Making Ajuga Fulfill Its Promises

Ilona Erwin

I once read someone’s complaint against Ajuga, a plant that has a reputation as a vigorous groundcover that blooms with pretty blue spikes in the spring. They were disappointed with the lack of growth it displayed for them.

For me, It has always been a very worthwhile member of the garden. Give it friable soil that is well drained but has regular moisture. I bet it will do well for you if it gets average conditions.

AKA Carpet Bugle or Bugle Weed

Ajuga reptans (Common Bugle)

Ajuga reptans (Common Bugle) CC BY-SA 3.0 license

What You Will Like About Ajugas

  • Bloom in the the spring
  • Tough and tolerant
  • Deer and rabbit resistant
  • They suppress weeds

What you may not like so well

  • May prove to be invasive in your garden
  • Winter looks are shabby
  • Dislikes soggy or too wet soils. May disappear.

How to Grow Bugle Weed

If it doesn’t grow well for you, I’m not sure why- because for many it grows too well. The Ajugas were in the “just right” seat in my city garden, and out here in the country it does fine in the semi-shady spots. Even tolerates the fact that it gets mown on occasion.

To Grow:

  • Zone 4 hardy
  • Loves humus
  • Like moisture and decent drainage
  • Grows in sun, part or shady ares, but I think it likes the part sun/semi-shady spots best.
  • Divide and dress with compost every once in awhile, especially if it is slow to spread.
  • Watch out for rot if the climate is very humid or conditions are quite wet.
  • Grows in most pH, but prefers more acidic soil.

When planting, spring is best, and don’t plant too deeply. Allow crown to be level with soil, not covered.

Liked by bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. A primary nectar source for many butterflies.

Some varieties that are commonly available:

  • var. alba
  • ‘Pink Beauty’,’Pink Spire’, and var. rosea
  • ‘Atropurpurea’,’Bronze Beauty’, and ‘Gaiety’


Ajuga Varieties

Burgundy Glow Ajuga
Burgundy Glow is a very choice variety. With tricolored foliage it stands out with lighter rosy growth in spring and more of a bronze appearance in autumn.

The cream markings relieve the depressed feeling that so many groundcovers have when they inhabit a large space of ground. The tricolors also work to echo cream or white flowers, purple-foliaged shrubs or perennials and contrast well with solid green leaves of other plants.

All ajugas make a pretty carpet for clematis vines, but this one is outstanding.

Dixie Chip Ajuga
Dixie Chip is another tricolor variety, but with much lighter effect in green, cream, and rose-purple. It is smaller, and works well between stepping stones and in places where it won’t get “lost”.

Usually variegated plants are not as vigorous, so this variety with its small leaves and light colors might work best for gardens where the standard types of ajuga are too rampant.

Very small at 4 Inches high, average soil, consider part shade to shady areas. It’s a sport of ‘Chocolate Chip’ and the miniature size makes its good for fairy gardens.

Chocolate Chip Ajuga
 can be grown in full sun, where its purplish leaves turn more green. It is a miniature size with narrow leaves and fills into to grow a weed suppressing mat.

Ajugas don’t love to be stepped on and anyway, the bumble bees are constantly in attendance when it is blooming.

Plants like these are very useful next to steps and pavers because they decoratively trim without flopping over to crowd the step surface (like Nepeta mussinii).

More Species for Spaces

The A. reptans is not the only useful species, look for Geneva Carpet Bugleweed (Ajuga genevensis) which is taller and does not have runners. It has a greater liking for sun, flowers which come in pink or white as well as the usual blue, and is better behaved for flower borders.

Upright Bugleweed (Ajuga pyramidalis) is another specie to search out. I grew ‘Metallica Crispa’ which I loved. Always good looking with Its solid bronzy purple leaves. Well behaved and looking very good in the garden. It doesn’t spread by runners. I recommend it highly for a Central Ohio garden. It grew well on the clay soil I had (although well enriched with humus).

Use this along with hostas to cover tulips and other bulbs. Along pathways, under trees and shrubs, in the shady side yard. It is a versatile and attractive groundcover plant.

These plants are native to Europe, members of the Lamiaceae family. A. reptans is part of the “Purple moor grass and rush pastures” environs of Britain.

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.