How to Get Rid of Clover in Your Lawn

Clover is a common weed that can invade lawns and yards. While some consider white clover to be an acceptable lawn plant, most homeowners view it as a nuisance weed that needs controlling. Luckily, there are several effective methods for getting rid of clover in your lawn.

What is Clover?

Clover is a low growing plant that spreads by above ground stolons that root where they touch the soil. There are several clover species, but white clover (Trifolium repens) and hop clover (Trifolium aureum) are the two most common lawn weeds.

Clover has bright green, rounded leaflets in groups of three. The leaves may have a light crescent shape white mark. Clover spreads aggressively by above ground creeping stems called stolons. Small white or pinkish clover flowers bloom from spring to fall.

While bees find clover blooms attractive, the spreading growth habit makes it unwelcome in most lawns. Homeowners find it unsightly and difficult to control.

Why Get Rid of Clover?

There are several reasons you may want to get rid of clover in your lawn:

  • It spreads aggressively – Clover spreads rapidly above ground by stolons that root where they touch the soil. This allows it to quickly invade open areas of the lawn.
  • It crowds out grass – The low growing clover crowds out the surrounding grass, leaving thin, bare patches in lawns. As it spreads, clover can displace large areas of lawn grass.
  • It looks unsightly – The rounded light green leaflets look out of place in a lawn. The spreading habit also gives the lawn an uneven, ragged appearance.
  • It indicates poor conditions – Clover thrives in poor, compacted soil that is low in nitrogen. A clover invasion often signals the lawn is stressed and not actively growing.
  • It’s difficult to control – The waxy leaf surface causes herbicides to bead up and roll off instead of sticking and absorbing. The extensive root system also makes hand pulling ineffective.

Getting rid of clover improves lawn thickness and appearance. It also indicates you’ve corrected underlying issues that allowed clover to gain a foothold.

How to Get Rid of Clover Naturally

Natural clover control methods are ideal for lightly infested lawns. Small areas of clover growth can often be eliminated without herbicides by improving lawn care practices.

Improve Lawn Density and Growth

Clover readily invades thin, weakened grass. Improving conditions to encourage vigorous lawn growth is the best natural clover control.

Aerate compacted soil – Heavy traffic from foot traffic and mowers presses down soil over time. Aerating porous holes deep into the ground provides air, water and room for grass roots to grow.

Overseed bare patches – Where clover has killed the grass, overseed with new grass seed to thicken up the lawn. Rake lightly and keep seeded areas moist until new growth is 2 inches tall.

Use organic fertilizer – Organic fertilizers like compost, manure or corn gluten provide nitrogen and nutrients to feed the grass. Apply in spring and fall to encourage deep roots and thick growth.

Mow high – Raise mower height to 3 inches or more to encourage deeper grass roots and shade out emerging weeds. Never cut off more than 1/3 of the blade length.

Water thoroughly – Water deeply to wet the top 6 inches of soil. Let the lawn dry slightly between waterings to encourage deep root growth.

Remove Clover Plants

When clover growth is minimal, hand pulling or digging can eliminate the weeds.

Hand pull small patches – Wearing gloves, grasp low on the plant and pull slowly to remove as much of the root as possible. Pull when soil is moist for easier removal.

Use a weeding tool – For larger areas, use a sturdy dandelion digger or similar long handled weeding tool. Work around the base of the plant to loosen the soil and extract the roots.

Spot treat with vinegar – Pour household white vinegar or horticultural vinegar over individual plants to kill the foliage. Repeat applications are likely needed to kill the roots. Avoid getting vinegar on desired lawn plants.

Solarize problem areas – Cover small sections of clover growth with clear plastic sheets to “bake” the weeds. Leave plastic in place for several weeks through hot sunny weather. Reseed treated areas afterward.

How to Kill Clover with Herbicides

When clover growth is extensive, herbicide control is usually required for effective removal. Always read and follow herbicide label directions carefully.

Selective Herbicides

Selective herbicides target broadleaf weeds but leave lawn grasses unharmed. Liquid sprays or granular products can be used.

2,4-D – The most common home lawn clover herbicide, 2,4-D is found in many weed-n-feed and liquid weed control products. Spray on a calm day to avoid drift to nearby ornamentals.

Dicamba – Another effective selective herbicide for clover control. Often combined with 2,4-D in mixed herbicide formulations. Avoid product drift during application.

Triclopyr – Works well on hard to kill clover. Triclopyr products include Turflon Ester and Ortho Chickweed, Clover and Oxalis Killer. It’s effective when applied in warmer weather.

MCPA – The active ingredient in Clover Out and other lawn herbicides. Typically provides only suppression of clover, but useful controlling other broadleaf weeds.

Carfentrazone – Quinclorac herbicides utilize carfentrazone to control tough broadleaf weeds like clover. Provides rapid burndown of visible weeds.

Non-Selective Herbicides

Non-selective herbicides kill all actively growing plants, including lawn grasses. Use caution to avoid harming desired vegetation.

Glyphosate – Effective clover control, but also kills grass. Use a foam applicator or carefully wipe Roundup or other glyphosate product only on the weeds.

Pelargonic acid – Found in Scythe and other “burn-down” products, pelargonic acid injures plant cells on contact. Provides temporary clover burndown until regrowth occurs.

How to Apply Liquid Herbicides

Liquid sprays provide the most effective way to treat established clover growth. Follow these tips for best results:

  • Spray when clover is actively growing in spring through early summer. Avoid mowing for several days before and after treatment.
  • Use a pump or tank sprayer for small areas, hose-end sprayer for larger lawns. Adjust nozzle to a coarse spray pattern.
  • Mix herbicide solution according to label instructions. Add a surfactant for better adherence and absorption.
  • Spray leaf tops and stems thoroughly on a calm day with temperatures above 60°F. Avoid drift to flowers, trees and shrubs.
  • Make a second treatment if clover shows renewed growth. Don’t exceed maximum application rates and intervals stated on the label.

How to Apply Granular Herbicides

Granular weed killers offer an easy, no-spray treatment option. Follow label guidelines for proper application:

  • Apply when grass and weeds are damp from dew or rain. Avoid mowing 3 days before and after treatment.
  • Use a drop or rotary spreader for even coverage. Calibrate spreader settings based on product label instructions.
  • Set spreader to half rate and apply in a crisscross pattern for complete coverage. Avoid overlaps that could cause overapplication.
  • Water granules lightly after application to dissolve pellets and activate the herbicide. Granules adhere better when grass is moist.
  • Make a second treatment if clover persists. Wait the minimum re-treatment interval given on the label.

physical Removal Methods

For heavy clover infestations, physical removal by hand or using equipment can eliminate large areas rapidly. This is very labor intensive but avoids herbicide use.

Remove by Hand

Hand removal is practical for small lawns or limited clover growth. Use these approaches:

  • Pull or dig weeds after watering when soil is loose. Remove all root sections for best results.
  • Use a sturdy weeding tool with a deep, narrow blade to sever roots below ground. Slice beneath plants to lift up the roots.
  • Repeat every week or two to catch emerging plants before they spread. Keep after young plants when they are easiest to eliminate.

Power Rake or Dethatch

A gas powered dethatching machine with rotating tines can rake out large sections of clover roots:

  • Mow lawn short before dethatching for better access to stolons and roots.
  • Set tine depth low to avoid damaging lawn grass. Make overlapping passes across all areas of clover growth.
  • Rake out and remove all detached debris immediately to prevent re-rooting. Reseed any damaged areas to prevent reinfestation.

Remove Sod Sections

Eliminate heavy clover growth by cutting and removing infested sod sections:

  • Mark off sections of sod with a square shovel where clover is dominant. Cut along edges with a flat spade to a depth of 3 inches.
  • Lift and remove sod pieces, removing as much of the underlying roots as possible.
  • Fill and level the areas with quality topsoil. Rake smooth and water gently.
  • Allow the soil to settle for a week, then overseed the bare patches with new grass seed to fill in.

How to Prevent Clover From Returning

Removing clover is only half the battle – preventing it from reestablishing is key for a long term solution.

Overseed Bare Patches

Any thin, bare areas of lawn are prime targets for clover reinfestation. Overseed to thicken up the grass before weeds can invade:

  • Mow and dethatch lawn areas where clover has been removed. Rake lightly and remove debris.
  • Select grass seed suited to sun/shade exposure and climate. Use a quality seed mix with adequate perennial ryegrass.
  • Broadcast seed evenly using a drop spreader. Work seed lightly into soil surface. Cover with light straw if desired.
  • Water gently daily to maintain moist soil. Reduce watering frequency as grass sprouts and begins growing.

Improve Lawn Health

A healthy, dense lawn squeezes out space for weeds to establish. Focus on proactive care to maintain vigorous grass:

  • Have soil tested to determine any nutrient deficiencies. Apply indicated lime and fertilizer as needed.
  • Set mower height to 3-3 1/2 inches for optimal grass health. Sharpen mower blades regularly for clean cuts.
  • Water deeply and infrequently to encourage deeper rooting. Allow the soil to partially dry out between waterings.
  • Dethatch and aerate periodically to alleviate soil compaction. Core aerate at least once per year.
  • Address any issues like shade, high traffic or pet damage that contribute to thin, weakened turfgrass.

Continue Weed Prevention

Even in healthy lawns, periodic spot treatment helps keep clover from re-emerging:

  • Scout the lawn routinely and treat young clover plants before they spread. Early intervention is critical.
  • Use selective herbicides containing triclopyr or dicamba to spot treat in spring and fall.
  • Reseed any damaged areas immediately to prevent bare soil areas from being recolonized.

When to Call a Professional

In some scenarios, it’s advisable to have a professional lawn service or landscaper handle clover removal:

  • If you don’t have the time or ability for intensive labor to remove clover manually.
  • If herbicide applications would be difficult or dangerous due to lawn size, terrain features or proximity to gardens.
  • If underlying problems like heavy thatch, poor drainage or severely compacted soil are present.
  • If overseeding and improving cultural practices still results in persistent clover growth.
  • When clover continues spreading aggressively despite your best control efforts.

A professional has specialized tools and expertise to assess factors enabling clover growth and offer customized treatment options suited to your specific conditions.

Key Takeaways on Removing Clover from Lawns

  • Improving lawn density, fertility and care to favor grass growth provides natural control.
  • Hand pulling, digging and spot herbicide treatments work well for minor clover infestations.
  • Liquid or granular selective herbicides effectively kill clover while leaving grass unharmed.
  • Non-selective herbicides kill all plant growth, requiring caution around desirable plants.
  • Dethatching, power raking or sod removal eliminates large areas of clover growth.
  • Overseeding and optimal lawn management are key to prevent clover from returning after removal.

Clover may be difficult to get rid of completely, but following integrated control methods can successfully minimize growth. Removing clover and keeping it away results in a lush, attractive lawn free of this stubborn weed.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the fastest way to kill clover?

Selective liquid herbicides provide the quickest clover burndown. Products containing triclopyr or dicamba work rapidly under warm conditions. Non-selective glyphosate will also quickly kill clover along with the desirable lawn grass.

When should I treat clover?

Apply selective herbicides when clover is actively growing in spring, summer or fall. Spot treat young plants in early stages before they spread. Fall offers ideal conditions for killing clover while minimizing grass injury.

How long does it take for clover to die after using weed killer?

You should see initial wilting and yellowing within 24-48 hours of treatment. Most selective herbicides kill clover within 1-2 weeks. Repeat applications are often needed on mature, established clover plants to fully kill the roots.

What herbicide will permanently kill clover?

No herbicide offers permanent one-time clover elimination. Products containing triclopyr offer the most effective control when applied repeatedly over time. Combining herbicides, cultural practices and reseeding gives the best long term clover prevention.

What month is best to kill clover?

Late summer to early fall is the ideal time to treat clover chemically. Warm daytime temperatures support active growth while cooler nights minimize grass injury. Periodic spring spot treatments help keep new growth in check.


Clover can quickly become an unwelcome lawn invader. But with persistence using cultural practices and targeted control methods, it is possible to eliminate clover and restore a beautiful, weed-free lawn. Integrating proper lawn care, manual removal, herbicides and vigilant prevention offer the best defense against clover. Paying attention to lawn health provides the ultimate long term solution for keeping clover out of your yard for good.