? What’s the best way to get rid of it?

Learn the answers to these questions and more here, where it’s all about the white clover.

Trifolium repens. The white clover grows on a meadow

How to Identify White Clover

White clover is known for its 3-leaf pattern with a white v shape in the middle. It’s common in lawns, ditches, fields, and low-maintenance areas. This shallow-rooted plant can grow 4 to 6 inches in height and spread 12 inches or more via its freely roaming root system.

The flowers are white cotton ball-shaped blossoms of long skinny petals when in bloom. This is one way to distinguish from wood sorrel, oxalis acetosella, which is almost identical to white clover.

Why is White Clover Considered a Weed?

A patch of clover spotted with white flowers

White clover is one of 300 species of clover growing worldwide, but it’s considered a weed because it’s a wild plant that grows in competition with cultivated plants. Nine times out of ten, the competition is your lawn grass.

Clover grows easily in moist areas but tends to die during drought conditions. One way to know your lawn is nitrogen depleted is when clover appears. Clover thrives in this type of soil, so you’ll know your lawn needs good feeding once you see it.

A well-fed and well-fertilized lawn is the best way to keep the weed at bay. But, in some cases, clover is grown on purpose.

Why would someone want to grow a weed intentionally?

Clover grows well in locations where grass is difficult or impossible to grow. Clover will always stay greener longer than typical lawn grasses and won’t turn yellow or brown unless it experiences drought-like conditions.

Annual or Perennial?

The weed is considered a perennial and, unless plucked from the ground, tends to come back year after year and is usually more prominent than the year before.

Is White Clover Damaging?

White clover, although unsightly to some, doesn’t cause any damage to other plants or grasses. The most annoying aspect of clover is when it pops up in expensive landscaping, causing you the headache of removing it.

How Does This Clover Spread?

White clover can spread in two ways. The first is by seed. Like all flowering plants, seeds are formed once the flower blooms. These flowers are delicious to small animals like squirrels and rabbits. Once they ingest the flowers, they pass along the seeds in their dropping.

The second way this clover is spread is by its nodes. Nodes are a part of the plant’s structure that can shoot off, creating even more white clovers. These nodes are found along the clover’s creeping stems, allowing them to spread in all directions.

The only way to help stop the spread by seed is to ensure the grass is cut before the clover can bloom. But is there a way to rid this weed completely?

How to Get Rid of White Clover

Clover is an indicator that you have an unhealthy lawn. The best organic method for eliminating clover is to use organic lawn fertilizers to feed your lawn regularly to make it healthy.

Another tip for a healthy lawn is to ensure you’re not cutting the grass too short. Long grass is healthy grass.

There are many types of homemade and organic weed killers you can try. Most are effective against it but could kill other plants or grass near the clover, so take care when using them.

If you’ve tried homemade and organic remedies but can’t seem to get rid of the white clover, you can always go the chemical route. You’ll need to find a herbicide that contains dicamba and mecoprop.

But use extreme caution. These are strong chemicals that may kill other plants and grasses and they should be kept away from pets and children.

But should you be actively trying to get rid of white clover? Unless it bothers you, you can leave clover to grow freely since it causes no harm to humans, animals, or other plants.

A Brief History of White Clover

White clover blooming in spring in Japan

White clover originated from most European countries and was brought to the US with the early colonists. Most likely, it was brought via contaminated seeds and, once planted, it began to take root and spread.

The weed was so commonly found around these early colonists that indigenous peoples often called it “white man’s foot grass”.

Benefits of White Clover

Flowers of white clover (Trifolium repens) plant in green summer meadow

Soil Improvement

We mentioned that seeing clover can be one of the first signs of an unhealthy lawn. But it also means that white clover is just trying to lend a helping hand.

Nitrogen-fixing bacterias live in white clover’s complex root systems, absorbing the nitrogen from the air and enriching the soil like a natural fertilizer. This plant grows so densely that it prevents any other weeds from growing.

In the long run, clover eliminates the need to purchase any chemical fertilizer or weed killer since it takes care of these issues and more!

Weed to Table?

Like other types of clover, white clover is edible – but with some strict warnings!

You should never consume clover growing in a warm climate. Even if you live in a cooler climate, you should enjoy it before the summer heat arrives. The heat can cause the plant to produce small amounts of cyanide, which can be fatal even in small doses.

White clover leaves can be cooked as a spinach substitute, and the leaves can be added to baked goods for a sweet vanilla flavor.

When dried, you can grind the flowers and seeds into flour that can be used as a thickening agent.

White clover is considered a legume, meaning it’s a great source of protein and is one of the number one crops fed to cattle and horses.

Wrapping Up White Clover

You don’t need to fret if white clover pops up on your front lawn. It’s harmless.

Of course, if you choose not to let it stay, there are effective ways to eliminate this weed. But remember, white clover has some great benefits, so sometimes it’s best to let nature do her thing.

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.