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Crimson Clover

Trifolium incarnatum

Crimson clover is striking to behold, with brilliant color and a uniquely shaped flower. Yet there’s more to this variety than aesthetics.

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A long history.

Crimson clover, also called “scarlet” or Italian clover, is native to southeastern Europe and southwestern Turkey. The first introductions into the United States came from Italy in the early 1800s and it then spread rapidly throughout the southeastern states.

Easy to distinguish, beautiful to behold.

Crimson clover is a winter annual with dark green, oval leaflets containing no V-shaped water mark making it easy to distinguish from other annual clovers. It has hairy stems and leaves and brilliant crimson flowers producing yellow rounded seed that are about 2.5 times larger than arrowleaf seed. 

Growth comes easily.

Crimson’s large seed is responsible for its ability to easily establish in most seedbed conditions including simple broadcasting in un-tilled areas. Crimson prefers well-drained soils and pH between 5.0-6.5. Current varieties do not have good winter hardiness. It is the fastest growing of the annual clovers, easy to establish, and handles shade well - even the shade of other crops, like standing corn.

Widely used as a cover crop and as forage.

Crimson clover is widely used in the South as a dependable, high-yielding, early maturing, annual forage and roadside crop. It is also fast becoming a reliable cover crop for the North, as it has better growth at lower temperatures than most annual clovers. Crimson is also a good weed suppressor, organic matter increaser, and erosion controller. Forage production is high in protein and tonnage - up to 6,000 lbs. DM/acre. Bloat can be an issue, but usually not as likely as with white clover or alfalfa.

Nitrogen producer.

Crimson can provide nitrogen credit for succeeding crops of 70-150 lbs. N/A. In order to achieve optimal nitrogen fixation ability, crimson clover needs to be inoculated with Rhizobium leguminosarum biovar trifolii. This is best achieved with Nitro-Coat®.

What we recommend.

Dixie is the most popular variety on the market.

Crimson Clover Specifications

Crimson Clover Specifications

zonesZones 7,8, and upper part of zone 9
ease of establishmentExcellent
seeding rate straight20-30 lbs/ac
seeding rate mix15-20 lbs/ac
seeding timeSeptember-early November
seeding depth3/8-1/2 inch
seeding methodBroadcast or drilled (preferred)
method of killing/suppressionMowing; grazing; chemical
optimal germination temperatureNight temperatures >40 F
seedling emergence/vigorExcellent
reseeding potentialExcellent
root typeTap
grazing potentialGood
hay potentialGood
use with wildlifeGood
use in orchardsGood
use with row cropsGood
use with other grasses/legumesGood
Bees/beneficial insectsExcellent
compaction controlGood
erosion controlExcellent
weed suppression potentialExcellent
green manure/cover crop useExcellent
spreading capabilityFair
N contribution potentialGood
DM potentialGood
Forage qualityGood
harvest time frame (late/early/year-round)Early
number of harvest/yr2-3 per growing season
other commentsWill produce more forage than other clovers at low temperatures; excellent for roadside beautification
bloat riskModerate
disease susceptibilityModerate - susceptible to crown and stem rots
insect/nematode riskModerate - susceptible to clover head weevils
cold toleranceGood
traffic toleranceGood
heat toleranceGood
drought toleranceGood
shade toleranceGood
dry soil toleranceGood
wet soil toleranceGood
pH range5.0-6.5
required fertility (P, K, other nutrients)Tolerant of lower pH soils than most clovers; responds to P and K fertilization