Red Clover (Pratense)

The Red Clover (Pratense) is generally described as a perennial forb/herb. This is not native to the U.S. (United States) and has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The Red Clover (Pratense) has green foliage and inconspicuous red flowers, with an abuncance of conspicuous brown fruits or seeds. The greatest bloom is usually observed in the late spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the spring and continuing until summer. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Red Clover (Pratense) has a short life span relative to most other plant species and a rapid growth rate. At maturity, the typical Red Clover (Pratense) will reach up to 2 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 0 inches.

The Red Clover (Pratense) 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 -34°F. has low tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Red clover is primarily used for hay, pasture, silage, and soil improvement. It is a quick growing crop, easily established, and produces high quality forage. Tolerance of shade allows red clover to be used effectively as a cover crop under silage corn.

General Characteristics

Trifolium pratense L., red clover, is an introduced biennial or short-lived perennial that grows as one of two types: medium (double-cut) or mammoth (single-cut). Red clover plants grow from crowns. Plants have hollow, hairy stems and branches. Stem lengths of medium and mammoth types average 18 inches and 24 to 30 inches, respectively. Medium types have about 4 branches per stem; mammoth have 6. Each leaf consists of a slender stalk bearing 3 leaflets. The taproot of red clover is extensively branched. Flowers are borne in compact clusters or heads and are usually rose-pink in color. Seed pods are small, short, and contain kidney-shaped seeds that vary in color from yellow to deep violet. Mammoth red clover matures later than medium types; only one crop of mammoth red clover is harvested each season since recovery is slow.

Required Growing Conditions

Red clover grows best on well-drained loamy soils, but it will also grow on soil that is not as well-drained. Medium and fine textured soils are preferred by the plant over sandy or gravelly soils. It is best adapted to a pH of 6.0 or higher.

Red clover is distributed throughout the United States.

Cultivation and Care

Red clover may be seeded in pure stands, but it is often mixed with grain or grass. Spring or late summer seedings are satisfactory. It may be overseeded in the spring on fall seeded grasses. Red clover seed should be inoculated. Phosphorus and potash are the fertilizer elements needed mostly by red clover. Apply as recommended by soil tests. Seeding may be done with a drill or broadcast. A firm, weed-free seedbed is essential. Plant seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep.

General Upkeep and Control

Graze or cut for hay when the red clover is ¼ to ½ in bloom. A second cutting or successive grazings should occur when red clover is ¼ in bloom. Leave at least 2 inches of growth after each harvest. Care should be taken to eliminate or appreciably reduce bloating of livestock. Keep lime and fertilizers (phosphorus and potash) at the proper level. Control insects and diseases.

Pests and Potential Problems Anthracnose and powdery mildew may be problems in areas with high humidity and rainfall. Choose resistant cultivars to reduce the occurrence of these diseases.

Cultivars, Improved, and Selected Materials (and area of origin) Some of the major cultivars for the western US are ‘Pennscott’, ‘Chesapeake’, ‘Kenland’, ‘Cumberland’, ‘Dollard’, ‘Midland’ and ‘Lakeland’. ‘Altaswede’, ‘Norlac’, and ‘Craig’ are mammoth red clovers. In the eastern US, varieties selected should be resistant to anthracnose and powdery mildew. Some cultivars commercially available that are moderate to highly resistant to anthracnose are ‘Acclaim’, ‘Rally’, ‘Redland II’, and ‘Renegade’. Those moderate to highly resistant to powdery mildew are ‘Arlington’, ‘Rally’, ‘Rebel’, ‘Red Star’, and ‘Reddy’. Most cultivars and varieties adapted to your area can be found through local seed suppliers.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Rapid
General Type Forb/herb
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Biennial, Perennial
Lifespan Short
Plant Nativity Introduced to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Late Spring
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Single Crown
Drought Tolerance Low
Shade Tolerance Intolerant
Height When Mature 2
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 -34
Soil Depth for Roots 12
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Regrowth Rate Moderate
After-Harvest Resprout Ability No
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 5.5–7.6 pH
Precipitation Range 18–18 inches/yr
Planting Density 0–0 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Coarse, Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 12
Minimum Frost-Free Days 120 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance Low
CaCO3 Tolerance Medium
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability High
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating High

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