Ajuga Perennials (Ajuga spp.)
Ajuga perennials, commonly called bugleweed or carpetweed, are stellar performers in the shade garden. When gardeners say they can’t grow anything in full shade, Ajuga comes to the rescue. Depending on the species, Ajuga perennials can form a dense low-growing groundcover, or they can grow into upright plants. Groundcover Ajugas spread by runners, which grow in all directions to fill in bare shady areas. These evergreen members of the Mint plant family produce colorful flower spikes in mid-spring through summer that are typically violet-blue, but which may also be white, red or purple. The foliage is usually deep green, but some cultivars may have purplish-bronze, pink, rose or purple leaves. Groundcover Ajugas hug the ground at only a few inches tall, but upright Ajuga perennials may grow to a height of 14 inches.
Ajuga perennials have lush, succulent leaves and stems, but they are resistant to deer browsing. This is good news for gardeners living in rural areas who have a tough time finding plants that can survive being eaten by hungry deer. When they’re flowering, Ajuga perennials attract bees, which are valuable pollinators for any garden. Just be careful not to wander barefoot through a groundcover carpet of Ajuga while they’re in bloom!
- Groundcover. Ajuga perennials are superior groundcovers for the shade garden, particularly under trees, where many plants can’t grow. Ajuga perennials that are grown as groundcovers may not know when to stop spreading, so they may grow into your lawn or your flower beds, and they can creep into your walking paths.
- Erosion control. Ajuga is also helpful on shady slopes to control erosion. Because of the way these plants spread, they anchor the soil in place so it doesn’t wash downhill.
- Container plant. You can even use Ajuga as a beautiful container plant to fill in the gaps around other plants.
- Ajuga perennials are plants that prosper in full shade. Find shady spots in your yard and garden that have been challenging for other plants, and Ajuga should do nicely there. Although Ajuga perennials will tolerate some filtered sun or partial sun, the leaves may become scorched in too much sun.
- Work in a 3”-4” layer of organic matter to improve dry soil and hold in moisture for the newly developing Ajuga plants.
- It’s important when planting Ajuga perennials not to set them too deeply. The crowns – the center of the plant – should not be covered with soil; if they are, the plants can rot.
- Water. Ajuga perennials perform best in moist soil. Although established plants can handle poor soils, keep plants watered during dry and hot weather.
- Fertilizer. Because they’re adapted to soils with low fertility, you only have to fertilize Ajuga perennials once a year, at the beginning of the growing season, with an all-purpose fertilizer.
- Thinning. If your Ajuga plants become too crowded, you can thin them by dividing clumps of plants every few years and planting the divisions in other shady garden spots.