With a wide variety of foliage colors usually in the rich deep burgundy realm, and sometimes cream and pink edges, ajuga makes a beautiful groundcover. The foliage is generally crinkled and very glossy as well. However, if you think this is just a foliage plant, you would get quite the surprise as spring eases into summer. Then, ajuga is covered in little spikes of bright blue, purple, pink or white blossoms.
Ajuga's common names are carpetweed and bugleweed, so you'd be right in assuming that this plant is a vigorous grower. Each growing point on the plant is actually a little rosette of foliage. Ajuga spreads steadily by sending out plenty of wandering stolons, which are essentially horizontal roots growing outward from the plant. From each node on a stolon, the plant sends down roots and forms another crown of leaves—so that as they grow, they create more colonies. This also makes sharing super easy: Simply dig up a few of the rooted sections and pass them along.
Related: Easy Groundcovers for Your Garden
The leaves of ajuga hold close together, which keeps them shorter. The nodes of the stolons are also very short, which creates dense colonies ideal for preventing weeds from growing up through the plants. Keep in mind that although ajuga is considered a ground cover, it doesn't do well with foot traffic. The plant can handle small amounts of trampling, but should not be used as a replacement for turf.
How to Care for Ajuga
Ajuga is a very low-maintenance plant. Because of its small stature, it doesn't need to be cut back each spring and the flowers don't need any deadheading. In mild climates, ajuga can be semi-evergreen. If you have a mild winter, the foliage from last fall may still look good in the spring.
Picking the right site for your ajuga can be variety specific, especially depending on the color of the foliage, but in general it can handle anything from full sun to complete shade. The deep, shiny burgundy foliage varieties will be a tad more dull and may take on some green in full shade, but they'll still grow just fine. Overall color of the fancy foliage is at its best with at least a half day of sun.
Ajuga does best in well-drained, moist soil, but can handle drought and dry soil well. Some of the miniature varieties make great additions to trough gardens and containers. The biggest concern is that the plant doesn't get too wet, because crown rot is a common problem. To prevent this, simply make sure to site your plants accordingly.