Clover (Trifolium repens). Photo: Betty Marose

Updated: August 5, 2021

Life cycle

White clover (Trifolium repens) is a non-native cool-season perennial. It goes dormant in the winter. 

Growth habit

Clover is low-growing, less than 1 ft. high; leaves are composed of three leaflets (trifoliate), most with a pale triangular mark. Each half-inch flower head is a cluster of many white or pink-tinged, pea-like flowers. This plant is common in lawns and roadsides throughout Maryland.


Reproduces by seed and creeping runners.

Conditions that favor growth

Poorly maintained lawn and garden areas.



White clover flower

Photo: Tom Heutte, USDA Forest Service,


White clover leaves

Photo: Bruce Ackley, The Ohio State University,


White clover roots

Photo: Rebekah D. Wallace, University of Georgia,

Management in lawns

Did you know at one time white clover was included in turfgrass seed mixes? It takes nitrogen from the air, converts it to a form plants can use, and eventually releases it back into the soil, lessening the need to fertilize. The white flowers also support some important pollinators. So as complete eradication in lawns is not practical; either accept it or aim for limiting the spread. 

Cultural lawn care practices

Maintain healthy, dense turf that can compete and prevent weed establishment.

Mechanical Management

Hand pulling or using an appropriate weeding tool are the primary means of mechanical weed control in lawns. This is a viable option at the beginning of an infestation and on young weeds. Hand pulling when the soil is moist makes the task easier. Weeds with tap roots like dandelions or have a basal rosette (leaves clustered close to the ground) like plantain are easier to pull than weeds such as Bermudagrass (wiregrass) or creeping Charlie (ground ivy) that spread with stolons or creeping stems that root along the ground.

Chemical treatment in lawns

Herbicides should be used as a last resort because of the potential risks to people, animals, and the environment. Be aware of these lawn herbicide precautions first.

If you chose this option, spot treat weeds with a liquid, selective, postemergent, broadleaf weed killer applied when weeds are actively growing. Look for a product with one or more of the following active ingredients: 2, 4-D, MCPP(mecoprop), Dicamba* or Triclopyr.

*Do not spray herbicides containing dicamba over the root zone of trees and shrubs. Roots can absorb the product possibly causing plant damage. Refer to the product label for precautions.