Red clover is a perennial plant prized for its medicinal properties and use in pastures. Grown in the home landscape, red clover attracts wildlife like deer and rabbits, but when grown in great enough quantities, damage is not substantial enough to shy away from cultivation. Add this low-maintenance crop to your home gardening space for use as a cover crop or for its healing properties.
Red clover (Trifolium pratense) is an herbaceous perennial plant that has three leaves, as the word "trifolium" indicates. With green foliage, red clover displays large pink flowers during spring and summer. Additionally, red clover grows to a height of 12 to 24 inches.
Grow red clover in a location that offers full sun to partial shade for best growth and vivid color. Red clover plants tolerate all soil types but thrive in moderate moisture levels, so avoid drought. Plant in well-drained soil high in fertility with a slightly acid pH of 6.2 to 6.6 for ideal growing conditions. This perennial is self-regulating with nitrogen levels, but consider fertilizer applications for the addition of potassium and phosphorus, according to the Kansas State University Research and Extension.
Red clover is a versatile plant used as a forage crop and as a crop cover in the home landscape. Red clover is used as a forage crop to feed livestock, added directly to wheat or oats. With easy establishment, red clover is also commonly used in pasture mixes and as a legume in hay.
Red clover is commonly used for its medicinal properties by creating different types of products like ointments, infusions and tinctures. Medicines are created with dried parts or extractions from the flowers and leaves. Red clover beneficial uses include, but are not limited to, as an antispasmodic, treatment for coughs, burns, cancer, skin problems, and for the relief of hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. With high levels of phytoestrogenic isoflavones and volatile oils, red clover creates an effect that mimics estrogen, leading to a decrease in hot flashes caused by hormonal imbalances, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, medicinal use is not approved by the FDA and is considered an alternative option.
Red clover is classified in two main categories, including medium and mammoth. Medium red clover plants produce up to three hay crops annually. Medium red clover plants are early flowering whereas mammoth varieties are late flowering. Mammoth red clover typically yields one hay crop per year. Certain varieties have better resistance to common pest and diseases; Kenstar, for example, is a medium red clover with resistance to the fungal infection southern anthracnose.