Red clover in the lawn - how to properly fight red clover

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Red clover - Trifolium pratense

The insects love it - but for the gardener, the red clover is often worse than the plague. Once he has settled in the lawn, he is only with great difficulty to remove again. His long foothills crawl through the grass and take his place and light so long, until there is hardly anything left of the once beautiful lawn. How to fight the red clover in your lawn is explained in this article.

Occurrence and recognition features

The red clover, also called meadow clover, is a native of our plant. Their natural occurrence extends from Europe to central Asia. The plant feels well on nutrient-rich roadsides, meadows and clearings. In the highlands it can be found up to 2500 meters. Trifolium pratense belongs to the genus Klee (Trifolium), in which more than 200 different species of the herbaceous plant occur. The perennial meadow clover can reach stature heights of up to 60 cm, whereby it is usually much smaller in its natural environment. On lawns that are mowed regularly, it moves just above ground level. Its leaves are arranged in triplets (tri means three, folium leaf) at the top of the leaf stem. Particularly striking is the bright grain in the middle of each leaf. At the heyday between early May and mid-October, the red clover forms spherical inflorescences, which are equipped with up to 100 pink colored single flowers. There are several varieties of red clover named after their main distribution area.
  • Coastal meadow clover (Trifolium pratense subsp. Maritinum)
  • Alpine meadow clover (Trifolium pratense subsp. Nivale)
  • Common meadow clover (Trifolium pratense supsp. Pratense)
Although the red clover is one of the beneficial plants for humans and animals, because the herbaceous plant is an important pollen supplier for insects and fodder plant for grazing livestock. Last but not least, the red clover contributes to the relief of complaints in medicine. But the plants are not welcome in every garden. Red clover is rapidly becoming a rival in lawns, displacing it over time. Especially barren and sandy locations are affected.


A lawn should be free of weeds if possible. Not only does this look a lot neater, it is also a sign of healthy grasses with strong roots. When Klee settles in the lawn, it is a clear indication that the natural balance is disturbed. The causes of such a disorder include:
  • pH of the soil is too high
  • the nutrient content in the soil is not optimal
  • the lawn is not maintained properly
Too high pH values ​​cause the red clover to find ideal growing conditions. If the grasses are weakened in the lawn, the robust meadow clover can better assert itself and multiply undisturbed. It is therefore important to create optimal conditions for the turf grasses, so that they can permanently find their way back to their old form. Some of these measures are part of the normal lawn care anyway. So you not only ensure that you strengthen the lawn, but at the same time eliminate the meadow clover.

Systematic approach

In contrast to white clover, which is relatively easy to remove from the lawn, the red clover is much more persistent. While the herbaceous plant with its reddish flowers on meadows is a pretty sight, it should not even take root in the lawn. Red clover is a characteristic deep root that forms a long tap root that can reach up to two meters deep into the ground. It spreads through subterranean foothills, called rhizomes. The problem is that in the soil remaining root pieces and offshoot usually usually after a short time again expelled. It is therefore most effective to systematically eliminate the red clover in the lawn. For this purpose, a combination of different control variants is recommended.

1. Manual emergency measures

Depending on how much meadow clover already traverses the lawn, the grass should be mowed low and thoroughly scarified. Contiguous areas of red clover should first be gouged out by hand and largely eliminated. These bald spots are best replenished immediately with new grass seed from a seed sowing mixture. In order for the seeds to germinate and grow well, it is important to keep these spots in the lawn well moist. The ideal time for this is spring. Possible and on top of that makes sense a removal of the meadow clover but also in the rest of the growing season.


Since a strong weed growth inhibits the growth of the lawn, something urgently needs to be done about it. An efficient method to prevent strong clover growth is scarifying.This mechanical removal of lawnfelt not only frees the lawn from grass clover, but also from dead grass stalks and disturbing moss, so that the grasses get more air again. The scarifying also loosens up the soil so that water and oxygen can get back to the grass roots unhindered.
  • Time: spring
  • Edit the affected areas several times
  • For large areas, use electric or petrol vice
  • Fill up bald spots with lawn seed
  • water well and fertilize

Cut out by hand

Red clover - Trifolium pratense

Mowing the lawn is not an effective way to remove the meadow clover from the lawn. Already in the spring should therefore be started with the manual removal of red clover. Because of the high time and physical effort, a purely manual removal of red clover is only recommended for small areas. In principle, you do not need any special tools to get the red clover out of the lawn. Normally, a longer kitchen knife is enough. If you do not want to work on your knees on the lawn, you can buy a special weed cutter. This narrow miniature spade in shoehorn shape is also available with a long handle. Since it is usually not possible to dig up the entire root, the procedure must be repeated regularly. In order to strengthen the grass, some fertilizer is applied afterwards and possibly new grass seeds are sown on the bare spots.
Tip: If not a large part of the meadow clover is first removed mechanically, all other attempts to combat red clover are more or less ineffective. Therefore, a gardener can not help but create a hand to drive the clover in the long run from the lawn.

2. Change soil conditions

If a large part of the unloved meadow clover has been removed, that does not mean that it stays that way permanently. Inasmuch as the same conditions prevail as before, it usually comes back after a short time. In order for its re-emergence to be limited, the conditions for the weed should be worsened.

Preferred site and soil conditions of red clover

The ideal conditions for the red clover are sunny to partially shaded areas and a well-drained, nutrient-rich soil.
  • Light requirement: sunny to partially shaded
  • nutrient-rich, well-drained soil
  • moderately moist
  • Loving lime
  • does not like very acidic soils
  • also weathers longer dry phases well due to its deep roots


The long taproot of red clover is one of the reasons why the herbaceous plant is so adaptable and difficult to remove from the lawn. So it is unlikely that you can get the clover out of the garden floor by scarifying or weeding. Therefore, something has to be done at the same time for lawn growth. Because in a healthy and vigorous lawn, the clover has few chances. As a rule, the garden soil, where a great deal of red clover grows in the lawn, is too calcareous (pH values ​​above 7). In addition, it does not store enough water and the nutrients are not present in optimal amount and ratio. If the soil is made more lawn friendly, this is a very effective measure against the meadow clover. With targeted fertilization, aeration of the lawn and the optimization of the pH value in the soil you create good growth conditions for the lawn.
  • Lawn prefers a pH of 6.0 on light garden soils
  • On heavy soils, a pH of 7.0 is ideal for the lawn
  • Optimize soil pH
  • if the soil is too calcareous, introduce appropriate pH-lowering preparations
  • Scarify in spring
  • Fertilize the lawn (with strong red clover growth only with special fertilizers)
  • Water grass regularly when dry
  • The ideal mowing height is about 4 cm

Red clover - Trifolium pratense

If the root fungus is removed and the dense mesh cut, the grasses get more air. Ideal conditions to prevail over their competitors and to form again a closed sward. Since the grass is much more sensitive to dryness than grass clover, the lawn has to be watered frequently in longer periods without rain. In addition, make sure you have an optimal pH in the soil, because only then can the grass develop optimally and prevail against the meadow clover. A common mistake of hobby gardeners is to lime the lawn without having determined in advance which soil pH is present. Often they thereby greatly increase the pH. Alkaline soils (calcareous) worsen the conditions for the lawn. The red clover, however, feels really good.
Tip: Have a soil sample checked in a relevant institute and align the fertilization of the lawn on the basis of the result. You may be advised to do so in specialist shops.

Feed the lawn properly

By using a good lawn fertilizer you can get the grasses to get everything they need. This is especially necessary after the winter, when the lawn again drives out. Even growth is achieved by the nitrogen in the fertilizer.The turf grows densely and evenly, which not only reduces the risk of summer burns but also helps to prevent red clover from growing wild. However, if you have large amounts of clover in the lawn, you should avoid the use of a universal fertilizer, as these often have too high phosphate content, which in turn promotes clover growth. It is therefore advisable to use a slow-release fertilizer that delivers high amounts of nitrogen, but only very little or no phosphate.
  • best time: just before a rainy season
  • once in spring, once in summer (at the end of July at the latest)
  • Do not fertilize on dry soil and in the blazing sun
  • fertilize early in the morning or better in the late afternoon
  • water the lawn in advance
  • before fertilizing the blades of grass must be dried off again
  • Apply fertilizer evenly
  • Quantity according to package instructions
  • preferably use slow-release fertilizer
  • for example, horn shavings or horn meal
  • There are also special lawn fertilizers with reduced phosphate content
  • Lawn only after previous soil analysis
Tip: In order to find exactly the right fertilizer for your soil conditions, you should have the soil analyzed. Only in this way can the nutrients be dosed in a targeted manner and deficiency symptoms and over-fertilization prevented.


Another option, although not quite as environmentally friendly, may be pesticide protection against red clover in the lawn. In the meantime, a whole range of effective clover shredders are available, which do no harm to the turf and are also not harmful to bees. These remedies are based on destroying only dicotyledonous plants such as the grasshopper, but not monocots, ie the grasses. So the lawn stays, while the red clover and some other weeds disappear.
  • Always use plant protection products exactly as instructed
  • if possible, do not mow in advance
  • the agent is preferably absorbed via the leaves
  • only apply on rain-free days
  • water the lawn once more on the eve (before use)
Where the red clover dies, of course, yellow spots form in the lawn. Before reseeding the grass seeds, dead plants must be removed. A light fertilizer with phosphate-free fertilizer then does the lawn well.
Tip: When buying a lawn weed killer, pay attention to the area of ​​application of the active substance. It should be explicitly stated that it works against red clover or all types of clover (and not only against sour clover). Preparations against dicotyledonous weed plants in the lawn are also suitable for controlling red clover.

radical solution

Red clover - Trifolium pratense

If the trimming with meadow clover is excessively high, it may just help with a completely new lawn sowing. However, it is necessary to remove all roots from the ground in advance. This is the only way to ensure that there is no resettlement with the red clover. In some cases, the solution is in a soil replacement.
  • Time: spring or late summer
  • Remove soil about 30 to 50 cm deep
  • remove all roots and stones
  • Pass the soil through a coarse sieve several times, then a finer sieve
  • Process sieved soil with fresh humus or compost
  • Apply earth mixture to the surface again
  • condense
  • Pour
  • sow new lawn
Make sure that all roots and plant parts remain in the sieve, because root pieces can grow into new red clover. If you do not want to remove and replace the whole garden floor, you should try the following method:

Plastic tarpaulin against clover

A somewhat unusual, but very effective and environmentally friendly method to drive the red clover from a lawn is the large-scale coverage of the lawn with a plastic tarpaulin. This is spread over the areas of strong clover growth for a few weeks. Due to the lack of light, the red clover dies.
Of course, the lawn also suffers from the conditions. He often recovers much better than the clover. If the grasses die off as well, that is not too bad, because the lawn can be sown without problems. However, before sowing a new lawn, the soil conditions must be improved, otherwise the red clover will come back. So do not forget to fertilize.
Annual scarification, regular mowing and watering during dry periods and balanced fertilization are usually sufficient to keep red clover out of the lawn. If he managed to settle, he must be removed by hand as soon as possible to prevent further spread. Then the conditions for the lawn should be improved so that the grasses can better prevail against the weeds. The meadow clover will probably never completely disappear from the lawn. Therefore, it is necessary to come to terms with the weeds and find a healthy middle ground.

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