What is Microclover and Why is it Good for My Lawn? (2024)

What is Microclover and Why is it Good for My Lawn? (1)

Homeowners might think of clover as merely a nuisance weed when it pops up in their yard. But clover is starting to make a comeback across the nation as homeowners are starting to recognize the benefits of growing microclover in their yards. But what is microclover, and why is it good for your lawn?

Microclover is a special variety of small white clover that can be used as a supplement for your turfgrass or as an alternative for a traditional grass lawn. This tiny plant may look like a weed but it’s a beneficial ground cover that will bring a lot of luck to your yard by protecting your lawn from diseases, pests, and other problems.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • What is microclover?
  • Why is microclover good for your lawn?
    • Benefits of clover
    • Special benefits of microclover
      • Microclover grows well with turfgrasses
      • Microclover looks tidier than regular clover
  • Disadvantages of microclover
  • How to grow microclover in your yard
  • FAQ about microclover

What is microclover?

Microclover is a low-growing, dwarf variety of the common white Dutch clover (Trifolium repens). It’s popular for its ability to mix with different types of grass lawns, creating a uniform appearance without crowding out the turfgrass.

In Europe, microclover has been a popular lawn alternative for decades, but it’s just now gaining steam in the U.S.

Here in the states, the most popular varieties of microclover are “‘Pirouette” and “Pipolina” (Trifolium repens var. Pirouette and Pipolina). They grow 4-6 inches tall and tolerate close mowings (down to 3 inches) better than their white clover and red clover sisters.

Microclover’s low growth and small leaves make it a tidy, attractive option for homeowners who want to add a low-maintenance, eco-friendly groundcover to their grass lawn.

Why is microclover good for your lawn?

What is Microclover and Why is it Good for My Lawn? (2)

When you hear “clover,” you probably envision the well-known and widely-grown white clover. It’s the most common clover in the U.S., growing 4-8 inches tall and producing white flowers with a pink hue in spring and summer.

Compared to “regular clover” (white clover), microclover grows lower to the ground, has smaller leaves, produces fewer flowers, and does not grow in clumps. The three-leafed plant is also the smallest type of clover.

Benefits of clover

Both white clover and microclover (along with the 300 other varieties of clover found worldwide) are legumes that offer a treasure trove of lawn benefits when you plant clover in your yard.

Clover will …

  1. Reduce erosion
  2. Crowd out common weeds
  3. Fix atmospheric nitrogen to fertilize other plants
  4. Create nutrient-rich green manure
  5. Reduce lawn maintenance
  6. Cut down on energy use from lawn mowing
  7. Conserve water
  8. Save money and time
  9. Decrease the need for harsh chemicals like fertilizers and pesticides
  10. Reduce the need to aerate and dethatch your lawn
  11. Attract beautiful pollinators
  12. Discourage grass fungus and diseases
  13. Resist lawn pests such as grubs

It doesn’t hurt that clovers are hardy in cold weather and they can grow in compacted soil, although they do perform best in aerated soil.

Homeowners who don’t want to bother with using lawn seed mixtures can switch to a new lawn grown entirely with clover, which will eliminate the need for using any fertilizers.

Rabbits love to snack on clover, so growing clover increases biodiversity by providing a food source for the local wildlife. The tasty clover also distracts visiting bunnies from eating your turfgrass.

Special benefits of microclover

Alongside the general clover benefits, microclover has two unique advantages that distinguish it from regular white clover.

Microclover grows well with turfgrasses

Though white clover plays nicely with some turfgrasses, it’s an aggressive grower that tends to clump and crowd out desired grasses and groundcovers. White clover is wonderful for reducing weeds like dandelions and chickweed, but that dense, rapid growth comes at a cost.

Microclover is less aggressive and grows lower to the ground, so it’ll smother weeds without interfering with turfgrass growth. It’s an excellent addition to tall fescue, fine fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and perennial ryegrass lawns.

Growing benefits:

✓ Slower growth habit than white clover, so it won’t crowd out as many plants
✓ Can be planted with more varieties of grass and groundcovers (because it grows less aggressively)
✓ Does not form as many clumps as white clover

Microclover looks tidier than regular clover

Microclover is naturally shorter than white clover, and it can tolerate close mowings better than white clover can. In fact, microclover will grow more densely and produce smaller leaves the more frequently it is mowed, which is ideal if you want a traditional green lawn look.

In general, microclover leaves are half the size of regular white clover leaves. If mowed, microclover leaves grow back smaller: Then they can shrink to as small as one-third the size of white clover leaves.

Microclover flowers for one month in summer. If you prefer the uniformity of a green lawn, you can easily prevent flowers from appearing with regular mowing.

Tip: Avoid scalping your turfgrass. Mowing below 2 inches won’t make your microclover happy and it could lead to turf damage and bare patches.

Lawn appearance benefits:

✓ Shorter than white clover
✓ Great for a more traditional lawn look
✓ Close mowings won’t damage microclover (white clover is more sensitive to mowings)

Disadvantages of microclover

What is Microclover and Why is it Good for My Lawn? (3)

Clover may be a lucky find, but there are some downsides. Based on soil type and climate, microclover will be especially tricky to grow on certain lawns. Consider these downsides of microclover.

Does not tolerate drought or heat as well as white clover

While white clover is fairly drought tolerant, microclover may start to die during the peak of summer when other grasses enter dormancy. This can lead to unsightly bare spots and erosion. If you live in a hot, dry area, you may need to reseed certain areas of your lawn.

✗ Does not tolerate shade as well as white clover

While white clover is fairly shade tolerant, microclover needs at least four hours of full sun per day and does poorly in shaded areas. It won’t thrive under trees or in the shadow of a building.

✗ Is expensive to plant

Microclover seeds are expensive (especially compared to white clover) and can be hard to find at local gardening centers.

✗ Cannot tolerate foot traffic as well as white clover

White clover can handle moderate foot traffic, but microclover is less resilient. If you are planting microclover in a play area, it will need to be mixed with turfgrass.

✗ Is susceptible to southern blight

Clover generally resists disease, but microclover can be susceptible to southern blight disease in areas with high humidity and warm night temperatures.

✗ It attracts stinging insects

It’s important to note that clover attracts pollinators, so it may not be a good choice if you or your child have a bee sting allergy.

How to grow microclover in your yard

To get that lush, green clover look in your lawn, you need to spread microclover seed in your yard. Luckily, once microclover is established, it doesn’t require as much maintenance as a traditional grass lawn.

In just a few hours, your seeds can be planted and on their way to save the day. Follow these steps to get started:

  1. Till 4-6 inches of the soil.
  2. Add compost to boost soil fertility.
  3. Add lime if your soil’s pH level needs to be adjusted. Microclover performs best in soils with a pH level of 6 or 7.
  4. Rake the soil to level out the surface.
  5. Use a seed spreader to spread microclover seeds evenly across the yard.
  6. Give the seeds frequent but light waterings to nurture the seeds. Seeds need enough water so that the soil stays moist but don’t overwater the seeds. Water the microclover seeds once daily until they are established.
  7. Microclover generally takes 7-14 days to germinate. After the seeds germinate, spread more seeds if there are any gaps or patches where the seed did not grow.
  8. Once it’s established, microclover only needs to be watered one to two times a week
  9. When you microclover lawn is well established and has grown to the desired size, you can mow it to keep it from getting too tall.

Tip: Aerating your yard before spreading the microclover seeds creates excellent conditions for microclover to grow.

Microclover is a perennial, but it doesn’t have a long lifespan. To maintain a yard made entirely of microclover, you must reseed the clover every two to three years.

Like other clover varieties, microclover does not grow well in sandy soil and will wilt or die if treated with a broadleaf herbicide, so be careful to avoid treating your lawn with herbicides that will kill your clover.

FAQ about microclover

1. How much does microclover cost?

Microclover seed can be pretty pricey. Most microclover runs about $40 to $50 per pound. For a new microclover lawn, you’ll need 1-2 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet. The cost of seeding microclover in your yard depends on the size of the yard:

Amount of seedsYard sizeCost (per pound)
¼ lb.250 sq. ft.$10 to $12.50
½ lb.500 sq. ft.$20 to $25
1-2 lbs.1,000 sq. ft.$40 to $50
5-10 lbs.5,000 sq. ft.$200 to $500
10-20 lbs.10,000 sq. ft.$400 to $1,000
25-50 lbs.25,000 sq. ft.$1,000 to $2,500
50-100 lbs.50,000 sq. ft.$2,000 to $5,000

If you just want to overseed your existing lawn with a seed blend of microclover and turfgrass, you won’t have to deal with quite as much sticker shock (but the price is still pretty high). A monoculture of microclover in your yard is going to cost a lot more to grow.

2. How much microclover should be in a grass seed mix?

If you’re opting for a lawn seed mix of microclover and turfgrass or microclover and other clovers, you’ll want about 3% to 5% of your lawn seed to be microclover.

3. When should I plant microclover?

The ideal time to plant microclover depends on your geographic location and the local climate. Microclover grows best in climates where there is plenty of rain and the weather is cool, so the best times of year to plant microclover is either spring or fall.

Spring: Plant 2 weeks before the last frost, which is usually mid-March to mid-April.
Autumn: Plant seeds about 4-8 weeks before the first frost of the year normally hits your area. This might be around September or October, depending on the climate in your area.

Wait for the ground to thaw before you seed microclover in your yard; you don’t want to plant the seeds in frozen ground. Microclover does not germinate well during the hottest parts of the year, so avoid planting them in the summer or once the weather gets too warm.

To start your clover lawn on a high note, plant your seeds after aerating your lawn. With access to a wealth of water, air, and nutrients, baby clover roots will thrive.

Never fear, microclover is here!

If you’re ready to add some shamrock-shaped superheroes to your grass lawn, microclover is a subtle addition to get your lawn emerald green without the wilder look of taller, larger clover varieties.To meet more lawn superheroes, contact a local lawn care pro. Our pros will handle the planting and maintenance to make your clover lawn look extra green.

Main Image Credit: Pxfuel

What is Microclover and Why is it Good for My Lawn? (4)

Maille Smith

Maille-Rose Smith is a freelance writer and actor based in New York. She graduated from the University of Virginia. She enjoys watching theatre, reading mysteries, and listening to psychology podcasts. She is an orchid enthusiast and always has a basil plant growing in her kitchen.

Posts by Maille Smith

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