Crimson Clover (Incarnatum)

The Crimson Clover (Incarnatum) is generally described as an annual forb/herb. This is not native to the U.S. (United States) and has its most active growth period in the fall and winter and spring . The Crimson Clover (Incarnatum) has green foliage and inconspicuous red flowers, with an abuncance of conspicuous brown fruits or seeds. The greatest bloom is usually observed in the early spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the spring and continuing until summer. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Crimson Clover (Incarnatum) has a short life span relative to most other plant species and a rapid growth rate. At maturity, the typical Crimson Clover (Incarnatum) will reach up to 1.5 foot high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 0 inches.

The Crimson Clover (Incarnatum) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by seed. It has a slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have high vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -7°F. has low tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Crimson clover, as a winter annual, is usually planted in the late summer to early fall. It used in pasture, hay, and silage mixes, or used alone as a winter cover for soil protection or green manure crop for soil improvement.

General Characteristics

Introduced winter annual and herbaceous legume. The leaves and stems of crimson clover resemble those of red clover, but the leaves are round-tipped and there is more hair on the stems and leaves. Seedlings grow rapidly from the crown and form a rosette. This enlarges as weather becomes more favorable. In the spring, the flower stems develop rapidly and end their growth with long, pointed conical flower heads comprised of 75 to 125 florets. Florets are a bright crimson color and open in succession from the bottom to the top.

Required Growing Conditions

Crimson clover will grow on poorer soils than most other clovers, thriving on both well-drained sandy and clayey soils. It does not do well in extreme cold or heat. The preferable pH range is 6.0 to 7.0. After the seedlings become well established, it makes good growth at lower temperatures than most other clovers. Crimson clover has been used for a cover crop as far north as northern Maine; primary growing areas are the Southeast and southern Atlantic coastal states.

Cultivation and Care

Crimson clover seed should be inoculated for planting on critical areas where bacteria may have been lost in erosion of the surface. On sites that have been in pasture or hay, this is probably no longer necessary.Soils should be brought up to moderate to high levels of phosphorus and potash prior to planting clovers, but nitrogen should not be applied unless degraded sites are being planted. Plant in the spring or late summer. Clovers may be frost seeded in late winter. The best planting method is to drill the seed into a firm, weed free seedbed. No-till methods can be used successfully when effective weed control is employed. Seeding rates range from 10 to 15 lb/acre when seeded alone and 5 to 10 lb/acre when seeded in a mixture. Seed should be planted at about a ¼ inch depth.

General Upkeep and Control

Pasture and hayland management varies depending upon the forages in use, but should be based upon the grasses involved since they are the “meat and potatoes” of the mix. Graze or cut for hay when the crimson clover is in the early bloom stage (¼ to ½ in bloom). If used as a winter pasture, grazing should not be too close as to affect stand and yields the following spring. Grazing or hay cutting as this clover reaches maturity may be harmful. Hairs of stems and heads become hard and tough. If used as a green manure, manage the crop so it is plowed under about 2 to 3 weeks before the next crop is planted.

Clover especially needs a high level of phosphorous. High inputs of nitrogen fertilizer will damage clover and other legumes by reducing their vigor and boosting the grass.

Cultivars, Improved, and Selected Materials (and area of origin) Most crimson clover types used in the past were common types. However, more recent introductions featured reseeding types such as ‘Auburn’, ‘Autauga’, ‘Dixie’, and ‘Talledega’. ‘AU Sunrise’ (composite of 11 accession from FL, AL, GA, SC) is a reseeding cultivar from the Jimmy Carter Plant Materials Center in Georgia. The release is well-adapted to Alabama and Georgia, and can grow into Florida and Mississippi.

Control Please contact your local agricultural extension specialist or county weed specialist to learn what works best in your area and how to use it safely. Always read label and safety instructions for each control method. Trade names and control measures appear in this document only to provide specific information. USDA, NRCS does not guarantee or warranty the products and control methods named, and other products may be equally effective.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Rapid
General Type Forb/herb
Growth Period Fall, Winter, Spring
Growth Duration Annual
Lifespan Short
Plant Nativity Introduced to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Early Spring
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Single Crown
Drought Tolerance Low
Shade Tolerance Intolerant
Height When Mature 1.5
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color Red
Flower Conspicuousness Yes
Fruit/Seed Abundance High
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Spring Summer
Seed Spread Rate Slow
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Seed
Moisture Requirements Medium
Cold Stratification Required No
Minimum Temperature -7
Soil Depth for Roots 12
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Regrowth Rate None
After-Harvest Resprout Ability No
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 5.5–7.5 pH
Precipitation Range 32–32 inches/yr
Planting Density 0–0 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Coarse, Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 12
Minimum Frost-Free Days 180 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance None
CaCO3 Tolerance None
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability High
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating Low

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA