How to Grow and Care for White Clover

Pros and Cons of a Familiar Component of the Lawn

White clover plants with oval-shaped trifoliate leaves below small white flowers on thin stems

The Spruce / K. Dave

White clover (Trifolium repens) is a low-growing perennial commonly found in lawns. People are generally unaware of its presence until it puts out small, white flowers, in late spring, which attract bees.

The foliage is trifoliate, giving it its genus name, meaning "having a three-part leaf". But of greater significance than either its leaves or its blooms is its ability to spread and form mats across the surface of the soil. This spreading, which is responsible for its species name, repens, takes place when the nodes along the plant's stems come into contact with the ground. The result is that new roots are put down, essentially forming new plants.

White clover is thought of as a weed by some homeowners. Indeed, this member of the pea family is considered invasive in some parts of North America. It has naturalized across much of the continent, not only in lawns but also in meadows and along roadsides. Others, however, see it as a bona fide ground cover. At the very least, it can serve as a helpful component in a lawn, having a number of good qualities lacking in your turfgrass.

It has greater drought tolerance than turf and can thrive without applications of pesticides or fertilizer. It has other advantages too, including the fact that it aerates the soil, rarely needs mowing and holds up well to dog urine.

Others wish to use it in conjunction with turfgrass in a lawn. It was traditionally added to grass-seed mixes for use in lawns where grass, by itself, failed to give good coverage. White clover is listed as an invasive plant in the Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States. While the plant itself is non-toxic, white clover sometimes harbors a fungus that is toxic to horses.

Common Name White clover
Botanical Name Trifolium repens
Family Fabaceae
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial
Mature Size 0.25-0.50 ft. tall, 1-1.50 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Well-drained, moist
Soil pH Acidic
Bloom Time Spring, summer
Flower Color White
Hardiness Zones 3-10 (USDA)
Native Area Europe
Toxicity Plant itself is non-toxic, contracts fungus toxic to horses

White Clover Care

You will find that white clover does not require much care at all. Put it in a spot with slightly acidic soil and good drainage, throw in a bit of shade, and do not let the soil dry out completely. This basic care should be enough for the plant to thrive.

But, because Trifolium repens does spread aggressively, it may move into areas of your yard where you do not want it. Pulling it out will require extra landscape maintenance. So think carefully before you plant white clover unless you do not mind having it take over. At the very least, do not install it near flower beds.


White clover spreads rapidly and aggressively and is listed as an invasive species in the US, affecting most of the country and a number of US national parks.

White clover flowers with small white petals clustered upward and buds underneath closeup

The Spruce / K. Dave

White clover plants as ground cover with small white flowers on thin stems

The Spruce / K. Dave

White clover plants with trifoliate oval-shaped leaves clustered together from above

The Spruce / K. Dave


White clover performs best in partial sun, but it tolerates being planted in areas that receive full sun.


The most important soil requirement for Trifolium repensis is good drainage.


White clover performs best in evenly moist soil. It tolerates dry ground but will not spread as much. This can actually be a good thing if you are concerned about the plant spreading out of control.


This highly useful ground cover is a nitrogen-fixer and therefore does not need to be fertilized. This saves you time, effort, and money. Take this fact into account if you are landscaping on a budget. White clover is also a popular crop for overwintering in the vegetable garden. Planted in the fall and tilled under in the spring before vegetables are planted, the clover adds nitrogen needed by your edible plants and also crowds out some of the undesirable garden weeds.

Types of White Clover

In addition to the wild plant, improved varieties of Trifolium repens include:

  • Micro clover: this is shorter, with smaller leaves
  • 'Atropurpureum': sports chocolate-brown foliage with green margins
  • 'Dragon's Blood': maybe the most attractive variety of white clover, bearing tricolored leaves (green, red, and white)

Propagating White Clover

White clover, like other clovers, spreads out by sending offshoots from a plant that will develop another plant. These offshoots can be separated from the "mother" plant. Here's how:

  1. Locate a mature plant that has an offshoot branched out from it.
  2. Using pruning shears or scissors, cut the offshoot to separate it from the mother plant.
  3. Plant the offshoot slightly below the soil in the desired location and secure the plant by pushing the soil down around it. Then water.

How to Grow White Clover From Seed

This plant grows easily from seed. It is best to do this in spring or summer during warm weather. Directly sow the seeds in your yard by raking the soil and then simply scattering them around and watering. The clover will start sprouting in as little as two to three days, but can take up to seven to 10 days depending on the temperature. Keep the area watered and moist where the seeds have been spread.

Common Pests & Diseases

White clover is known for being particularly resistant to pests and diseases. This is part of what makes it an appealing choice in many garden landscapes, providing you are willing to overlook its spreading tendencies. It is a major food source for honeybees.

  • How fast does white clover grow?

    White clover grows in mats, spreading and rooting offshoots with mats as much as 12 inches wide each. If grown from seeds, this fast-growing plant can germinate within days and reproduces quickly.

  • When does white clover bloom?

    White clover will bloom in the spring and throughout the early part of summer.

  • Does white clover attract butterflies?

    White clover attracts many pollinators, including bees and butterflies. These low-growing plants are a great source of pollen and nectar, making them a very attractive feast for honeybees.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. White Clover. Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States. 

  2. Know what you grow: Clover toxicity and horses. Michigan State University.