close up of white clover

White Clover

Trifolium repens

White clover widely adapted to all kinds of growing conditions, even the Arctic Circle! It can be used for grazing and many other applications. 

Types of white clover.

While some might refer to this species as simply “white clover”, there are actually multiple types of white clovers, botanically divided up into three distinct, true breeding polymorphic forms based mainly on leaf size. These types are:

  • Small leaved, wild type (T. repens L. f. repens L.); also called weedy type.
  • Medium leaved, common type (T. repens f. hollandicum); also called intermediate or Dutch white.
  • Large leaved, ladino type (T. repens var. giganteum); simple called Ladino.

The weedy wild types are not too commonly sold as seed, although some “micro clover” seeds may be of this type. More familiar to most white clover users are the Dutch white and Ladino types. The key differences between these two have to do with height, stolon density and flower formation. These areas also help determine the best application for each.

Since all white clovers are of the same botanical family, each of these types can be crossed with each other. The most marketable results are varieties which merge the strengths of each type. For example, a grazing-type Ladino can be the result of crossing predominately large-leafed plants with medium-leafed plants that have higher stolon density. Similarly, Dutch white types are crossed with Ladino types to improve forage yield.

Ladino-type white clovers.

Ladino types are usually taller, have less stolons and flowers mostly in the crown of the main plant. For hay applications, ladino types usually produce more tonnage. Examples of these are Haifa and Seminole. These can be planted for pasture, hay, haylage, cover crops, wildlife, green manure and erosion control.

Intermediate-type white clovers.

Intermediate-type white clovers are lower growing, tiller more aggressively, and flower profusely from their stolons. These types are great for grazing, as they are more likely to spread, handle traffic stress, and naturally reseed better than their larger-leafed cousins. Examples of these are Huia, Louisiana S-1, and New Zealand white.

A very adaptable clover.

White clover is widely adapted. It can be found growing naturally from the Arctic Circle to all parts of the temperate regions of the world. White clover is best suited to soils which have good moisture holding ability. It is quite tolerant of traffic and a natural spreader. In general, it is considered a perennial crop, although some of its longevity may be attributed to its own reseeding capability. White clovers prefer soil within pH levels of 5.8-7.0.

Great for grazing.

White clover may be the most important and widely used pasture legume in the world today. White clover is tolerant of close grazing, which makes it a good choice for many pastures, but it is not well-suited for hay situations. This grazing ability is achieved by its high seed production (reseeding) and an extensive network of creeping stems called stolons.

Nitrogen producer.

Due to its longevity, white clover has the potential to fixate significant amounts of nitrogen over the lifetime of the stand. A healthy stand of white clover can produce 80 to 130 lb. N/A when killed the year after establishment. In established stands, it also may provide some N to growing crops when it is managed as a living mulch between crop rows.

Because it contains more of its total N in its roots than other legumes, partial tilling is an especially effective way to trigger N release. The low C:N ratio of stems and leaves causes them to decompose rapidly to release N. In order to achieve optimal nitrogen fixation ability, white clover needs to be inoculated with Rhizobium leguminosarum biovar trifolii. This is best achieved with Nitro-Coat®.

What we recommend.

Renovation white clover is an excellent option for grazing, multipurpose hay/pasture and wildlife applications. 

White Clover Specifications.

White Clover Specifications

Planting
zonesZones 2-9
annual/perennialPerrenial in zones 2-8; Annual in zone 9
ease of establishmentModerate
seed/lb700,000
seeding rate straight2-4 lbs/acre
seeding rate mix2-3 lbs/acre
seeding timeFall (October-November) or late winter to early spring (February-April)
seeding depth1/8 to 1/4 inch
seeding methodBroadcast or drilled (preferred)
method of killing/suppressionMowing; grazing; chemical
optimal germination temperatureNight temperatures >40 F
seedling emergence/vigorFair
reseeding potentialExcellent
root typeTap root (seedling); fibrous (stolon nodes)
Usage
grazing potentialExcellent
hay potentialGood
use with wildlifeExcellent
use in orchardsExcellent
use with row cropsExcellent
use with other grasses/legumesExcellent
Bees/benefitial insectsExcellent
compaction controlGood
erosion controlExcellent
weed suppression potentialExcellent
green manure/cover crop useGood
spreading capabilityExcellent
N contribition potentialGood
DM potentialGood
Forage qualityExcellent
harvest time frame (late/early/year round)Year round
number of harvest/yr5/yr
other commentsLimit nitrogen fertilizer use, and use defoliation by grazing, mowing, or chemicals to reduce grass competition; never use Grazone herbicide both before or after establishment.
Tolerance
bloat riskHigh
disease susceptibilityGood
insect/nematode ristkGood
cold toleranceExcellent
traffic toleranceGood
heat toleranceFair
drought toleranceFair
shade toleranceGood
dry soil toleranceFair
wet soil toleranceExcellent
pH range5.8-7.0
required fertility (P,K, other nutrients)P, K, Ca, Mg needed; minor especially Mo, B also needed