Dutch White Clover

Alternative Lawns – Ground Cover Species

Dutch White Clover Trifolium repens

picture of dutch white clover
Mature Dutch white clover in bloom

(non-native but naturalized throughout the US)

Overview: Low growing perennial herb that spreads by stolons.

Landscaping: Can serve as ground cover/an alternative to turf grass. Grows best in full sun to part shade and will easily grow in a wide variety of soil types. Clover complements turfgrass well by fixing nitrogen in the soil, which reduces fertilizer needs for turf.

Time to forage: Spring into Summer.

Identification: Low growing, creeping plant; bright green compound leaves formed of three leaflets; white flowers that bloom between May and September and are comprised of a cluster of fused white petals.

Where to find it: Found in a variety of areas as white clover is highly adaptable; can be found in natural wooded areas, meadows, and areas of high disturbance like roadsides and lawns.

Edible parts of plant: All above ground parts of the plant are edible include leaves, stems, and flowers; leaves can be eaten raw, cooked, or brewed into a tea.

Tips for foraging: Naturalized non-native plant that is widely abundant, harvest as much as you will use; can harvest whole plants or cuttings.

Ethnobotany: The Iroquois, Cherokee, and Mohegan people have used white clover for various medicinal purposes.

Importance to natural resources: Serves as a food source for many species of wildlife including deer, vole, and various types of birds; also used by various pollinators.

Nutritional value (per 100 grams): Provides 128% of Vitamin A and 203% of the daily requirement per 100 gram serving (about 3 cups).

Recipes: White Clover Iced Tea (From: https://www.growforagecookferment.com)
• 1 cup fresh blossoms or ½ cup dried
• 4 cups water
• Honey or maple syrup and lemon wedge
optional to taste
Put clover blossoms into a one quart jar, pour boiled water over blossoms and let seep for at least 30 minutes (or longer for stronger tea). Refrigerate.

Adding Clover to Your Lawn

  • If you already have a lawn, you can just add clover to it—no need to rip out all the grass! If you have thatches of dead grass in your lawn, rake this out to expose some soil. You can also pull some grass out depending on how much clover you want. If you have areas of bare soil, you are already ready to sow clover seeds into them.
  • Scratch the soil before throwing the seeds out and again after, with the goal of getting some seed-soil contact but not getting the little seeds too deep. Seed-soil contact is easier to achieve if you sow just after a rain, when the soil is moist.
  • Plant in the spring after it starts warming up, or in late summer (a couple of months before the first frost).
  • Clover doesn't need much water once it’s established, but the newly sprouted clover does need some care. For the first month or two, make sure the soil stays moist. Clover is self-fertilizing since it naturally fixes nitrogen.
  • How often to mow your clover lawn depends on your aesthetic goals, and clover and grass growth. The clover blooms are lovely and attract pollinators, but you may want to mow the spent blooms, and also to keep grass height in check.
  • Once your lawn goes through a winter, your clover should be established. Re-seed clover as needed.

Additional References:
United States Forest Service Fire Effects Information System
Edible Wild Food
Plants for a Future
Native American Ethnobotany
Tips for Growing a Clover Lawn

Seed Sources: 

Nichols Garden Nursery