Growing and controlling Ajuga reptans
All you need to know about growing and caring for bugle, in our Grow Guide.
Ajuga reptans is an attractive ground cover plant with spikes of beautiful blue flowers in late spring. This low-growing plant has evergreen foliage, making it a useful addition to planting schemes as it looks good all year round.
The flowers of Ajuga reptans are usually dark blue, but there are also varieties with flowers ranging from pale blue through to bright blue, violet, white and pink. Its leaves are usually dark green, but can be a deep red, bronze or burgundy, depending on the variety. Known also as bugle or bugleweed, Ajuga reptans is a versatile plant that can be used in containers as well as to cover ground in difficult planting areas such as banks, shady corners or beneath shrubs and trees.
The second part of the botanical name – 'reptans' – means creeping, so if you want to prevent the plant taking over, think carefully about where you place it, ensuring it’s contained by edging and can’t escape into your lawn or other planting areas. The advantage of this creeping habit is that Ajuga reptans will cover gaps in your border, smothering any weeds.
It looks good at the front of borders, providing contrast for taller plants such as ornamental grasses and hardy geraniums, or planted to flower alongside spring bulbs and early-flowering perennials.
How to grow and care for Ajuga reptans
Plant in spring or autumn in moist but well-drained soil in partial shade. Divide clumps in early spring or autumn if the plant becomes congested.
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Where to grow Ajuga reptans
This useful and attractive plant is a great pick for edging borders or paths, softening the edge of a container or covering tricky areas of ground in shady spots. It will form a carpet of evergreen leaves. It will grow in partial shade so it's also a good choice for adding interest underneath shrubs or trees. Plant Ajuga reptans in reasonably moist soil. Choose a spot grown in sun or partial shade, but avoid full sun as this may scorch the leaves and dry the plant out.
How to plant Ajuga reptans
This hardy perennial can be planted any time of year, especially if it’s being used in a pot, but the best time to plant is in spring or autumn, when the soil is warm and moist. This gives the plant time to establish and put down roots before the weather gets too hot. Dig a hole to the same depth of the pot your plant came in. Tip your plant carefully out of its pot, tease out any winding roots, and place it in the hole, making sure that the crown (where the stems join roots) is level with the surface of the soil. Fill in with soil around the plant and firm it in well with your hands. Water well after planting.
How to care for Ajuga reptans
To keep your plants looking healthy, with vibrant foliage and plenty of flowers, water regularly until the plant is established. If planted in autumn, you won't need to water for as long. Lift and divide Ajuga reptans every two to three years to keep plants healthy. The best time to do this is in autumn or spring. It’s also a good way to make new plants for free, which you can use to fill gaps or add to container displays.
How to keep Ajuga reptans under control
Ajuga reptans can spread rapidly by producing runners, known as stolons. New plants are produced along the runners. The wild species can be invasive but there is a wide range of cultivars to choose from which are not as invasive and make excellent ground cover plants, filling gaps easily because of their spreading habit. To contain Ajuga reptans, plant it in a location where it is restricted by a path or edging in a border, or use it in a container. Cut back any runners that are trailing out of your border.
Pests and diseases
Look out for powdery mildew on your ajuga plants. The leaves will be covered in a white, dusty coating. Prune out any badly affected stems or leaves. Prevent attacks by keeping plants healthy with regular watering and planting in a site with good drainage.
Advice on buying Ajuga reptans
- Ajuga plants are available in garden centres and nurseries, as well as specialist nurseries and online.
- Look at the different varieties available and choose the right one for your space and colour scheme, remembering that some of the larger varieties will reach a spread of 75-90cm in around 2-5 years, whereas others are less vigorous.
Where to buy Ajuga reptans
Varieties to try
There's a range of ajuga varieties to choose from. Here are a few of our top picks:
Ajuga reptans 'Alba' – a white-flowered variety that blooms in late spring to early summer, with midt-green leaves that look good all year.
Ajuga reptans 'Burgundy Glow' – light up the front of your border with this variety, which has evergreen leaves with red splashes and white margins, and spires of deep-blue flowers.
Ajuga reptans 'Black Scallop' – popular for its dramatic, almost black foliage. The dark-blue flowers stand out well in a shady spot.
Ajuga reptans 'Braunherz' – grow this variety for its attractive foliage. The leaves are a bronze-to-purple colour and the flowers a dark blue.