Ajuga (Bugleweed)

Bugleweed ground covers quickly fill barren, shady spots with vivid color

The genus Ajuga contains clump-forming annuals and perennials, commonly called bugleweed, grown for their showy semievergreen to evergreen foliage and pollinator-friendly flower spikes. The distinctive foliage grows in a thick basal rosette. The leaves can be green, purple, bronze, or black, with some having variegations, white edges, or a metallic luster. In spring, clustered whorls of tiny nectar-rich flowers blanket the foliage in vivid shades of deep blue, purple, rose, pink, or creamy white. The flowers attract bumblebees and hummingbirds, while their nutlet fruits appeal to songbirds.

Ajuga is a genus of rhizomatous, flowering plants that typically grow 4 to 8 inches tall. Mostly used as ground cover, creeping ajugas are known for growing and spreading rapidly to form an attractive, dense mat; however, some new cultivars have been bred to spread less aggressively and are better suited for small spaces. Ajuga is predominately used to suppress weeds, to control erosion, and to add vibrant color to shady spots where grass won’t grow. A. reptans (carpet bugleweed, common bugle) is the most popular species in gardens today. A tenorei (bugle) is brilliantly colored and better behaved, with a more compact and controlled creeping habit that never becomes invasive. It grows as a cushiony clump of smaller, narrower leaves. A genevensis (Geneva carpet bugleweed) is more sun tolerant than most ajuga. A. pyramidalis (pyramidal bugle) offers year-round interest.

Ajuga ground covers grow best in locations with dappled shade; moist, well-draining soil; and good air circulation. They tolerate most light levels and moderately dry soils, but will not tolerate heavy, wet soils. Ajugas are shown to best effect when massed in foundation plantings, border fronts, or as edging and are widely naturalized in woodland gardens, rock gardens, or on slopes or banks. They are deer, rabbit, and black walnut resistant.