As environmental consciousness increases, some homeowners are increasingly looking for eco-friendly, low-maintenance alternatives to the regular grass lawn. This increased ecological awareness has clovers finding their way into yards as a perfect solution to complement common lawn grasses or grown as a total replacement.
Dutch white clover is the most popular type of clover chosen by homeowners and landscapers looking for alternatives to grass because of its nitrogen-fixing capability and low-maintenance needs. However, micro-clover is rapidly gaining popularity because it grows lower and slower and blends better with turfgrasses to make an attractive ground cover.
What is Micro Clover?
Micro clover (Trifolium repens var. pipolina or var. pirouette) is a miniature, low-growing variety of the well-known Dutch white (Trifolium repens) that was once common in yards before broadleaf pesticides became popular.
Plants only grow four to six inches tall, the leaves on micro clover are about one-third the size of white Dutch clover, and plants don’t clump together as much. So when grown in lawns, it looks more like the evenly green landscapes homeowners love and less like an unkempt weed.
Pros and Cons of Micro-Clover Lawns
Microclover lawns have been popular in Europe for decades. They are gaining popularity in the United States as homeowners look for:
- Low-maintenance lawn alternatives
- Eco-friendly ground covers to replace their current lawn
If you are debating growing a lawn with clover, it’s essential to understand both the benefits and the disadvantages it offers.
Benefits of Micro-Clover
For more details, check out the full list of benefits of having a clover lawn.
Disadvantages of Micro-Clover
For more details, check out the full list of reasons to avoid a clover lawn.
Should I Choose a Micro-Clover Lawn or a Mixed Lawn?
Once you’ve decided to go with micro-clover, the next important decision is choosing whether to plant a straight micro-clover lawn or a micro-clover grass seed mixture.
Straight Micro-Clover vs. Blended Lawns
Undoubtedly, a 100% microclover lawn is a gorgeous sight, but there are pros and cons using it as a standalone ground cover.
1. Microclover seed is expensive, so it can be costly to seed an entire lawn.
- A full-blown stand of micro clover requires between 2 and 5 pounds of seed per 1000 square feet of lawn. A ten-pound bag of micro clover seeds costs, on average, $450. At the low seeding rates, you’d spend $450 to seed 5,000 square feet; at the higher rate, you’d pay $1,125. A medium-sized, 10,000-square-foot lawn will cost twice as much.
- Sowing the same size yard with a premium blend of grass seed and microclover will cost about $150, depending on the manufacturer and where you purchase seed.
2. It’s essential to consider your climate.
- It isn’t typically recommended to seed microclover as a monoculture in Northern areas where it may be subjected to bad winters. These plants die back to the ground during winter and can leave the yard with muddy patches come spring.
- Homeowners in warmer climates claim that straight micro-clover does well throughout the year. Don’t worry, though, if you choose to use a clover seed blend—micro clover is known to grow best when it shares space with other plants or grasses.
Don’t worry, though, if you choose to use a clover seed blend—micro clover is known to grow best when it shares space with other plants or grasses.
What Types of Grasses Blend well with Micro-Clover in a Lawn?
Fescues are most commonly recommended to grow in a blended lawn of clover and turfgrass, especially dwarf fescues that tolerate shorter mowing heights. Mixing the two creates a lawn with excellent wear and drought tolerance.
Other grasses commonly recommended for blending with microclover include:
- Fine fescue
- Turf-type tall fescue
- Kentucky bluegrass
- Dwarf perennial ryegrass
When using lawn seed mixtures, keep the clover percentage between 3-5% of the total blend. This ration provides the benefits of a microclover lawn and helps to keep weeds at bay without overtaking the grass.
If you’re seeding a smaller area, pre-blended lawn seed mixes are also available for purchase, which are particularly cost-efficient and convenient.
When to Plant Micro Clover Seed
Micro-clover can be sown whenever the ground isn’t frozen, but it’s best to plant when air temperatures are cooler and you’re getting regular rain.
- In the early spring, the optimal time is 2 weeks before the last frost until four weeks after.
- Later in the year, you can sow seeds from late summer to 4 weeks before the first expected fall frost.
- Sowing at this time in the spring gives the microclover time to germinate and establish itself before warm summertime temperatures arrive.
- The fall timing gives new seedlings time to grow and develop before going dormant for the winter.
How to Plant a Micro Clover Lawn
You follow the same general steps when planting microclover as you do with regular clover or grass seeds. Specific instructions vary slightly depending on whether you are planting a new lawn or overseeding an existing one.
On average, microclover seeds generally take 1 to 2 weeks to germinate. Like grass seeds, you need constantly moist soil during germination.
How to Seed a New Micro-Clover Lawn
- Test the soil pH value. The ideal level is between 6 and 7. If the soil is too acidic, add agricultural lime to raise the pH. If your soil is too alkaline, add sulfur-based products to increase the acidity and lower the pH. Correct soil pH is paramount for lawn health.
- Get rid of all existing grass and vegetation. You can treat the entire area with a non-selective herbicide, remove the turf using a sod cutter, or smother the current lawn grass with something that blocks sunlight, like black plastic or a tarp.
- Work the top 5” of soil using a tiller to break up dirt clods, mixing in compost that is guaranteed to be weed seed free.
- Spread the seeds across the seedbed using a broadcast spreader. Work in a crosshatch pattern to ensure even coverage.
- Cover the seeds slightly. A thin soil covering keeps them from being disrupted or displaced. Gently rake them into the ground using a rake turned over with the tines facing up.
- Keep the seed and soil moist. Water immediately after broadcasting the seeds and a couple of times a day for the first two weeks.
How to Overseed a Conventional Lawn with Micro-Clover
- Mow your established lawn to 1-1 ½ inches, bagging the grass clippings.
- Dethatch the grass using a power rake or aerate the yard (if you have concerns over soil compaction) to allow better air, water, and nutrient movement into the soil.
- Spread seeds across the grass using a broadcast spreader. Work in a crosshatch pattern to ensure even coverage. You’ll need to sow an extra 25% of the microclover seeds to account for seed than gets caught in the grass and never reaches the soil surface.
- If desired, topdress the entire area with a thin layer of finished, weed-free compost.
How Much Micro-Clover Seed to Use?
What’s the Difference Between Coated and Non-Coated Seeds?
|Coated Seeds||Non-Coated Seeds|
|Non-coated micro clover seeds are bare or plain.||Coated seeds have been treated, so they are covered in a thin layer of the essential bacteria the microclover needs to fix nitrogen.|
|They aren’t treated with anything to aid in germination.||The coating may also contain a product to help retain soil moisture.|
|More expensive||Less expensive|
Is Coated or Uncoated Micro-Clover Seed Better?
If your lawn already has a type of clover growing in it, or you know the “good” bacteria are already in your soil, you should already have sufficient nitrogen to give your seeds a good start. In that case, there isn’t a need to buy coated seeds. Uncoated seeds are fine.
If your soil is sterile, has never grown any nitrogen-fixing plants, or is otherwise unhealthy, you should purchase coated seeds. The bacterial coating will give your microclover a jumpstart.
Where Does Micro Clover Grow Best?
While micro-clover is drought-tolerant and tends to thrive in poor-quality soils, it does grow best in the following conditions:
- Yards with direct, full sunlight and very little to no type of shade.
- Climates that get adequate rainfall and aren’t prone to lengthy times of drought.
- In regions where air temperatures are milder and there is less relative humidity.
Where to Buy Micro-Clover Seeds?
Since micro-clover isn’t as popular as turf grass varieties like tall fescue or Kentucky bluegrass, it is a little harder to find, especially in retail stores. Your best bet is to buy online because your selection is greater.
Amazon has a small selection of products:
- Never needs fertilizer
- Crowds out weeds
- Sun & light shade
- Coated & Inoculated
- Perennial Micro Clover
- Perfect for a No Mow Lawn
- 100% Micro Clover Seed
- Compact growth and seldom mowed
- Shade and drought tolerant
- Never needs fertilizer
- Crowds out weeds
- Sun & light shade
- Coated & Inoculated
- Perennial Micro Clover
- Perfect for a No Mow Lawn
Affiliate links and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on: 2022-11-25
For a more comprehensive selection, look at seed companies specifically (West Coast Seeds, Hancock Seed, Outside Pride). If you’re buying a blended seed mix, ensure the grass types suit your climate—for help, contact your local county extension office.
Disease and Insect Problems Common with Micro-Clover
Thankfully, disease and insect problems are rare with microclover, although hot, moist climates are susceptible to Southern blight. Symptoms appear as soggy, yellow, or brown patches, and you’ll see thick mats of white fungal threads in severe cases.
In the event of an infection, immediately spray the area with an appropriate fungicide. You can treat a small patch of clover by covering it with black plastic to “solarize” and kill the soil-borne fungus.
Micro-Clover vs. Other Clover Types
Is there a Difference Between Micro-Clover and Mini Clover?
“Mini” clover is a type of small clover—much smaller than the typical white clover—while a “micro” clover is a small type of mini clover.
Is there a Difference Between Micro-Clover and Regular White Clover?
Microclover is a patented dwarf white clover that’s the smallest type worldwide. It grows slower and shorter than white clover, so it doesn’t crowd out as many plants. It has smaller leaves, fewer flowers, and doesn’t form large clumps in a lawn.
More Information About Micro-Clover
How to Water Micro-Clover
- When you first plant seeds, you must water them daily to hasten germination and help establish strong roots.
- Once established, microclover needs about 25% less water than turfgrasses to maintain its green coloration.
To determine the exact amount of water needed for mixed grass-clover lawns, reduce your regular watering and adjust as needed. Remember that plants become more drought-tolerant if you water them less frequently but provide more water each time. This type of watering encourages deep rooting.
Can You Walk on Micro-Clover?
Yes! After micro-clover is established, it’s more tolerant of foot traffic and playing than many other lawn alternatives. A general recommendation is to give your new plants four to six weeks before running loose in your yard to help them develop a robust root system.
One of the most critical parts of mowing micro-clover is waiting until plants are at least 4 to 5 inches tall before you mow for the first time. If you mow too soon, instead of cutting the tops off of the plants, you may pull the baby clover roots out of the ground.
At that point, mow to about 3 inches in height. The microclover will react by triggering outward growth to create a mat of dense clover growth filled with tiny leaves. Always leave the clippings in place—they’ll work as a source of continuous nitrogen to fertilize the turfgrass as they decompose.
For mixed lawns, continue regular mowing to maintain the correct turfgrass height. The microclover tends to have a slower growth habit and stays lower in height.
If you have a straight microclover lawn, you can have a no-mow lawn if you’re okay with a slightly uneven height. If you want a flat, perfect clover lawn, you can cut it again when it gets 4 to 5 inches tall. With 100% microclover lawns, most homeowners need only to mow 2 or 3 times during the summer.
Whether or not you need to apply nitrogen fertilizers depends on the goals for your lawn.
When grown as a standalone ground cover, microclover doesn’t need chemical fertilizers to supplement nitrogen. Bacteria in root nodules produce a usable form from atmospheric nitrogen.
In a blended lawn, if you want more grass than microclover, fertilize in the spring and fall. This keeps the clover from becoming too established. If you want more microclover than grass, use less fertilizer or don’t fertilize. Clovers thrive in nutrient-poor soils when other plants struggle because nitrogen-fixing bacteria fix the plant’s nitrogen.
Micro-Clover and Dogs
Micro clover is exceptionally resilient to pet urine, unlike a traditional grass lawn, which tends to turn brown or yellow. It isn’t dangerous for dogs if they eat a little, but when consumed in large quantities, it can cause gastrointestinal upset.
Micro-Clover Lawns in Winter
Microclover does go dormant in climates where winters are cold and harsh. It stays green year-round in southern climates that grow warm-season grasses. But in climates that grow cool-season grasses, the microclover dies back to the ground while the grasses go dormant in the fall.
Micro-Clover Sun Requirements
Microclover needs a minimum of 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight daily. It does not grow well in partial shade. Shady conditions, even in summer heat, cause plants to struggle.
Q: What is the difference between a mini clover and a micro – clover?
A. A mini clover is a small type of Dutch white clover. A micro-clover is a small type of mini-clover, making it the smallest type of white clover.
Q: What’s the best clover variety for a lawn?
A. White clovers are the best type of traditional clover for lawns. Mini clovers and micro-clovers are types of white clover, just smaller than the standard Dutch white.
Q: Can I plant a clover lawn in an area where there are other plants
A. Yes, you can plant a clover lawn with other plants or an existing lawn. You’ll want to watch the microclover to keep it from spreading into your flowerbeds or garden.
Micro-clover is a good option for homeowners looking for aspects of an eco-friendly, low-maintenance, healthy lawn yet still want a neat yard.
This type of clover grows well with turfgrasses and doesn’t clump as much as white clover plants, so it blends into the existing lawn more evenly.
While seed is expensive and makes growing straight micro-clover as a lawn alternative cost-prohibitive, it is an excellent choice for overseeding a traditional lawn or blending with turfgrass(es) to start a new yard.
- Illinois Extension. (2016). Microclovers…A New Lawn Alternative. Retrieved August 24, 2022 from https://extension.illinois.edu/blogs/rhonda-ferrees-ilriverhort/2016-03-18-microcloversa-new-lawn-alternative
- University of Maryland Department of Plant Science & Landscape Architecture. (2015). Microclover – Tall Fescue Lawns in the MidAtlantic Region (TT 121). Retrieved August 24, 2022 from http://www.mdturfcouncil.org/resources/Documents/TT%20Bulletins/TT-121%20Microclover%20_%20Tall%20Fescue%20Lawns%20in%20the%20Mid-Atlantic.pdf
- University of Maryland Extension. (2022). Lawns and Microclover. Retrieved August 24, 2022 from https://extension.umd.edu/resource/lawns-and-microclover
Hi, Alex Kuritz here. Growing up I remember that my family had one of the best lawns in the neighborhood. Richly green and lush. I did a lot as I grew up in terms of caring and tending for not only my family’s lawn but also my neighbors. I can say I have years of experience, and I am here to share it with you.