Penn State
ForagesPeopleTopicsResourcesSelection ToolContact Info

Topics : Species and Forage Variety Trials : Species Fact Sheets : Red Clover

Species: Red Clover

Additional red clover information via the Forage Information System (FIS)

Characteristics & Adaptation of Red Clover

Red clover (Trifolium pratense L.) is grown throughout the northeastern U.S. for forage production and use in rotations for soil improvement. It is adapted to areas where summer temperatures are moderate and adequate moisture is available throughout the growing season. Unlike alfalfa, red clover will grow moderately well on slightly acid soils. However, maximum yields are obtained when the pH is 6.0 or higher (Table 1).

Red clover is a short-lived perennial, which usually produces two or three hay crops per year. It is characterized by rapid spring growth and low winterhardiness which contributes to its short-lived nature.

The growth habit of red clover varies from erect to prostrate. Numerous stems with large trifoliate leaves arise from the crown region each year. Red clover has a thick tap root which grows to a length of 24-36 inches. Lateral roots which arise from the tap root are mainly concentrated in the upper 5 inches of the soil. Small ovoid, pinkish, nitrogen fixing nodules can be found on the lateral roots if it is actively incorporating atmospheric nitrogen into protein nitrogen.

Adapted Varieties

Look for good disease resistance and persistence in a red clover variety. Varieties which are resistant to both Northern and Southern Anthracnose and Powdery Mildew are recommended for use throughout the states. There are several red clover varieties marketed in Pennsylvania that have been bred for better persistence. With proper management, you can expect these varieties to persist for two to three years after the establishment year. Refer to the current Penn State Forage Trial Report for red clover variety performance and resistance information.