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Micro-clover: a New Groundcover to Discover

Dutch white clover (left) compared to micro-clover (right).

Micro-clover has been around for a decade or so in Europe and is slowly making its way into North American lawns as well. It’s an extra-small form of white clover (Trifolium repens), a plant most gardeners already know well. It can be used to create mixed or pure clover lawns that are shorter than Dutch white clover (the lawn industry standard) and that also require less mowing.

Benefits of White Clover

Dutch white clover in a lawn.

Before giving specific details on micro-clover, it may be worthwhile explaining the advantages of Dutch white clover, the standard lawn clover, from which it is derived.

  1. Like most leguminous plants, clover lives in symbiosis with bacteria that fix atmospheric nitrogen and make it available to both the clover itself and to neighboring plants. That’s why even lawn grasses grow better when clover is present.
  2. A lawn containing clover needs much less fertilizer. Moreover, nitrogen-rich fertilizers (ones where the first number is higher than the others) are in fact unsuitable for lawns where you want to see clover thrive.
  3. With its deep roots, clover is more tolerant of drought than most grasses and will remain green even as the rest of the lawn turns brown.
  4. A pure clover lawn doesn’t need mowing, but if you do decide to mow, you’ll only need to do so 3 or 4 times per summer.
  5. Clover tolerates compacted soil better than grasses do and even tends reduce compaction, thus eliminating the need to aerate.
  6. Clover is resistant to lawn weeds and even tends to smother them.
  7. Clover grows well in both sun and part shade.
  8. A lawn rich in clover tends to discourage insect pests, most of which prefer grasses. White grubs will in fact disappear from turf entirely composed of clover.
  9. It is highly resistant to dog urine: bye-bye yellow spots!
  10. Clover makes an excellent groundcover when planted between paving stones.
  11. White clover is very hardy, to AgCan zone 3 (USDA zone 2).
  12. Clover produces attractive white flowers that draw beneficial pollinators, especially bees, to your yard.

Disadvantages of White Clover

I wish I could say that white clover was the perfect replacement for a grass lawn, but it also has its flaws.

  1. It is less resistant to trampling the grass. In a location where you often walk or where kids play, a mixed clover/grass lawn is a better choice than a pure clover lawn.
  2. Clover is naturally invasive, rooting wherever its trailing stems touch the ground. That may be a boon in a sparse lawn, but it can easily spread beyond the lawn into nearby gardens. Ideally you’d contain white clover by surrounding it with a path or some other inert surface. Otherwise it may be wise to install edging around the lawn… but edging that is not only underground, but also extends about 4 inches (10 cm) above the soil. This will stop the creeping stems that will otherwise crawl right over a typical lawn border.
  3. White clover prefers soil that is somewhat moist, but not sites that are flooded for any significant amount of time. Good drainage will be needed.
  4. Although some suppliers claim white clover is“adapted to dry soil”, that’s stretching things a bit. Yes indeed, clover will tolerate an occasional drought and look fine, bit it will certainly not thrive in soil that is constantly dry. (Try a thyme lawn where dry conditions are a problem.)
  5. Also in the false claims category, although some suppliers insist that white clover is shade-resistant, in fact, it will not grow well in shade: it will sprout there, but it won’t thrive. (Of course, lawn grasses won’t grow well in shade either.)
  6. Clover will not tolerate lawn herbicides designed to control broadleaf weeds. These will kill anything with broad leaves, even desirable plants like clover. Do not spray herbicides on a clover lawn!
  7. The famous grass stains found on children’s clothes after they play on turf are actually not from grasses, but from clover.
  8. Sometimes advantages are also disadvantages. Above, I highlighted clover’s “attractive white flowers” that “draw bees to your yard”. You might appreciate flowers in your lawn, but there are a lot of people who react with horror at the very idea that their lawn will burst into bloom. They want it all green all the time. And then there are the anti-bee people They may have their reasons (allergies, fear of bees, etc.), but what can I say? Bees love clover flowers and will swarm to a clover lawn when it is in bloom. Of course, you can always mow a clover lawn just before the plants come into bloom and if you eliminate the flowers, bees will go elsewhere.

What About Micro-clover?

Now for micro-clover.

A micro-clover lawn.

It is simply an extra dwarf white clover (Trifolium repens), not reaching more than 6 inches (15 cm) high even if you never mow it. And if you mow occasionally, it will top out at 4 inches (10 cm). Its leaves are twice as small as those of white clover, three times smaller if you mow (regrowth gives even smaller leaves). It is not a heavy bloomer and, unlike standard white clover, if you mow micro-clover only occasionally, it will not bloom at all.

A mixed micro-clover lawn cropped very short… and looking fab-u-lous!

Micro-clover was developed for use in mixed lawns, to be added to grass seed blends, because it is more tolerant than the Dutch white clover to the very low mowing height so many homeowners insist on using on their lawns. In fact, even if you mow your lawn to 2 inches (5 cm), a height considered “scalping” in lawn care circles and which would rapidly kill taller clovers, micro-clover will actually thrive. In fact, to a certain degree, the lower you mow it, the denser it will appear.

Although micro-clover was designed for mixed lawns and some sources warn against using micro-clover on its own, in fact, it has been tested as a stand-alone groundcover/lawn and does fine when used that way. And if a 6-inch (15 cm) lawn with a few flowers and a bit of bee traffic is not a problem for you, you could actually forgo mowing a micro-clover lawn entirely.

There are several micro-clover cultivars, but ‘Pipolina’ seems to be the only one that is available in North America. It is rarely available in local garden centers. You pretty much have to have it delivered. Here are a few suppliers that will ship seed to you:

Sowing Micro-clover

You can sow the micro-clover at pretty much any season, but ideally in the spring or early summer, when temperatures are still cool. If you plant it too late in the fall (October), it may not germinate until the following spring.

To overseed an established lawn with microclover, rake well, scratching the surface a bit and sow at a rate of about 1/4 to 1/2 lb per 1000 ft2 (225 to 250 g per 90 m2). Keep the soil moist until germination.

To start a new mixed lawn, prepare the soil by weeding it thoroughly and working the soil to a depth of about 3 inches (9 cm), then rake to even it out, removing and stones and debris as you go. Ideally, you would then also topdress with ½ to 1 inch (1 to 2 cm) of good soil, although that isn’t absolutely necessary. Mix 5% of mini-cover seeds into the original grass seed blend and broadcast sow. Rake lightly to work the seed in, then keep the soil moist until germination.

To start a clover-only lawn, follow the general recommendations for a mixed lawn (previous paragraph), but sow only clover seed. Sow at the rate recommended by the supplier or at about 1 to 2 lb per 1000 ft2 (250 to 500 g per 90 m2) of surface area.


The first year, water your micro-clover lawn in times of drought. There will be few to no flowers the first year. If there are places where the lawn appears sparse, just be patient. Usually clover will cover it with its creeping stems quite quickly.

From the second year on, simply let Mother Nature take care of your micro-clover lawn. In particular, you will not normally have to fertilize it or if so, only every 2 or 3 years with a slow-release fertilizer low in nitrogen.

Mow a grass and clover lawn when the grass needs it. For a clover-only lawn, you really don’t have to mow at all. However, if you want extra-small leaves or to get rid of the flowers, mow every 3 or 4 weeks. When you mow, simply leave the clippings on the lawn. They’ll quickly decompose and help feed the lawn.

Finally, weed manually if intruders appear… but usually micro-clover is a sufficiently dominant plant to crowd out weeds all on its own.

Good luck with your micro-clover lawn!

46 comments on “Micro-clover: a New Groundcover to Discover

  1. buyer beware . The claims of mini clover are exaggerated . I put in mini clover in my backyard in April and the mature leaves are about the size of the wild clover in my front yard. What my experience is so far is that the less mature leaves underneath the more mature leaves are slightly smaller but not to any great significance . I had a beautiful lawn meadow of 6 inch high clover that I mowed for the 3 rd time since May. The problem is when it was mowed at 3 inches on July 4th , from 6 to 8 inches the very hot and dry PNW summer began. Now the clover looks like crap with lots of clover death in the areas that have no daily shade. I have watered it immensely so it would survive . The problem here is , in the Spring the mature clover plants were quickly replaced by the clover underneath the 3 inch mark. When I made the mistake of mowing it in early July , the smaller , more immature leaves could not grow in the heat and just started to die. Maybe it will come back in the fall… I don’t know. if you are in an area like Portland OR, that gets no rain in the summer and can get into the 90s + for 7 to 10 days straight , you may want to consider an alternative. Hopefully this will come back on it’s own or maybe I’ll need to reseed with the same stuff or an alternative in the fall or spring. Maybe if I had left it high at 8 inches in July it would be acting differently and not turning to crust. We will not know this until next summer.

  2. Beth DayWaters

    How deep will the roots of microclover grow? I’d like to replace my weedy-grass lawn, but hope to block the roots from growing into planting beds. Thanks for your help!

    • I’m no longer able to answer individual questions. However, you can use the search tool on the blog page to see if a past post has answered your question.
      Good gardening!
      Larry Hodgson

  3. Keri Szejda

    Hello! I live in Phoenix and have a bermuda hybrid lawn. Normally I’d overseed with rye in October but I am considering using microclover. Do you know what will happen in the spring? Will the bermuda still come up well and I’ll have a mix? Long shot, but I’m hoping that fall overseeding with microclover could give me a nice green winter microclover lawn, and then a summer mix of burmuda and clover.

  4. Totally agree. Rented an over-seeder from Home Depot but forget putting clover seed in its seed bin. Seed is just too small. Planting micro-clover from Outside Pride. Just ran the machine over the lawn several times in each direction to “score” the soil. Then hand spread it. Ran the lawnmower over it in mulch cycle to macerate any thatch. Did this on May 22 here in S. Wisconsin. Raining today, May 23. Neighbor has regular dutch white clover and it looks beautiful in blossom, if you let lawn grow a bit.

  5. Tom Hiemstra

    Great article! I live in an area with A LOT of rabbits. If there was a battle between my micro clover lawn and the bunnies, who would win?

    • If the clover was well-established, it would. But rabbits could eliminate seedlings before they had the chance to become established. You’d have to fence off the area for 6 weeks or so.

      • Tom Hiemstra

        Thank you! Can’t wait to give this a try.

  6. Hi! Id love to push my landscaper to agree with me on micro clover only lawn. Any advise for us? Landscaper says it wont survive southern California weather, although I feel he’s just pushing for grass.

    • It will probably do as well as grass, but no better. And will need a lot of water. Also, you may need to resow occasionally, as it likely won’t be very long-lived (3 years or so).

      • Great to hear! How much watering would you suggest? We have a sprinkling system in place already. Daily? 2x daily? Weekly?
        Thanks so much! We really just want to do right by Mother Nature with the least amount of chemicals, that normal grasses require.

      • Obviously, how much watering is going to depend on the local climate. You’d want the soil to be at least a bit moist at all times for the first few weeks, then to dry out a bit before waterings. In many areas, daily would be fine at first, followed by weekly later, but you might have to up that in a dry climate.

      • Brandy

        How many years does microclover live? I’m hoping to use it at a rental house in Montana, but the expense of reseeding every 3-4 years may outweigh the benefits of less maintenance than grass.

      • Depending on conditions, you may need to reseed. You’ll have to decide if that is worthwhile.

  7. Bob Mathews

    I live about 5 miles from the NC/SC line which is growing zone 7B. Red clay soil (aka concrete) brutally hot summers with the occasional low rain periods. Is a mix of Tall Fescue and micro-clover a possibility for me.

    • It would probably work quite well once established. It’s never a bit thing, though, to top-dress with a lighter, lawn-friendlier soil, though!

  8. Christine Lemieux

    A local landscaper told me he uses 5% micro clover with tall fescue and he has noticed that each year there is less of it in the lawns. He once used 100% White clover a while back and after about 4 years it was gone. Do you know if micro clover has been tested alone for more than a couple of years? Thank you!

  9. I thought I had found the answer to my lawn woes when I read your article. Then I read this on another site: “Once planted, water your clover seed every day for two weeks. This will give the seeds adequate moisture for sprouting and help them get a good start in their new location. Be sure to keep deer and other clover-eating animals off the lawn.” We live on a ridge with a canyon behind us which shelters lots of deer. Most of our landscaping is deer resistent. Does this mean that a clover lawn is out for us?

    • Clover lawns are not particularly attractive to deer, especially microclover, which is short and hard to browse. That said, they’ll eat anything if starving. The warning was most about sowing: you don’t want deer nibbling on seedlings that aren’t well established. Grass lawns are in the same situation: since they are cut short, they are of lesser interest to deer than field grass. However, if deer are already a problem on your grass lawn, clover is not going to help.

  10. Greetings,

    What does clover do in the winter in Canadian cold climates? Ie: What does it look like in spring after the melt but before the plants start to green up again for the year?

    • It looks dead, actually, and a clover lawn doesn’t look like much at snowmelt. But it greens up quite quickly.

    • stulutions

      pretty much what i figured. That does make sense after all. 🙂 Does it turn into a mud field with the wet conditions of spring melt until it rejuvenates? or is there enough root mass and some degree of top cover of the old dead clover that one could at least walk on it without being a mud fest?

      • It holds in place quite well (all those rhizomes). The dead leaves are pretty much decomposed by spring, but there is usually some green growth in the centre if there was snow cover. You could walk on it like a grass lawn, but both would be squelchy when the ground is really soggy early in the spring.

  11. Christine Lemieux

    One thing I can’t find an answer to is if micro clover can live where the soil is wet in the spring. The existing lawn is always very wet and takes longer than most to dry out. Perhaps this is one reason it is full of weeds. I am excited to stop mowing our field and switch out our small grass lawn for an alternative!

  12. Russell Ziskey

    Thanks for the article – I am thinking of ordering microclover seed from OutsidePride. I have read that due to small size and weight of the MC seed, it needs to be mixed with sand. I also see there are seeds that ate encapsulated to also provide some of the microorganisms needed for clover to thrive. Are there any best practices about mixing the MC with turf grass seed? Do I need to mix the MC seed with sand and then mix that into turf grass at a 5% ratio?

  13. Bees don’t flock. They swarm. 🙂

    • Thank you for the correction. The neat thing is that I can actually go back and change the text. As a book author, how often have I wished I could do that!

  14. I’m in the Metro Vancouver area. I’m getting my yard new landscaping, and trying to decide what lawn coverage to use. My backyard is south facing, and previously our lawn grows without issue because it gets so much sun throughout the day. My concern is my front yard. It’s split into 2 by our walkway down the middle. Our neighbors are a single stand alone house on the west side, and a 3 storey apartment building on the east side. What I’ve been noticing is that on the west side, the small bit of lawn there do get enough sun… maybe at least 5 hours a day. But the east side barely get 4 because the apartment creates a shadow over it by around noon. The grass lawn I had installed there before really struggled, especially the east side… I’m reading your article about micro-clover, and I’m wondering if I should do a pure micro-clover lawn or should I do a mix? Should I laid down sod, and then overseed with micro-clover afterwards if the grass doesn’t thrive? thanks in advance for any advice.

    • A grass-seed mix with added clover seeds will always give the best results, simply because there’ll be a variety of plants and the more plants you have, the more likely you are to hit on a few that will be perfectly adaptable. Don’t use bargain basement seeds, but a quality mix. It’s very hard to successfully overseed sod, especially freshly planted. It’s too thick to let new plants in.

  15. theroyalstig

    If you overseed a regular grass yard with clover will it require less mowing than a regular grass yard (after the initial mow to cause the clover to be shorter)?

    Or will the regular grass still need weekly mowing?

    Thank you!

  16. Weston Marter

    If you overseed a regular grass yard with clover will it require less mowing than a regular grass yard (after the initial mow to cause the clover to be shorter)?

    Or will the regular grass still need weekly mowing?

    Thank you!

  17. jessica graziano

    Great article! With regards to is spreading easily, I’m concerned about it creeping into the neighbor’s lawn. Now, it might not be a concern on one side as she doesn’t tend to her yard besides mowing it. ON the other side lives my dad. He loves his lawn. I’m going to see if he is interested in microclover but if he is not, he may not like it creeping in his lawn.

  18. Hi, do you know how long it will take for the clover to cover the ground from seed? Thanks

  19. I sewed a micro clover lawn last spring. This spring it was looking green and lush with a lot of what were dormant flower seeds sprouting in amongst it. I transplanted most of them and left the clover to cover in. However, for something that shouldn’t need mowing it’s over a foot tall!! I cannot mow it as the bees are feasting on the abundance of clover flowers – what I need to know is, is the clover going to settle down and grower shorter or is it too happy? 🙂

    • It certainly sounds very happy. Maybe your soil is too rich or its overly shady (plants grow taller in the shade). And if you’ve ha a cool, rainy spring, that too can make it grow taller.At any rate, you’re going to have to mow at some point: once it’s cut down, it will grow back in shorter. Remember, unmown micro clover is, at 6 inches tall (the average height), much taller than your average lawn.

      • Thank you 🙂 It must have been the spring, as I live on an Island where limestone dominates – great for cabbages haha ! I will wait till the clover starts waning and then attempt a mow which shouldnt be too long now as its been in full bloom for over a month.

  20. Paul Brown

    Hi we are thinking of creating a lawn using only microclover. does microclover suffer from the same problems with regards spreading with stems touching the ground?

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