White Blossom Sweet Clover Melilotus officinalis
If you like honey, you’ll love white blossom sweet clover! Sweet clover is a biennial species: it will stay vegetative the first year and produce flowers the second year, before dying.
A Multi-Purpose Legume
White blossom sweet clover is not a true clover but is probably more closely related to alfalfa. Sweet clover leaves look much like alfalfa, but the margins of alfalfa leaflets are serrated only on the tips. Sweet clover leaflets are serrated around their entire margin. It is typically a biennial, grows 2-6 feet high, and as the name implies, produces white flowers. It is a favorite amongst beekeepers for its honey production and is also useful for erosion control and cover crop usages.
White Blossom Compared to Yellow Blossom
When compared to the yellow flowering types of sweet clover, white blossom blooms roughly 2 weeks later, usually grows more upright, possesses coarser stems, and is more productive and more winter-hardy. However, white blossom sweet clover does not persist as well in pastures and less tolerant of adverse conditions than yellow blossom varieties. White blossom produces lighter colored honey than yellow blossom sweet clover.
Typical plant height is between 3-5 feet with white blossoms that are sweet smelling and a favorite of honeybees and give their honey a recognizable flavor.
While technically a perennial, white sweet clover is not persistent and is used as a biennial and reseeded annually to provide consistent coverage. Sweet clover can produce and deposit a high percentage of hard seeds that persist in the soil for many years. This accounts for its consistent volunteering in many areas.
It does well in a variety of soils and has no pH preference. The average germination time is seven to 10 days for white sweet clover seeds.
Use as A Cover Crop
As a cover crop, white blossom can help with soil stability, soil penetration, and nitrogen contribution.
Coat for Optimal Performance
For optimal performance, sweet clover should be inoculated with Rhizobium Sinorhizobium meliloti. This is best achieved with Nitro-Coat®.
White Blossom Sweet Clover Specifications
- Humid or irrigated regions of zones 3-8; acts as annual in zone 9
- Biennial - Vegetative the first year and produces flowers the second year, before dying.
- Ease of Establishment
- Seeding Rate - Straight
- 8-10 lbs/ac
- Seeding Rate - Mix
- 6-8 lbs/ac
- Seeding Time
- Fall (October-November) or late winter to early spring (February-April)
- Seeding Depth
- Seeding Method
- Broadcast or drilled (preferred)
- Method of Killing/Suppression
- Mowing; grazing; chemical
- Optimal Germination Temperature
- Night temperatures > 40°F
- Seedling Emergence/Vigor
- Reseeding Potential
- Root Type
- Grazing Potential
- Hay Potential
- Use with Wildlife
- Use in Orchards
- Use with Row Crops
- Use with Other Grasses/Legumes
- Bees/Beneficial Insects
- Compaction Control
- Erosion Control
- Weed Suppression Potential
- Green Manure/Cover Crop Use
- Spreading Capability
- N Contribution Potential
- DM Potential
- Forage Quality
- Harvest Time Frame (late/early/year-round)
- Number of Harvest/yr
- 1-2 per year
- Other Comments
- Hard seed so future volunteering is probable; Use only low coumarin varieties for livestock hay or grazing. Better adapted to short rotation pastures.
- Bloat Risk
- Disease Resistance
- Insect/Nematode Risk
- Moderate; especially susceptible to sweet clover weevil.
- Cold Tolerance
- Traffic Tolerance
- Heat Tolerance
- Drought Tolerance
- Shade Tolerance
- Dry Soil Tolerance
- Wet Soil Tolerance
- pH Range
- Needs high pH (>6.0)
- Required Fertility (P,K, other nutrients)
- P, K, Ca, Mg needed; minor especially Mo, B also needed.