Crimson Clover

(Trifolium incarnatum)

Description

Crimson clover is an annual flowering ground cover that grows about 20-50 cm tall. It’s leaves are light green, fuzzy, and composed of three heart-shaped leaflets. The flowers are produced in clusters around a stem and are a deep red. Each flower produces a single yellow/brown seed about 2-5 mm across.

Cultivation Tips

Crimson clover will germinate readily if kept moist after sowing, and prefers only a small covering of soil once sown. It has shallow roots and grows well in most soil types, and has been found to flower even in the absence of any direct sunlight. Saving seeds can be accomplished by cutting the flower stalks once they lose their crimson color and hanging them upside-down in a paper bag; seeds will dry out and fall from the husks into the bottom of the bag. Dried seeds can be stored in a dry cellar for multiple years.

Uses

Crimson clover is best used as a ground cover around heavy nitrogen feeding plants. It’s nitrogen fixing capabilities and relatively large biomass production make it an excellent candidate for a chop-and-drop living mulch. Sown in late summer after harvests of annual crops, it also makes a great cover crop, protecting the soil from erosion in the winter and being decomposed by spring. 

The flowers are also an excellent source of nectar for pollinators and other beneficial insects. The foliage is valued as a high-protein forage for livestock and other ruminant mammals. For humans, the flowers can be eaten fresh or dried and used as tea and seeds can be sprouted and eaten or dried and ground into a flour.

Clovers are a good choice of species to add to an edible lawn, as well.

Friends

Crimson clover, being a nitrogen fixer, is a good companion to most heavy nitrogen feeders. It also grows very well with comfrey in a chop-and-drop living mulch. It has also been shown that crimson clover expands the local spider population, protecting Brassicas like broccoli and kale [59]