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How to Grow Bugleweed — Ajuga

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Ajuga species—often called bugleweed—is a vigorous ground-hugging perennial usually grown as a ground cover. It has both showy foliage and flowers.

Leaves are spoon-shaped and born in dense rosettes from green to bronze to purplish. Flowers appear in spring and summer on spikes and range from cobalt blue to bluish purple.

Ajuga reptans the most popular variety spreads via fast-growing stolons. It is a quick-growing ground cover but can become invasive in lawns if not controlled with edging and frequent trimming.

There are 40 species in the Ajuga genus.

Purple flowers of Ajuga reptans in spring
Purple flowers of Ajuga reptans in spring

Get to know Ajuga

  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 3 to 9
  • Hardiness: Hardy perennial
  • Height and width: 6 to 10 inches tall (15-25cm) tall and 16 to 24 inches (40-61cm) wide  
  • Foliage: Leaves grow opposite and entire.
  • Flowers: Two-lipped, tubular flowers are commonly blue.
  • Bloom time: Early spring to early summer
  • Uses: Groundcover, rock garden
  • Common name: Bugleweed
  • Botanical name: Ajuga
  • Family name: Lamiaceae

Where to plant Ajuga

  • Plant Ajuga in full sun or partial shade.
  • Plant Ajuga in humus-rich, well-drained soi.
Ajuga pyramidalis or pyramidal bugle
Ajuga pyramidalis or pyramidal bugle

When to plant Ajuga

  • Set Ajuga in the garden in spring or autumn.

Planting and spacing Ajuga

  • Space Ajuga 12 to 16 inches apart when planting as a ground cover.
  • Sow seed 1/8 inch deep in evenly prepared soil.

How to water and feed Ajuga

  • Keep the soil evenly moist for best growth and spread.
  • Fertilize Ajuga with an all-purpose organic fertilizer in spring.
Ajuga genevensis also variously known as the upright bugle, blue bugle
Ajuga genevensis also variously known as the upright bugle, blue bugle

Ajuga care

  • Monitor Ajuga’s growth; it can become invasive. Place edging between Ajuga and a lawn or trim Ajuga runners often.

Ajuga pests and diseases

  • Southern blight is common. Fungal leaf spots and crown rot can also occur.

Ajuga propagation

  • Separate rooted stems or root cutting in early summer.
Flower of Pyramidal Bugle - Ajuga pyramidalis
Flower of Pyramidal Bugle – Ajuga pyramidalis

Ajuga varieties to grow

  • Ajuga gemevensis: Suited for rock gardens; grows to 14 inches high; does not spread by runners; graying leaves; flowers in blue spikes; rose can white flower cultivars also.
  • A. pyramidalis: Grows to 10 inches high; does not spread by runners; grayish rounded leaves; violet-blue flowers among large leaves. Cultivar ‘Metallica Crispa’ has metallic green-purple leaves.
  • A. reptans: Most popular variety; spreads by runners to make a dark green leafy mat; varieties with bronze and metallic tinted leaves; blue flowers on 5-inch spikes; cultivars include ‘Alba’ with white flowers, ‘Burgundy Glow’ has silvery green leaves suffused with deep wine-red, ‘Catlin’s Giant’ has very dark bronze-purple leaves, ‘Purpurea’ with bronze or purple-tinted leaves. ‘Rosea’ with pink flowers, ‘Variegata’ with creamy yellow-edged and splotched leaves.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. Harvesttotable.com has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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