Remove red clover from the lawn - Here's how it works


As you know, anyone who finds a four-leaf clover is lucky. Red clover in the lawn, however, annoys many gardeners. We will explain how to get rid of it.

© Ruud Morijn /

As children, we enthusiastically started looking for four-leaf clovers (also known as lucky clovers). In the garden, however, the coveted lucky charms quickly become a nuisance. Red clover is one of the most stubborn weeds in beds and on the lawn. Hobby gardeners who want a lush green, closed lawn carpet are therefore faced with a real challenge. In the following, we would therefore like to introduce you to a number of ways you can remove sour clover from the lawn and counteract the appearance of the robust meadow clover.

Occurrence and distinguishing features of the red clover

The red clover or also known as sour clover, meadow clover or horn-sour clover is a plant native to Europe and Central Asia. It populates meadows and forest clearings and feels most comfortable on nutrient-rich soils. The plants can even be found at altitudes of up to 2,500 meters! You can recognize them by the leaves arranged in groups of three, which sit on the tip of the leaf stems. The bright grain in the middle of the leaf is characteristic of the red clover. The pink, spherical inflorescences appear between May and October.

Red clover is perennial and grows over half a meter high. On regularly mowed lawns, however, the red clover only comes just above the ground level. Basically, the red clover is a useful plant, indispensable as a pollen supplier and an important fodder plant for the cattle in the pasture.

Red clover - adapted and robust

The original home of the red clover is in the Mediterranean. The hot, dry summers and mild winters make it very easy for the sorrel and so it spreads further and further north. Sour clover has even been found in protected locations in southern Germany for centuries.

The plants are generally well adapted to drought and retreat to their tap roots to sprout again in a humid climate. The horned clover is not only found in beds and on the lawn, but also in pavement joints. You will never find it in particularly shady spots in the garden.

How does the red clover get into the lawn?

Weeds have lost nothing in a well-tended lawn. So if you come across red clover there, you have probably made a mistake, because the presence of clover in the lawn always indicates that the natural balance of the lawn is disturbed. This can have different causes. For example, this:

  • The soil is not sufficiently supplied with nutrients.
  • Lawn care was neglected.
  • The pH of the soil is too high.

Before you start fighting the sorrel, you should find out the cause of the spread. In general, clover and moss in the lawn are always an indication of deficiency symptoms. In order to strengthen the lawn, fertilization with lawn fertilizer is recommended, as it contains sufficient nitrogen. However, make sure that the lawn fertilizer does not contain phosphate, because this would provide the red clover with additional nutrients and even encourage growth.

This is how meadow clover can be removed from the lawn

© Irina /

The fact is, once the sorrel has made it to the lawn, it is difficult to remove. Hobby gardeners who bother with clover in the lawn should therefore be active early. If the clover has not yet blossomed, you can still prevent seed propagation.

Cut out red clover:

If you want to pull the red clover out of the lawn, you will rarely be successful, because the tap root is usually much too tight. They would only tear the plants off superficially, after which they would quickly grow back. You should cut out large areas. This initially creates bald spots in the lawn, but the likelihood of complete removal is higher. The resulting gaps should simply be filled directly with lawn seeds and thoroughly moistened.

Scarify the lawn:

Scarifying the lawn can be recommended for general upgrading. The lawn is mechanically treated to remove clover, moss and dead blades of grass. As a result, more air gets back to the grasses and the loosening of the soil ensures the supply of water and oxygen.

It is best to scarify the soil in spring. You should proceed as follows:

  1. Process lawn areas overgrown by clover several times.
  2. Provide bald spots with lawn seeds.
  3. Water lawn seeds well.
  4. Fertilize the lawn.

Secret weapon plastic tarpaulin:

This method may seem somewhat unusual, but it is all the more effective against the red clover. You should simply cover areas with dense clover over a few weeks with a plastic tarpaulin. The clover soon lacks light, which ultimately causes it to die.

Of course, this procedure is not a boon for the lawn either. This then recovers surprisingly quickly. If, however, grasses have also died due to the cover and gaps have formed in the lawn, this can then be reseeded without any problems.

Fight red clover with water:

If you are looking for an environmentally friendly method to combat the infestation with horned clover, you can use a simple home remedy: Bring water to a boil and pour the hot liquid onto the clover plants. Once the water has dried up, you can simply remove the dead sour clover plants.

By the way:
Salt and vinegar are less recommended to combat, because the use of these far more aggressive home remedies is very damaging to the soil and the microorganisms that occur there.


If you have been given advice on liming the lawn to drive out red clover, you should refrain from doing so. Even if the name suggests otherwise, clover also feels comfortable on calcareous soils. Liming can still make sense, because after all it is important to offer the lawn grasses better growing conditions. You can find out whether the lawn needs lime by measuring and determining the pH of the soil. If the pH is too low, you should limescale.

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How to prevent infestation with red clover

The best way to prevent horned sorrel is regular lawn care. Unfortunately, if you have superficially removed the red clover, for example by scarifying and weeding, this condition will not last long. Finally, sour clover has tap roots that protrude more than one meter into the ground and therefore cannot be completely removed from the lawn without completely destroying it. However, if the growth conditions for the lawn are improved, the lawn becomes denser and the clover hardly has the opportunity to penetrate the lawn carpet. The following measures help keep red clover away from the lawn, for example:

Adjust pHThe optimal pH value for the lawn is 6.0 for light and well-drained garden soils. For heavy clay soils, 7.0 is an ideal value.
scarifyingThe lawn is scarified in spring. As a result, moss and clover dissolve and the ventilation increases the oxygen supply.
to waterIf the lawn is dry, the lawn should be watered regularly. This strengthens the grasses and weakens the sorrel, which does not like persistent moisture.
Mow regularlyWith a regular lawn cut, the red clover can hardly develop above ground level. The lawn mower should be set to a cutting height of about four centimeters.
FertilizeAdequate fertilization ensures dense growth of the blades of grass. Red clover can spread less so.