Planting Ball Clover Guide What You Need To Know

Why Is Ball Clover A Good Green Manure

field of ball clover.

You can use ball clover (Trifolium nigrescens) as a cover crop. Being a member of the legume family, it adds nitrogen to the soil, prevents weeds, and can get used as green manure.

Being a honey plant, it will attract beneficial insects and pollinators like bees and butterflies to our garden.

It gets commonly confused with white clover, and you can tell the difference between them since ball clover flowers are smaller and rounder.

We can find it naturally on well-drained sandy, gravelly, silt soils, and it tolerates clay soils better than just about any other clover type.

It germinates across a wide range of temperatures making it useful in areas where soil temperature fluctuations get encountered.

A pH of 6 or higher is recommended for the plant to develop properly.

The clover grows ok in partial shade or with as little as 4 hours of sunlight a day, and they need 6 to 8 hours of full sun to get the maximum amount of growth.

We can plant them in early spring or fall.

Is Ball Clover an Annual or Perennial

Ball clover is a winter annual that highly resembles white clover.

So we will need to plant a new batch in our gardens every year to keep it around.

It is one of the best clovers that will reseed itself. It's so good that if we're not careful, it can quickly get out of hand if we do not manage it.

It creates approximately 60 to 65% hard seeds, which helps it with natural reseeding over seasons. It is considered a renewable plant because of its high seeding rate.

  • Ball Clover Growth Stages

  • 1) Germination
  • 2) Seminal Taprooted Stage
  • 3) Fragmentation of the Taprooted Plant
  • 4) Clonal Growth Stage
  • 5) Flowering
  • 6) Fruiting

Ball Clover Scientific Name

The technical name for ball clover is Trifolium nigrescens meaning small white clover.


Multiple factors will alter how long it takes for our clover to germinate. The seeds planted depth, pH and type of soil, available moisture, and temperature all change the time for it to sprout.

Under ideal conditions, we will see them sprout within 6 to 9 days, but their germination can take anywhere from 3 to 30 days.

Clover has a high germination rate in temperatures between 60F and 85F (15 to 30 degrees C).

We will plant the seeds .25 to .5 inches (6 to 12 mm) deep.

We can either use drilling or broadcasting with our seeds. Good seed to soil is essential when we use broadcasting.

The number of seeds sprouting can also increase by penetrating their hard outer shell (Seed Scarification). I like to gently rub them with sandpaper or let them soak overnight in warm water.

How often to water ball clover seed?
We need to ensure that the soil does not dry while the plants germinate and the seeds stay as moist as possible.

Ball clover can be broadcast between August 15 and October 15

Ball Clover Fertilizer Requirments

You do not need to add any fertilizer; adding nitrogen tends to cause damage to the plant.

I found a lawn care trick to remove clover by adding a quick-release high nitrogen fertilizer, so we need to be careful when using fertilizers.

If you are adding a fertilizer, stick to one that does not contain nitrogen. Something like an NPK of 0-10-10 or 0-20-20 will work well.

Ball Clover Sunlight Requirments.

For best growth, we want to find a location with 6 to 8 hours of full sun.

They will perform well in partial shade or where they get only 4 hours of light, but their blooming will be reduced.

How Tall Does Ball Clover Grow?

Ball Clover will grow from 10 to 24 inches (30 to 60 cm) tall. You can add it to help prevent weeds from moving in on your garden soil.

How Long Does Ball Clover Bloom

Ball clover has a much shorter blooming period than something like an alsike clover.

It will bloom over an average of 7 to 8 weeks or 2 months. But it has a high density of bloom over these weeks.

If we plant too late in the fall, the clover may not mature enough to go into bloom before winter kills it off.

Ball Clover Soil Type

This clover can do well in a wide variety of soil types from likes to grow in loam, sand, part gravel, silt soils, and even clay and lowland sites.

Unlike prairie clovers, ball clover does fine in heavy clay soils with pooling water.

For the best growth, we need our soil to have a pH between 6.2 - 7.5.

The plant will have problems growing well if the pH is below 6.

Is Ball Clover a Good Cover Crop

They will help us to minimize the amount of soil erosion in our gardens.

Their fast germination and high survival rates in cooler damp areas provide multiple benefits to our soils, like keeping essential nutrients in place and helping us build up our soil while increasing its beneficial microorganisms.

It also allows greater water penetration into the ground and overall soil development.

Dr. Richard H. Watson noted that ball clover appears to possess the most favorable attributes in many environments, i.e., yield, reseeding ability, grazing tolerance, and a growing season extended into summer.

Companion Plants:

  • Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpureum)
  • Leadplant
  • Big Bluestem
  • Butterflyweed
  • Wild Bergamot
  • Compass Plant

Pests and Potential Problems

  • bacterial wilt
  • bacterial blight
  • mildew
  • northern anthracnose.
  • brown and fusarium root rot
  • rust
  • crown and stem rots
  • seedling blight
  • sooty blotch
  • spring black stem
  • stagonospora leaf spot
  • snow mold.

The insects that cause the most problem are Lygus bugs, aphids, and leafhoppers.

We can reduce our chance of issues by using them in a rotation with other non-legume crops and competitive annual crops, helping to limit diseases.


The ball clover is a great cover crop to use when trying to improve the quality of our soil. It helps prevent weeds from moving into our gardens while adding organic nitrogen to the grounds.

It will attract beneficial insects like pollinators and can get used as a source of green manure to increase soil nutrients further and its aeration and tilth.

Using it as a forage crop, you will use a 50-50 mix between the grass and clover.