Bugleweed: Ajuga reptans

Bugleweed 'Catlin's Giant' (Ajuga reptans 'Catlin's Giant')
Bugleweed ‘Catlin’s Giant’ (Ajuga reptans ‘Catlin’s Giant’)

Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) is a semi-evergreen herbaceous perennial in the Lamiaceae (Mint) family. Gardeners use quite a few cultivars of this plant as ground covers. In most cases it grows at a moderate rate and usually reaches a height of no more than six inches. Tall stalks bearing purple or blue flowers form during the spring and early summer. This example from my garden is known as Ajuga Reptans ‘Catlin’s Giant’. Over the past few days it has begun to bloom.

Bugleweed 'Catlin's Giant' (Ajuga reptans 'Catlin's Giant')
Bugleweed ‘Catlin’s Giant’ (Ajuga reptans ‘Catlin’s Giant’)

I picked this plant up on sale at a local nursery last summer. I was worried about how it would survive the winter. It looked quite pitiful following several bouts of ice and snow, as many of the outer leaves died back, but it made it through the cold weather quite well.

Bugleweed 'Catlin's Giant' (Ajuga reptans 'Catlin's Giant')
Bugleweed ‘Catlin’s Giant’ (Ajuga reptans ‘Catlin’s Giant’)

One day last week I noticed that new foliage had begun to form.

Bugleweed 'Catlin's Giant' (Ajuga reptans 'Catlin's Giant')
Bugleweed ‘Catlin’s Giant’ (Ajuga reptans ‘Catlin’s Giant’)

Along with the green and bronze leaves came the beginnings of some short flower spikes hosting new buds.

Bugleweed 'Catlin's Giant' (Ajuga reptans 'Catlin's Giant')
Bugleweed ‘Catlin’s Giant’ (Ajuga reptans ‘Catlin’s Giant’)

The buds have quickly evolved into small purple blossoms.

Bugleweed 'Catlin's Giant' (Ajuga reptans 'Catlin's Giant')
Bugleweed ‘Catlin’s Giant’ (Ajuga reptans ‘Catlin’s Giant’)

Ajuga reptans survives in conditions of full sun to part shade. Due to a negative past experience with a similar cultivar (translation: it kicked the bucket) I decided to plant this one in an area of almost complete shade beneath a tree.

Bugleweed 'Catlin's Giant' (Ajuga reptans 'Catlin's Giant')
Bugleweed ‘Catlin’s Giant’ (Ajuga reptans ‘Catlin’s Giant’)

Though it has survived, up to this point it has not made an attempt to spread. Hopefully that will happen this year.

Bugleweed 'Catlin's Giant' (Ajuga reptans 'Catlin's Giant')
Bugleweed ‘Catlin’s Giant’ (Ajuga reptans ‘Catlin’s Giant’)

I don’t intend to use Bugleweed as a ground cover, but as a specimen plant. I will be happy if it spreads just a few feet. It’s not a Texas native and as such I don’t want it to take up too much of my limited garden space. It also has a habit of choking out other plants so I plan to keep it in check!

Here are some facts about Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans):

  • Bugleweed is native to Europe, western Asia and northern Africa.
  • Bugleweed is known by such names as Bugleherb, Common Bugle, Blue Bugle and Carpet Bugleweed.
  • Popular cultivars of Ajuga reptans include Burgundy Glow, Black Scallop, Chocolate Chip, Bronze Beauty, Silver Beauty and Metallica Crispa.
  • The cultivar ‘Catlin’s Giant’ received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society (United Kingdom).
  • Bugleweed is a primary or secondary nectar source for many butterflies of Europe, Russia and Asia, such as the Pearl-bordered Fritillary (Boloria euphrosyne) and the Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui). It attracts bees and hummingbirds.
  • Bugleweed makes a good accent plant due to its texture and it’s green and bronze foliage color.
  • This plant can be propagated easily by dividing its runners or by seed, though the germination rate of seeds can be quite low.
  • Some parts of Bugleweed are used in folk medicine.

Last Autumn ‘Catlin’s Giant’ was uniformly dark green in color (below). As evidenced by the previous photos, the foliage color is currently quite different!

Bugleweed 'Catlin's Giant' (Ajuga reptans 'Catlin's Giant')
Bugleweed ‘Catlin’s Giant’ (Ajuga reptans ‘Catlin’s Giant’)
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10 thoughts on “Bugleweed: Ajuga reptans

  1. I appreciate your approach here. I’ve already got ajuga growing on a steep slope in mostly shade and though I won’t buy more I’m not pulling it all out, either. It attracts admiral butterflies, bees of all sorts, and does both when there is not a lot of other action going on in my many shaded areas. Plus I’m a sucker for purple and blue, so ajuga flowers may be small but to me they bring big impact.

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    • So true about the shade. I haven’t found a great many plants that I can rely on in those areas. The flowers are quite pretty and the leaves remain colorful most of the year. I’ve got some creeping golden Sedum to plant and may try to put a little of that in the same area to fill things in a little where there’s some dappled light. I’ve also stuck a Lamb’s Ear nearby.

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  2. Your cultivar has a nice blue/green leaf. The bees love them and as one of the first bloomers are valuable for pollinators. My ‘Burgundy Glow’ has pretty much been banished from the garden beds and allowed to spread through the lawn. It creates a beautiful blue carpet when it blooms in spring, which I mow around until it is done blooming, then I cut it with the rest of the lawn. Though not hard to control (its roots come up pretty easily), it is a bit too rambunctious for my beds.

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  3. Ajuga is a great plant–so glad you reminded us about it. I always think of it as an “old fashioned” plants, you know, not part of the native plants revival. But it’s not invasive, is tough in the summer, feeds pollinators–gosh, what’s not to love!

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