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What Clover Grows Best In Shade – My Favorite Picks!

Clover has a solid reputation, mostly coming from its low maintenance upkeep. It’s nitrogen-fixing, filled with nutrients, and drought tolerant, so many growers choose to add it to their gardens. While they can grow in some shade, some types of clover handle shade better than others. 

While other clovers prefer total sun exposure, the subterranean clover can grow even if there is a lot of shade. The subterranean clover can reseed itself by bending down and burrowing into the ground, which is one of the main reasons they’re shade tolerant. 

Subterranean clover is the most resistant to shade, but it’s not the only one. Below, we’ll look at other types of clover and how they stand up to the shade. We’ll also share how to keep subterranean clover happy, sharing soil and water requirements to help them grow in the shade. 

Can Clover Grow in Full Shade? 

Clover is highly adaptable. It can grow in some shade; however, it cannot grow without sun exposure. Some types of clover can grow in partial shade without experiencing stress or stunted growth. However, for the most part, clovers that grow in full shade will not grow to their full potential. 

The most optimal conditions for clover include anywhere from 6 to 8 hours of sun exposure per day. While most can make it with as little as 4 hours, clover doesn’t grow its best when exposed to full shade. In fact, in most cases, full shade will not result in growth, leading to seeds that do not sprout. 

Best Types of Clover For Shade 

There are several types of clover, some of which are more shade tolerant than others. Below is a list of common clover types with their ability to tolerate shade. Additionally, growers can find optimal soil temperature ranges for each clover type. 

Clover TypeShade Tolerance (Optimal Soil Temp)
SubterraneanHigh – (45oF – 85oF)
White CloverMedium – (50oF – 85oF)
Red CloverMedium – (55oF – 85oF)
Strawberry CloverLow- (60oF – 75oF)
Types of Clover and Tolerance in Shade

Subterranean Clover: The Most Shade Tolerant Clover 

Subterranean clover is the clover that grows best in the shade. While it is tolerant, it still needs a bit of exposure to the sun, along with a few other conditions, to thrive. It doesn’t require much maintenance and grows well with other plants and even on lawns along with grass

When planting subterranean clover, the most optimal conditions include slightly acidic soils and access to lots of water. Subterranean clover also needs access to sunlight, growing better when exposed to at least a few hours of sun per day. Additional conditions that growers need to be aware of include soil and water, which we dive into below. 

Soil Requirements

Clover varieties grow best in sandy, loamy, and clay soil. They do need lots of access to water, though they prefer soil that allows for lots of drainage and keeps water flowing. The subterranean clover does best in soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0, which is slightly acidic. Before planting, growers should check pH and, if conditions are not optimal, add cultivars until the perfect pH is reached. 

Water Requirements 

When it comes to water, subterranean clovers prefer plentiful access. While they are drought-tolerant, they do best in areas where rainfall is high. The optimal minimum of rainfall is 10 inches annually, though they prefer 20 inches and above. 

Benefits of Subterranean Clover 

Subterranean clover has become one of the most used types of clover due to its long list of benefits. Growers often mix it in with other crops or even when growing grass in their front and back yards. For those considering adding subterranean clover to their home gardens, here are some key benefits they can expect. 

Weed Suppressor

Weeds can be annoying, getting in the way of growth, and, once they pop up in home gardens or crops, can be challenging to get rid of. Too many weeds around gardens can deplete plants of moisture and nutrients, resulting in less growth. Subterranean clovers act as weed suppressors, giving gardeners a natural way to keep weeds away from their plants without adding harmful chemicals to their soil. 

Green Manure 

Subterranean clover can fix nitrogen, making it easier for plants to take up nutrients. Because of this, growers can use clover as a substitute for manure, planting them in areas where they are growing plants and leaving the rest to the clovers. It provides a way to make the garden greener and reduce the use of store-bought fertilizers. 


Some growers use subterranean clover to add nutrients to soil pre-planting. After the clover has sprouted, growers can then use the clover as a type of mulch to keep moisture locked in. Additionally, the subterranean clover’s ability to self- reseed can be used as a natural living mulch for plants growers sow in the fall months. 

Soil Loosener 

Before planting crops for the season, planting clover is a great way to loosen up soils. Clover likes soils that are drainable and loose, though they work to de-compact soil. Growers that add them before other crops they plan on planting for the season can reap the benefits of loosened-up soils that are filled with moisture before planting their crops in the spring and fall. 

Final Thoughts

Clovers are great to plant in home gardens. They are adaptable, but they are tolerant to drought and shade. While they’re okay with some shade, clovers still need some access to the sun, growing optimally with a minimum of 4 hours per day. Thanks to its unique ability to reseed, the subterranean clover is the most shade tolerant clover out there. They are simple to upkeep and come with a wide range of benefits that both spring and fall growers won’t want to miss. 

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