Dictionary of Flowers: Ajuga (Bugleweed)

Stunning purple trumpets are classic Ajuga flowers. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Autan and Flickr
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Stunning purple trumpets are classic Ajuga flowers. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Autan and Flickr

  • Ajuga
  • Common name: bugleweed
  • Family: Lamiaceae
  • Category: Perennial in USDA zones 3-9
  • Height: 6", some varieties can grow a little taller
  • Width: 24" to 36", depending on species
  • Sun/shade
  • Blooms: grown mainly for foliage interest, blooms spring to midsummer
  • Growth habit: spreading. Used as a spiller in container combinations
  • Maintenance: easy
  • Soil: average, moist, well drained. Water regularly if grown in containers
  • Garden uses: containers, front of border, rockery plant, edging plant
  • Diseases: mildew, rot
  • Pests: aphids

Ajuga is mainly used as a groundcover. The plant looks like a rosette, which grows runners and covers a large area in relatively short time, as it is a fast grower from the same family as mint.

It is grown mainly for its foliage, though it blooms in short spikes with small flowers that can be blue, blue-purple, pink or white. The foliage color depends on the variety: it can be variegated, with colors ranging from light green to white to pink and burgundy, to nearly black. 

It is a robust plant that requires a well drained soil, amended with compost to keep it free-draining or good drainage if grown in pots. Water regularly, though it is fairly resistant to dry conditions when established.

Feed twice a year with an all-purpose formula fertilizer. Maintenance is minimal, just remove spent flower stalks and divide if it becomes too crowded. Runners are easy to pull up and repot or replant in a different area. 

Ajuga looks beautiful when grown as a spiller on the edge of a container or a rock wall.

Amazing close-up of a butterfly drinking from Bugleweed. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of TexasEagle and Flickr
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Amazing close-up of a butterfly drinking from Bugleweed. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of TexasEagle and Flickr

Aguja can be grown from seed, though it is simpler to buy a few starter plants or by dividing established plant clumps.

If starting it from seed, press the seed onto moist seed starting mix. Keep relatively cool (50-60° F).

Ajuga seeds are slow to germinate, taking as long as five weeks. If after five weeks there is no germination, place the containers in the refrigerator for a month, then return to cool conditions.

In close-up, it's amazing how complex a Bugleweed is. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Vernon Hyde and Flickr
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In close-up, it's amazing how complex a Bugleweed is. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Vernon Hyde and Flickr

Ajuga is not susceptible to disease, though rot can happen if grown in soil that doesn't drain well. Mildew can occur when plants become too crowded. Thinning plants, removing all affected plant material and applying a fungicide can control mildew. Ajuga is deer resistant. 

Popular varieties:

  • Ajuga reptans ‘Black Scallop’ – dark purple colored, shiny foliage
  • Ajuga reptans ‘Burgundy Glow’ – tricolor leaves, edged in white with a red tinge in the green centers 
  • Ajuga reptans ‘Golden Glow’ – mint green and buttery yellow foliage
  • Ajuga reptans ‘Catlins Giant’ –dark green leaves
The unearthly beauty of an Ajuga trumpet opening. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Peter aka anemoneprojectors and Flickr
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The unearthly beauty of an Ajuga trumpet opening. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Peter aka anemoneprojectors and Flickr

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