Red. White. Crimson. Ladino. Alsike. Zigzag. Trifolium. And more. There are many varieties of clover you can plant. So, which one is best? Well, I’m not going to say red clover reigns supreme. But it reigns supreme. At least, it’s my personal favorite (best or not).
Red clover, also referred to as purple clover, meadow clover, isoflavone, beebread, cow clover, etc., is a wonderful food source for deer. This perennial is a grassland and meadow species. As a legume, it does well in wetter climates, yet thrives in areas that many other species wouldn’t.
Once downfall — red clover can be susceptible to disease, especially when planting many acres of it. Fungal infections are possible, too. That said, with good care, it can last two to three years before reseeding is necessary.
It can grow to heights of 30 to 35 inches at peak growth. Once it blooms, it produces beautiful pinkish-purplish flowers that both insects and wildlife love. It’s about 25 percent crude protein, too, which deer will certainly benefit from as they pack on the weight throughout fall.
It’s important to begin with a soil sample. It can do well in sub-par soil, but why do so when you can do something about it? Red clover prefers a pH of approximately 6.0 to 6.5. It likes calcium- and phosphorous-rich soil, too. Fertilize as needed. Nitrogen needs are less important since this is a legume and produces its own.
After spraying for weeds and giving vegetation ample time to die off, disk up the ground and prepare a clean, firm seedbed. Then, prepare to sow the seed. It’s very small, so make sure settings are correct on your seeder or risk running out seed too quickly. If drilling, planting at a rate of 10 to 11 pounds per acre. If broadcasting, plant at a rate of 15 to 16 pounds per acre. After planting, run over the plot with a light drag. You don’t want to plant seeds any deeper than ¼ inch. Rain will also drive the seed into the soil if it’s forecasted to do so within 24 hours.
When to Plant
The best time to plant this species is in the early spring or fall. The best window for most locations will be between early August and mid-September. In the South, planting a little later is acceptable. You may also frost seed during late winter, too.
Where to Plant
This is a widespread species that does well throughout much of the Southeast, Northeast and Midwest. Its resiliency has led to an expanded range and ability to grow in what other species would consider adverse conditions has made it one of the most popular varieties of clover.
Furthermore, I really like this plant species for small, secluded kill plots. It’s fairly easy to grow and can be done so in partially shaded spots — making it great for micro plots near thick cover. This allows you to put in a small food source in those areas close to bedding areas where you’ll see deer during daylight.