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Ajuga or "Bugleweed"

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Bugleweed picture.

Bugleweed picture.

David Beaulieu

Plant Taxonomy of Bugleweed:

Taxonomy classifies bugleweed (sometimes misspelled "bugle weed") or "bugle" as Ajuga reptans. However, this is a case where the genus name has come to be so widely used in everyday parlance as to function virtually as a common name; in such cases, I do not capitalize "ajuga."

Plant Type:

Ajuga is an evergreen, perennial ground cover.

Characteristics of Ajuga:

Bugleweed is a fast-growing ground cover that usually creeps within just a few inches of the ground (the specific epithet, reptans, means "creeping"), although when in flower (if you count the flower spike), it may reach a height of 6" or more. Ajuga blooms from spring to mid-summer. Flower color varies but is often blue to purple. The color of the leaves likewise depends on the cultivar: you will encounter ajugas with coppery or purplish leaves, besides green. The 'Chocolate Chip' cultivar has darker leaves than the species plant, including a hint of what some call a "chocolate brown"; its blooms are bluish purple.

Planting Zones for Ajuga:

Bugleweed can be grown in zones 3-10. This ground cover is indigenous to Eurasia.

Sun and Soil Requirements for Ajuga:

An easy ground cover to grow, bugleweed will grow in sun or part shade, and it's not fussy about soil so long as the drainage is good.

Uses for Ajuga in Landscaping:

Ajuga will form a dense mat, which is one reason why it's so popular as a ground cover; in fact, another common name for the plant is "carpet bugleweed." Ajuga can also be used for erosion control. Deer seem not to like ajuga, making this spreading dynamo a deer-resistant ground cover. They are also rabbit-proof flowers.

Caveats in Growing Ajuga:

Ajuga is an invasive plant in North America; in fact, it has naturalized in some parts of the continent.

Care for Ajuga:

Ajuga spreads aggressively via runners. To control it in my planting beds, I'm constantly pulling it out from where it doesn't belong. You'll have to do the same if you wish to check its spread.

Medicinal Uses for Ajuga:

Like yarrow, one of the traditional uses for ajuga was to treat wounds.

My Final Word on the Plant As a Ground Cover:

Although an attractive plant, I would use ajuga only in the following type of area in a landscape:

  1. A large area crying out for a ground cover -- in a hurry!
  2. An area separated from planting beds and lawns
  3. An area in which I don't intend to plant anything else

In other cases, ajuga is too invasive for my tastes. Constantly having to pull out its "colonists" makes it a high-maintenance plant.

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