How to Kill Clover

Clover is a common weed that invades lawns and gardens. While clover isn’t necessarily harmful, its spreading nature can quickly take over turf grass areas. Killing clover takes some work, but it can be done organically or with chemical controls. With persistence and the right techniques, you can get rid of clover for good.

Why Kill Clover?

Before getting into clover removal methods, you may wonder why it needs to be killed at all. Here are some top reasons for getting rid of clover:

It’s Invasive

Clover spreads readily through rhizomes (underground stems) and seeds. Left unchecked, white and red clover can take over thin turf and bare spots. Clover moves easily from yard to yard as seeds travel.

It Looks Messy

The rounded shape and size of clover leaves contrast with surrounding grass blades. Their growth habit in clumps and patches looks untidy on an otherwise uniform lawn.

It Steals Nutrients

Clover fixes nitrogen from the air into the soil. This gives clover an unfair nutrient advantage over grass. The nitrogen boost fuels further clover growth.

It Doesn’t Stand Up to Traffic

Clover has a shallow root system compared to turf grass. Areas of clover die out when walked on, mowed, or dug into frequently. This leaves thin, bare spots perfect for weeds.

It Can Cause Allergic Reactions

Some people are allergic to clover pollen. Having less clover around can help reduce allergy symptoms for sensitive individuals.

Non-Chemical Ways to Kill Clover

Killing clover organically takes patience, but can be effective. Try these non-chemical clover control options first before moving onto herbicides:

Hand Pulling

Hand pulling clover is most practical when it’s not widespread. Grasp the plant at its base near the soil and pull steadily to remove the entire root system. This works best when the ground is moist and soft.

To avoid spreading seeds, put pulled clover immediately into a closed garbage bag. Don’t add it to the compost pile.

Hand pulling works for young white and red clover plants. Mature clover with larger roots can withstand pulling and regrow. Use another organic method in combination with hand pulling on established clover.

Improving Lawn Density

Clover invades thin, sparse areas in lawns and competes poorly in thick, dense grass. Improving turf grass vigor and density makes it harder for clover to establish.

Here are tips for boosting lawn density to keep clover at bay:

  • Overseed bare areas in spring and fall with the appropriate grass type for your climate. Use a starter fertilizer to help new grass establish.
  • Mow high – around 3 inches tall for cool season grass and over 2 inches for warm season varieties. Taller grass promotes deeper roots and shades out weeds.
  • Water deeply and infrequently to encourage deeper grass roots. Avoid frequent, light watering that grows shallow roots.
  • Aerate compacted areas to allow better oxygen, water, and nutrient absorption by grass.
  • Apply 1/4 to 1/2 inch compost topdressing to improve soil biology, nutrients, and moisture retention.
  • Use corn gluten meal weed preventer as fertilizer in spring to thicken grass and suppress seedling weeds.

Vinegar Application

Plain white or apple cider vinegar kills plants through contact by drying out leaves. Concentrated acetic acid in vinegar is effective against young clover plants.

For clover control with vinegar:

  • Use horticultural vinegar containing 10-20% acetic acid for best results. Grocery vinegar is usually just 5% acetic acid.
  • Spray vinegar directly onto clover leaves on a dry, sunny day. Thorough coverage is key. Avoid contacting wanted plants.
  • Repeat applications weekly as needed until clover dies. Vinegar only kills the parts of clover it touches, so persistence is required.
  • Combine vinegar with a few drops of dish soap to help it adhere and penetrate clover leaves better.

Vinegar works better on seedling and young clover rather than mature plants with established root systems. Vinegar solutions lose effectiveness quickly once diluted and spread over soil.

Boiling Water

Pouring boiling water directly on clover can kill it without chemicals. Boiling water works by damaging plant tissues. It has no residual activity, so avoid hitting surrounding plants.

To use this clover killing method:

  • Boil clean tap water in a pot or kettle. Avoid any added salts, vinegar, or soap which could affect soil pH.
  • Pour boiling water slowly over each clover plant ensuring full coverage over the leaves and crown. Use around 1-2 cups per large plant.
  • Monitor closely and re-treat any re-growth. Boiling water only kills contacted vegetation, so thoroughness is key.

This manual weed killing technique works best for controlling clover in sidewalk cracks, patios, and driveways. It takes significant effort to treat a whole lawn area effectively.

Chemical Clover Killers

For large clover infestations, selective herbicides target and eliminate clover effectively:

Broadleaf Herbicides

Broadleaf weed killers containing active ingredients like 2,4-D, MCPP, dicamba, and triclopyr work by disrupting clover’s cell growth. They’re absorbed through the foliage and kill the whole plant including the roots.

Look for ornamental or turf herbicides specifically labeled for clover control in lawns. Products containing a blend of active ingredients often provide better clover control than a single active ingredient.

Apply broadleaf weed killers when clover is actively growing in spring or fall. Temperatures should be above 60°F at time of treatment. Spray thoroughly over the foliage of unwanted plants.

It often takes 1-2 repeat applications spaced several weeks apart to fully kill clover. Broadleaf herbicides also commonly kill plantain, dandelion, chickweed and other broadleaf weeds alongside clover.

Herbicidal Soap

Herbicidal soaps containing potassium salts of fatty acids kill some broadleaf weeds like clover through contact damage. The soap concentration disrupts cell membranes when sprayed directly on foliage.

Purchase a liquid soap weed killer product labeled for lawn use. Thoroughly wet clover leaves, taking care to avoid wanted plants which can also be damaged. Reapply every 7-14 days for a month until clover is gone.

Soaps are generally safer for use around children and pets when dry compared to traditional chemical weed killers. But they can cause eye and skin irritation, so take precautions.

Weed & Feed Fertilizers

Weed and feed fertilizer products combine a quick-release nitrogen fertilizer with a broadleaf herbicide like 2,4-D. The nitrogen greens up grass, while the herbicide targets clover and other weeds.

Timing weed and feed applications is important. Apply when grass is actively growing in spring through early summer so it absorbs the fertilizer. Avoid very hot weather.

Strictly follow label directions on correct product amount based on lawn size. Sweep any granules landing on sidewalks, patios or driveways back onto the lawn area.

Weed and feed fertilizers provide convenient clover control alongside turf fertilization in a single product. Just be aware they commonly kill surrounding broadleaf plants like flowers if over-applied.

When to Kill Clover

Spring and fall are the best times for clover removal in most regions for good plant absorption and effectiveness of both organic and chemical controls. Avoid hot summer months or freezing winter temps.

The most ideal conditions for killing clover are:

  • Daytime highs consistently above 60°F for chemical uptake
  • Moderate temperatures around 70°F to avoid plant stress
  • Active clover growth with green leaves
  • No rain forecast the day of treatment
  • Calm winds and dry foliage to prevent chemical drift

Early morning or evening applications when temps are cooler avoid damaging wanted plants. Weed killers are less volatile and evaporate slower compared to mid-day.

Repeat treatments are often needed approximately 4 weeks apart for full clover eradication. Young seedling clover will continue germinating from the seed bank over time.

Be patient as it takes many weed and feed fertilizers 2-3 mowings before results show. Other herbicides also require time to translocate within the plant fully.

How Long Does It Take to Kill Clover?

The time required to kill clover varies based on:

  • Control method – Non-chemical options often take longer with repeated applications. Chemical weed killers act more quickly.
  • Clover growth stage – Mature, established clover with deep roots takes longer to destroy than young seedlings.
  • Thoroughness – Incomplete spray coverage slows results compared to blanketing each clover plant.
  • Weather conditions – Cool, cloudy, wet weather slows herbicide effectiveness. Warm, sunny, dry conditions promote faster activity.
  • Type of herbicide – Different active ingredients and concentrations impact clover’s response time. Combined herbicides work faster.

Under good conditions, expect to see these general timeframes:

  • Vinegar or boiling water: 2-4 days initial damage; up to 4 weeks for complete kill
  • Selective herbicides: 7-14 days initial yellowing; up to 6 weeks for full brownout
  • Non-selective herbicides: 3-7 days for complete control

Monitor treated clover and reapply products as soon as any regrowth appears for best results. Consider combining methods, like following an organic treatment with spot herbicide use.

Will Killing Clover Hurt My Grass?

Killing clover selectively without harming lawn grass is possible when using the right herbicides and proper application techniques:

  • Broadleaf weed killers containing 2,4-D, dicamba, MCPP, and similar active ingredients target broadleaves like clover while leaving most grass unharmed.
  • Herbicidal soap damages contacted vegetation only. Avoid spraying on wanted grass plants.
  • Vinegar or boiling water also won’t hurt grass unless accidentally splashed onto the lawn. Use carefully around ornamental grasses which can also be damaged.
  • Non-selective herbicides containing glyphosate will kill any grass that absorbs the product. Use very cautiously to avoid lawn damage.
  • Timing weed killer applications during ideal conditions reduces the risk of chemical spread onto grass. For example, no wind or rain in the forecast.
  • Applying at reduced product rates slows activity allowing targeted absorption. Follow label instructions carefully.
  • Using a spray shield around ornamental plantings prevents unwanted damage.
  • Allowing proper drying time before letting children or pets onto treated areas avoids chemical transfer.

So while it’s possible for grass to exhibit some temporary yellowing or stunting after clover removal, careful herbicide selection and application prevents lasting turf damage.

Lawn Care After Removing Clover

Once clover has been successfully killed, a few follow-up lawn care steps help keep weeds away and promote thick turf:

  • Reseed any bare spots – Clover leaves gaps and thin areas once gone. Promptly reestablish grass to prevent new weeds.
  • Boost turf density – Overseed, aerate, fertilize lightly, and correct any lawn issues that led to clover invading initially.
  • Apply corn gluten – This organic fertilizer and weed preventer suppresses new seedling weeds like clover once germinated. Use in spring.
  • Monitor for regrowth – Spot treat any lingering clover plants. Early intervention prevents reinfestation.
  • Adjust watering – Water deeply and less frequently to encourage deep grass roots that resist clover.
  • Reevaluate before reapplying herbicides – Determine if further clover applications are really needed or if maintenance practices will suffice.
  • Allow turf recovery – Wait several weeks between herbicide applications for grass to fully break down and absorb applied chemicals.

Taking these proactive steps after removing clover encourages lush, healthy turf that’s less hospitable for clover to return. A thick lawn is your best defense against clover long-term.

How to Kill Clover: Key Takeaways

  • Controlling clover relies on either repeated direct damage to foliage or systemic absorption of herbicides translocating down to the roots.
  • Non-chemical options like hand pulling, vinegar, or boiling water require persistence and repeated applications but avoid chemicals.
  • Broadleaf selective herbicides offer effective clover control with fewer applications but use caution around wanted plants.
  • Improving thin turf’s density through proper fertilization, mowing, aerating and overseeding prevents clover from establishing easily.
  • Applying corn gluten organic fertilizer in spring provides residual weed prevention by inhibiting seed germination.
  • Combining methods (for example hand pulling plus spot spraying) leads to better clover control than a single approach alone.
  • Be patient! Allow sufficient time for chosen clover killers to fully work before reapplying. Monitor for any regrowth.

With some diligence using the right techniques at the right times, you can successfully remove clover from your lawn or garden for good. The extra effort pays off with a healthy, lush, weed-free landscape.

Frequently Asked Questions About Killing Clover

Here are answers to some common questions about getting rid of clover:

What is the fastest way to kill clover?

Non-selective herbicides containing glyphosate such as Roundup work fastest, killing all vegetation contacted. However, this also harms wanted grass and plants, so use with extreme care. Broadleaf herbicides take longer (2-6 weeks) but spare most lawn grasses while selectively controlling clover.

What time of year is best to kill clover?

Spring and fall when temperatures are consistently between 60-80°F provide ideal conditions for clover control. Avoid hot summer extremes or cold winters. Timing weed killer applications when clover is actively growing ensures the best chemical uptake.

Will clover come back after using weed killer?

It’s possible for some clover seeds to remain viable after using herbicides. Follow up with corn gluten organic fertilizer to prevent new seedlings. Hand pull any stray clover plants that germinate to prevent reinfestation. Maintain a dense, healthy lawn to keep clover from returning.

How long should I wait to reseed after killing clover?

Read herbicide labels for specific turf reseeding instructions, as these vary. Typically waiting 1-4 weeks allows chemicals to break down adequately for safe seed germination and grass growth. Longer wait times are sometimes needed. Test soil by growing a small amount of seed in a container to check if vegetation thrives before reseeding lawns.

Do I have to dig up dead clover?

Most dead clover can be left in place after herbicide treatment. The portions above ground will decompose naturally over time. For quicker results, use a rake to lightly disturb treated areas to uproot dried clover and stimulate grass growth. Reseed any remaining bare patches.

Does boiling water kill clover roots?

Boiling water kills only the parts of the plant it directly contacts, including leaves and stems. The high heat does not reach deep enough below ground to destroy clover roots. Regrowth is common unless repeatedly treating new growth. For permanent control, follow up boiling water with a systemic herbicide treatment.


Controlling clover takes commitment, but a lush, weed-free lawn awaits with the right techniques. Always opt for organic methods first before considering herbicides. Prioritize building a healthy, dense lawn to keep clover at bay long-term. With persistence against this stubborn weed and proper lawn care, you can reclaim your yard from a clover takeover for good.