Ornamental Red Clover – How To Grow Red Feather Foxtail Clover

red flower clovers on green background leaf
Image by ivansmuk

By Bonnie L. Grant

Red clover is a common soil amendment and green manure. The plant fixes nitrogen in soil, enhancing fertility for better growth in other plants. If you are thinking about using red clover, why not try ornamental clover plants. Red feather foxtail clover has spectacular tufted flowers that are attractive and useful. Red feather clover not only adds nitrogen to soil but has other benefits after providing a colorful floral display.

What is Red Feather Clover?

Growing red clover to enhance soil is a time honored tradition amongst organic gardeners and traditional farmers. Trifolium rubens is an ornamental form of white clover, valued for its nutrient benefits and its lovely blooms. Ornamental red clover performs the same functions as standard red clovers while enhancing the natural landscape. Red feather foxtail clover is easy to grow from seed and needs little care or maintenance.


This clover provides the most arresting floral display of all the species and attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. Bees love the flowers too! The plant grows 15 inches tall and has fuzzy purple to red flowers from early to late summer. It is an herbaceous perennial with characteristic clover leaves and a spreading stolen system that allows the plant to clamber over and cover large spaces.

Red clover is even edible and can be used as a tea, animal browse, or sprouted for salads. If you are growing red clover for its edible or medicinal properties, make sure no chemicals are used in the area. Other benefits of growing red clover include its ability to break up soil and prevent erosion.

How to Grow Ornamental Clover Plants

Clover thrives in moist or dry conditions but drainage should be good. Slightly acidic soils with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5 are preferred.

You can plant the clover in full sun or partial shade, although full sun provides the best yields. Sow the tiny seeds in a well-prepared bed from January to April or August to November. Plant seeds at ¼ inch deep or even scatter them on the surface of the soil and lightly dust them with earth. Keep them moderately moist until germination, which is generally 14 to 21 days.

You may also choose to start plants indoors in flats. Transplant them outside when there are 6 true leaves and soil has warmed. Water established plants regularly. Choose your site carefully, as red clover has a tendency to spread and become invasive.

Red Clover Care

You may choose to cut back seed heads to prevent over-sowing of seeds and invasion of other beds. Otherwise, you can opt to till late summer planted clover in spring to increase soil fertility. Plants sown in late winter to early summer may be allowed to persist as a ground cover and cover crop to combat weeds and enhance soil properties.

If you choose to harvest the plant for consumption, take fresh flowers and leaves at any time. Ornamental red clover can be harvested up to three times in the season. You may dry them or use them fresh.

Sprouted clover seeds add a unique texture and flavor to salads and sandwiches. Soak seeds in warm water for 6 hours and then put them in a shallow bowl or seed sprouter. Place the container in a dark location for 3 days, rinsing and draining the seed twice per day. By the fourth day, you should seed sprouts and it is time to move them to a light location to develop green color and maximum nutrients. Use them as you would any sprout.

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