So Over Clover? These Strategies Might Help

— Written By and last updated by Diane Lynch
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Q: How do I control clover in my lawn?

A: Seems that we have had many more questions than normal on how to deal with clover in the lawn this year. Although, clover is a cool-season weed it has still been noticeable in the lawn well into summer.

Clover actually is a popular plant for cover crops in gardens and in erosion control, however it can be a challenge in the lawn because it has creeping stems that produce roots and shoots along the stem, helping the plant to take hold and spread.

Before trying to control clover in a lawn, there are a couple of things to realize about clover. One thing to keep in mind is that it is not practical and near impossible to completely eradicate clover from a lawn. A more practical approach is to manage the weed by reducing the weed to a tolerable level. The second thing to keep in mind is that clover is an important honey plant for honeybees. Some people actually choose to leave the clover in their lawn for some plant diversity and to provide a honey source for honeybees.

The first step to controlling clover in a lawn along with other weeds is to maintain a healthy, dense lawn by mowing at the proper height, fertilizing, and irrigating with the proper amount at the proper time. A healthy lawn will result in a more dense grass that will choke out many weeds. Avoid a low mowing height, because white clover may be found under close mowing conditions. If you have small spots of clover in your lawn, it can be easily dug up before it becomes well established.

There are a few options for chemical control of clover in a lawn. The best time to treat would be early in the fall. A three-way herbicide containing the active ingredients: 2, 4-D, dicamba, and mocoprop (MCPP) can be used for controlling clover in warm-season lawns. However, if you have centipedegrass or St. Augustinegrass you should apply at a reduced rate to prevent damage to these lawns and spot treat only in the areas with clover. These three-way herbicides should not be applied during spring green-up of a lawn or when the air temperature is above 90°F.

If you have clover taking over your landscape beds, you also have a few control options. The first line of defense in a landscape bed to prevent clover is to have a layer of mulch around 3-inches deep. For small clumps of clover, hand pulling or digging is effective. The only herbicide option in landscape beds would be glyphosate to spot treat around ornamental plants. It is important to remember that glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide that can not only control weeds but can also damage your landscape plants. Use glyphosate with caution by not allowing spray mist to contact foliage, bark or exposed roots to avoid severe injury to wanted plants. A cardboard shield may be used to prevent spray drift to landscape plants.

For some, clover is a welcomed plant as a cover crop in gardens, for the pretty flowers, and to provide a honey source for honeybees. However, clover can creep into unwanted places such as a lawn or landscape where control is desired. If control includes using an herbicide, remember to read and follow all label instructions and precautions.

For additional lawn and garden information contact the Wayne County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Plant Clinic on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The plant clinic is a free resource to Wayne County residents. One can reach the Wayne County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Plant Clinic by phone at 919-731-1433, e-mail at, or stopping by Room 100 of the Wayne County Extension Office (208 West Chestnut Street, Goldsboro).

Recommendations for the use of agricultural chemicals are included in this article as a convenience to the reader. The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services in this article does not imply endorsement by North Carolina Cooperative Extension nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned. Individuals who use agricultural chemicals are responsible for ensuring that the intended use complies with current regulations and conforms to the product label. Be sure to obtain current information about usage regulations and examine a current product label before applying any chemical.

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Jessica Strickland
Extension Agent
North Carolina Cooperative Extension
Wayne County Center
P. O. Box 68
Goldsboro, NC 27533
Phone: 919-731-1520
Fax: 919-731-1511