Clover as a living mulch? Any of y'all done it? Will it out compete Bermuda?


Hey folks,

My trees are currently being mulched by shredded cedar/cypress. Unfortunately, it’s a losing battle keeping Bermuda out of it. Do y’all think planting clover seed around the base of the trees would be a successful way to keep the Bermuda at bay and increase the nitrogen to the plants?

If so, a few questions:

  • Any specific varieties for my area(8a, east of Dallas, Texas)?
  • How will it do in shaded conditions?
  • How will it do with full sun?
  • Will it spread into the rest of the yard?


I am trying creeping thyme for the same purpose but it isn’t fully established yet so I can’t tell you how well it has worked.

The purists will tell you that mulch is always best because any kind of growth under/around trees will compete with the tree for nutrients but I am willing to trade some productivity for better aesthetics and hopefully less maintenance over the long-run. (especially since I am a backyard grower and just don’t need an immense amount of fruit per tree)


Cant speak to the clover but landscape fabric works great for keeping weeds at bay.


I’ve heard clover is not good because the bees will work the flowers all summer and catch the effects from spraying. If you don’t spray pesticide, maybe this point is moot???


Bermuda will scoff at clover and will rapidly colonize landscape fabric, growing up/down through it


Here in South Central Texas, our experience is similar to @Lucky_P. your clover will do ok until the first heat / lack of rain hits hits, and then croak. It is great to fall plant through maybe March or April (depending on rainfall / temps), but don’t expect it to keep the Bermuda at bay through spring / summer.


Not much of a mulch for me if it’s dead through summer. That kind of kills the plans. Thank you. Have you found anything else that works well as a living mulch?


Is your goal total organic? Are you ok with 2 sprayings of round up per year? I use grass clippings from an area of the yard that is overly vigorous to help control the spread of grasses around the trees (FREE MULCH!!!), and spray a ~2’ wide by orchard length long strip (When I mow I also blow the grass clippings of the rows onto the trees). I guess i should ask about your layout as well (are your trees in a row?), as that will dictate methods that will work for ya! A lot of our native grasses are less vigorous as well, and don’t compete, like buffalo grass, three awn, etc… but will be drown out by bermuda if you do not exclude it…


Well, sort of on the organic, more of on the money saving and trying to stop buying so much fertilizer. I figured this would stop the encroachment of Bermuda into the areas of my trees/vines/brambles and add something beneficial at the same time. I’m worried all the Bermuda is going to affect all my plants’ growth and fruiting. I’m not willing to spray Round Up, although it’s not because I think it’s horrible. I just haven’t done my own research on using it. My layout is…well, all over the place with mulching done via shredded cypress/cedar out about a foot or so for every tree.

Here’s my little map of my backyard.


Clover is excellent living mulch but I do like to mow it Cover crop and mulch recommendations


IF you could completely kill ALL bermuda from your yard… then I would go for it, replace with a carpet grass as I assume you are in a higher rainfall area (more than 30"). It does great in shade as long as it is not complete shade all day (either dappled shade, or morning or afternoon sun are ideal, low maintenance spots for carpet grass to grow down here, full sun needs supplemental water during our droughts). Our yard at the farm has carpet grass growing under two 100ish year old post oaks to about 20’ past their drip line with no irrigation (they love the dappled shade), just natural rainfall of ~30"/year, and has been that way for 30+ years since mom and dad bought the place; sailed through the drought of 2011-2015. The carpet grass will spread during wet years, and retreat to the normal dripline +20’ during dry years. It’s aggressive enough to drown out other grasses / weeds, but not as agressive as bermuda in sucking up moisture / nutrients from your trees, and MUCH EASIER to either trim or spray back (once a year usually will keep it in it’s place). I don’t know where you are in 8A, but i know that 8 is it’s northern limits, so you will want to check and make sure from a local source!