Clover, Crimson

Planting Rate 10-20
Plant Height 1-2 feet
Seed Count 135,000 per pound
Botanical Name Trifolium incarnatum
Life Cycle Annual
Environment - Full Sun
Preferred Sites - Upland/Grassland - Disturbed
Bloom Period May-July
Flower Color Red
Pollinator Value Very Good


There’s a good reason why farmers and wildlife managers have used crimson clover over and over again. “It’s such a good foraging plant. It’s just an excellent food source for deer and turkeys, and it creates good insect production for quail or any of your upland game birds,” says Emily Love of Spandle Nurseries, a source for wildlife seeds and seedlings in Claxton Ga. Crimson clover, a fall-seeded annual legume, is a versatile forage because it is tolerant of a variety of soil conditions, including acid soils. Although it can be grown in the spring in some Northern climates, crimson clover is at its best as a cool-season forage in the South, especially in sandy, well-drained soils with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5. Popular Choice John Ruch must have seen those same qualities when he first planted crimson clover seed in Franklin County, Tenn., in 1892 after receiving it from a friend in France. Ever since, crimson clover has been used as an effective livestock forage and soil builder, and it remains a popular option for wildlife management, especially in cool-season wildlife seed mixes. “I’d have to say it’s one of the most popular choices for fall, cool-season planting,” Love says. “It’s definitely one of our top sellers.” Another reason for crimson clover’s popularity is its ability to re-seed. It’s not a true perennial like some clovers, but it can re-seed for two or three years if it is planted and treated properly.

Planting: Plant crimson clover from September to December. Start with a prepared seedbed, and then broadcast 10 to 20 pounds of inoculated seed per acre. Love recommends that you mix the seed with ryegrass to allow the crimson clover’s root system to establish. Do not over the seed more than 1/8 to ¼ inch deep. If possible, use a roller or cultipacker. A slightly packed seedbed can conserve moisture, help germination and increase seed survival. Crimson clover does not require large amounts of nitrogen because it fixes its own, but it does need a ton of lime and 300 pounds of 0-10-20 fertilizer per acre. At its peak, it will grow 1 to 2 feet tall, and it will re-seed about 180 days after the original planting. “That gives it a long period for foraging,” Love says. Crimson clover is often planted in openings because it grows best in full sun. However, it can tolerated partial shade, so crimson clover can also be planted on old logging roads, trails and the edges of wooded areas. The most recent varieties of crimson clover are re-seeding types, such as Auburn, Autauga and Talledega, but Love prefers Dixie because of its re-seeding potential.

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