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.
With a common name like carpetweed and bugleweed, you would be right in assuming that this plant is a vigorous grower. Each growing point of the plant is actually a little rosette of foliage. Ajuga spreads steadily by sending out plenty of wandering stolons. Stolons are essentially horizontal roots that grow outward from the plant. At each node on this stolon, the plant also sends down roots and forms another crown of leaves—so as they grow, they create little colonies of plants. This also makes sharing super easy: simply dig up a few of these 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 groundcover, it doesn't do well with foot traffic. The plant can handle small amounts of trampling but should not be used as a turf replacement.
Ajuga Care Must-Knows
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. So if you have a mild winter, the foliage from last fall may still look good in the spring!
Siting ajuga can be variety specific, especially depending on the foliage color, 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 in at least a half day of sun.
Ajuga does best in well-drained, moist soil but handles drought and dry soils well. Some of the miniature varieties make great additions to trough gardens and containers. The biggest concern is to make sure 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.
More Varieties of Ajuga
Ajuga reptans forms a low-growing mat 4 inches tall with flower spikes up to 9 inches tall. Many forms with variegated foliage are available. Zones 3-9
Ajuga genevensis is a relatively uncommon form that works well as a showy groundcover in partial shade. Most forms have blue blooms, but white and pink types are also available. Zones 3-8
'Black Scallop' Ajuga
Ajuga reptans 'Black Scallop' features shiny, dark purple leaves and springtime blue flowers. It's striking in containers. Zones 3-9
'Burgundy Glow' Ajuga
Ajuga reptans 'Burgundy Glow' features foliage that ranges from green to purplish maroon. In spring, blue flowers rise above the colorful foliage. Zones 3-9
'Chocolate Chip' Ajuga
Ajuga 'Chocolate Chip' is a miniature hybrid with narrow burgundy leaves and purple blooms in spring. Zones 4-9
'Dixie Chip' Ajuga
Ajuga reptans 'Dixie Chip' is a variegated selection that offers foliage streaked with white, cream, and pink. It's decorated with blue flowers in spring. Zones 3-9
Plant Ajuga With:
Exciting new selections with incredible foliage patterns have put coralbells on the map. Previously enjoyed mainly for their spires of dainty reddish flowers, coralbells are now grown as much for the unusual mottling and veining of different-color leaves. The low clumps of long-stemmed evergreen or semi-evergreen lobed foliage make coralbells fine groundcover plants. They enjoy humus-rich, moisture-retaining soil. Beware of heaving in areas with very cold winters.
A North American native, fothergilla deserves a place in every shade garden for its honey-sweet brushy blooms, fiery fall foliage, and open, airy habit. The tangled branch structure intrigues in winter landscapes. Easy to care for, fothergilla requires no pruning. The leathery leaves have lighter undersides and turn shades of red, orange, and bright yellow in fall.
It's easy to see the origin of bleeding heart's common name when you get a look at its heart-shape pink or white blooms with a protruding tip at the base of the heart. They grow best in partial to full shade in moist, well-drained soil. Some types bloom only in spring while others bloom spring, summer, and fall, provided temperatures aren't too high.
Garden Plans For Ajuga
Spring Rock Garden
This garden plan calls for low-lying, colorful plants with a mixture of blooming dates to last you the whole year through—bergenia, primrose, iris, snow-in-summer, Icelandic poppy, Delta and Nonstop pansies—ranging in colors of blue, pink, yellow, white, and lavender. Plant your garden in full sun and watch your ajugas, phlox, and arabis bloom in the spring while the pansies and the Icelandic poppy bloom all year.
Colorful Spring Shade Garden Plan
You don't need a ton of plants for a colorful garden. This simple, beautiful garden plan features only six different kinds of plants. These hardy, long-lived perennials will make a dramatic statement every spring. Garden size: 7 by 34 feet.