Growing Red Clover


Red clover (Trifolium pratense) is also called beebread, cow clover, cow grass, meadow clover and purple clover. It is a biennial legume that grows to 18 inches tall. It lives for two years and then dies back. It is used for livestock feed and as a medicinal plant for humans to treat such ailments as cancer, whooping cough, respiratory problems and skin inflammations. It is also used to improve circulation and cleanse the liver. It thrives in rich soil that has a pH of 5.5 or higher. Good drainage is not necessary. Growers recommend that you grow only medium red clover, and avoid mammoth red clover.

Step 1

Prepare a planting area in early spring or late summer by pulling all weeds and digging in compost or well-composted manure. If you want to grow red clover as a pasture crop, broadcast seeds in late winter or early spring if you live in the central or northern U.S. and in fall if you live further south.

Step 2

Broadcast red clover seeds over your planting area, and then cover them with no more than ½ inch of soil. Water thoroughly, and keep the area moist until young plants are 1 inch tall.

Step 3

Fertilize with a high phosphate fertilizer (for example 10-30-10) when you plant your seeds.

Step 4

Control insect pests such as aphids, leafhoppers and cutworms as soon as you notice them. Insecticidal soap is effective against aphids and leafhoppers; for cutworms, use Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis, a naturally-occurring soil bacterium).

Step 5

Harvest your red clover when it first begins to bloom, and then harvest it 2 to 3 more times when flowers reform. To preserve it, dry it in a warm, dark, well-ventilated area on a screen.

Tips and Warnings

  • Red clover does not look attractive when you plant it in your lawn because its coarse stems will remain when you mow the lawn. Red clover attracts bees, which can be a good thing, but it might not be suitable for home gardens.

Things You'll Need

  • Red clover seeds
  • Well-weeded planting area
  • Fertilizer


  • University of Maryland Medical Center
  • University of Missouri Extension
  • University of Minnesota Extension

Who Can Help

  • University of Kentucky
Keywords: red clover, red clover seeds, harvest your red clover

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens" and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to "Big Island Weekly," "Ke Ola" magazine and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.