How to Plant and Grow Ajuga

Learn how to care for this low-maintenance flowering groundcover

Ajuga Burgundy Glow
Photo:

BHG / Evgeniya Vlasova

With a wide variety of foliage colors, usually in the rich deep burgundy realm and sometimes with cream and pink edges, ajuga (Ajuga reptans) 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 will 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.

Ajuga Overview

Genus Name Ajuga
Common Name Ajuga
Plant Type Perennial
Light Shade, Sun
Height 1 to 6 inches
Width 6 to 18 inches
Flower Color Blue, Pink, Purple, White
Foliage Color Blue/Green, Purple/Burgundy
Season Features Spring Bloom, Summer Bloom
Special Features Low Maintenance
Zones 10, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Division, Stem Cuttings
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant, Groundcover, Slope/Erosion Control

Where to Plant Ajuga

Plant ajuga in USDA Hardiness Zones 3–10. 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 replacement for turf.

How and When to Plant Ajuga

Plant new ajuga plants 10 to 15 inches apart in early spring in rich, slightly acidic soil and in an area in full or partial shade. In mild climates, ajugas can be semi-evergreen. If you have a mild winter, the foliage from last fall may still look good in the spring.

Invasive Plant

Ajuga spreads quickly through horizontal stems that creep across the ground. It can become aggressive and difficult to keep in bounds in some areas of the country. If you don't want ajuga plants to spread, plant them in outdoor containers or near hardscapes, such as walkways or driveways, not in a garden bed.

Ajuga Care Tips

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.

Light

Picking the right site for your ajuga can be variety specific, especially depending on the color of the foliage, Many prefer to grow in shade, but in general, it can handle locations from sunny to shady. The deep, shiny burgundy foliage varieties are a bit more dull and may take on some green in full shade, but they'll still grow just fine. Overall, the color of the fancy foliage is at its best with a half day of sun.

Soil and Water

Ajuga does best in well-drained, moist soil, but it can handle drought and dry soil. 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, make sure to site your plants accordingly.

Fertilizer

Ajuga plants are light feeders, and fertilization is not necessary. If you fertilize them at all, wait until late spring or early winter and use a slow-release granular fertilizer.

Pests and Problems

Crown rot can be a big problem for ajugas during warm, wet, or humid weather. It causes sudden wilting and yellowing of the ajuga, and the plants' stems turn black and rot. If this happens, remove and destroy the plant and the soil around it immediately to prevent the spread of this fungal disease. Disinfect your tools with a mixture of one-part bleach to nine-parts water to prevent transmitting the disease to other plants.

Like many garden plants, ajuga can be infested with aphids. Spray these insects off with a strong stream of water.

How to Propagate Ajuga

Ajuga is most easily propagated by division. In early spring or fall, use a sharp shovel to cut a section of stolon that contains nodes from an existing plant. Replant it, and soon roots and leaves grow to form a new plant. If you don’t have an existing plant to divide, sow seeds indoors in early spring. As the plants grow, move them to increasingly larger containers. Wait until summer to move them outside to the garden.

Types of Ajuga

Bugleweed

Ajuga Bugleweed

BHG / Evgeniya Vlasova

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 4-9.

Carpet Bugle

blue ajuga Genevensis
Dency Kane

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'
Justin Hancock

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
Rural American Graphics

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' around stones
Bob Stefko

Ajuga reptans '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'
Marty Baldwin

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

'Silver Beauty' Ajuga

Ajuga reptans 'Silver Beauty'
Marty Baldwin

Ajuga reptans 'Silver Beauty' is a quick-growing selection with silvery-green leaves edged in white. It bears small spikes of blue flowers in spring and grows 1 foot tall and 2 feet wide. Zones 3-9

Ajuga Companion Plants

Coralbells

Coralbells

BHG / Evgeniya Vlasova

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 their different colored 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 planting them in areas with very cold winters.

Fothergilla

Forthergilla

BHG / Evgeniya Vlasova

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.

Bleeding Heart

Bleeding Heart

BHG /Evgeniya Vlasova

You'll quickly realize the origin of bleeding heart's common name when you look at its heart-shaped pink or white blooms, each with a protruding tip at the base of the blossom. They grow best in partial to full shade in moist, well-drained soil. Some types bloom only in the spring, while others bloom in spring, summer, and fall, provided temperatures aren't too high.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are other names for ajuga?

    You may find the plants identified as bugleweed, blue bugle, bugleherb, bugle weed, carpet bugle, carpetweed, carpenter’s herb, or ground pine.

  • What animals eat ajuga in the garden?

    Ajuga is known to give off a scent that repels rabbits and deer and—to a lesser extent—squirrels and chipmunks. However, the plant attracts bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies.

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