Onobrychis Species, Common Sainfoin

Onobrychis viciifolia

Family: Fabaceae (fab-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Onobrychis (on-oh-BRY-kiss) (Info)
Species: viciifolia (vik-ee-eye-FOH-lee-uh) (Info)
Synonym:Hedysarum onobryches
Synonym:Onobrychis sativa
Synonym:Onobrychis vulgaris



Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Sun to Partial Shade



Foliage Color:

Dark Green


6-12 in. (15-30 cm)

12-18 in. (30-45 cm)

18-24 in. (45-60 cm)

24-36 in. (60-90 cm)


3-6 in. (7-15 cm)


USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)

USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:


Magenta (pink-purple)

Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Late Spring/Early Summer

Mid Summer

Late Summer/Early Fall

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

7.9 to 8.5 (alkaline)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:

Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Mayetta, Kansas

Gardeners' Notes:


On Mar 27, 2006, victorbravo from Tacoma, WA wrote:

I used to raise sainfoin as a forage crop. As long as it had a bit of growth prior to winter in order for its root reserves to build up, it would survive a very cold winter.

In Montana, (our area could get as cold as -40 or -50F without windchill), it would survive as long as it had snow cover. We would keep from harvesting or grazing after about early Septemeber, but once the killing frost occurred, I would often let the cattle eat it.

It would survive without being cut down too, but with a good frost the top growth dies back.


On Feb 18, 2004, queenie97850 wrote:

A hardy legume that is an excellent forage for cattle and horses. Can be cut up to 3 times per summer for hay when irrigated. Seeds should be innoculated before planting. Cattle will not bloat when turned out to graze on sanfoin. Remont variety seems to be the best producer. Blossoms, which are blue to purple, produce some of the finest honey available. Seeds are quite large and planted at the rate of 35 pounds per acre.


On Jan 3, 2003, Weezingreens from Seward, AK (Zone 3b) wrote:

Sainfoin is grown as a fodder plant for livestock, and it has naturalized itself in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North America and New Zealand. It prefers calcereous well-drained soil and is drought tolerant due to its long taproot. It is a herbaceous plant with a long life-expectancy and can withstand temperatures as low as -40 degrees F.

Sainfoin is an erect plant with hollow stems that come from a branched crown. The foliage is compounded ovate leaflets. The spiked blooms are pink with darker pink stripes and are very attractive to bees. Seed pods have one large kidney-shaped seed per pod. Seeds should be planted no deeper than 3/4".


On Jan 2, 2003, Terry from Murfreesboro, TN (Zone 7a) wrote:

The common name, Sainfoin, means "holy clover", as it is reputed to have been the hay in Christ's manger.