Carpet bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) is one of the most common and successful ground covers. It grows in the sandy soils of Arizona as well as the heavier soils of the northern United States and Canada. Carpet bugleweed is especially effective in shady or partly shady places where grass will not grow. In May and June, spikes of blue flowers appear above rich, green foliage.
Interesting cultivars bear white, rose, blue, or dark purple flowers and foliage that's green, bronze, purple, or variegated. Once established, carpet bugleweed forms a lush, carpet-like mat that is difficult for weed seeds to penetrate.
Common name: Carpet bugleweed, common bugleweed
Botanical name: Ajuga reptans
Plant type: Creeping, evergreen to semi-evergreen perennial
Height: 6 inches
Zones: 3 to 9
Family: Lamiaceae (mint)
- Sun: Part to full shade
- Soil: Prefers sandy soil but tolerates heavier soils.
- Moisture: Keep soil evenly moist.
- Mulch: After planting, add organic mulch to deter weeds.
- Fertilizer: None required
- Pruning: Shear flower heads when the plant is done blooming. This is especially important in a large planting of cultivars because their seeds won't come true to the parent plant.
- Plant separated root stems (daughter plants) or root cuttings in early summer.
Pests and diseases
- Southern blight, root rot, and fungal leaf spot may occur where drainage or air circulation is poor.
- All these cultivars are hardy in Zones 3 to 9 and grow 6 to 8 inches tall, depending on growing conditions.
- ‘Catlin's Giant' (pictured here) has deep blue flower spikes and bronzy-blue foliage.
- ‘Multicolor' has blue flowers and variegated white, red, yellow, and green leaves.
- ‘Purpurea' has dark purple flowers and purplish leaves.
- ‘Variegata' has blue flowers and creamy white and green leaves.
- Garden notes
- The fast-growing stolens of carpet bugleweed will occasionally invade lawns.
- Because it's shallow rooted, water regularly in hot, dry climates.
- Work the planting bed to a depth of 12 inches.
- When using as a ground cover, space plants close enough to cover the area in two to three growing seasons.
- Plant carpet bugleweed at the same depth as it was in its container. Planting too deep may cause root rot.
All in the family
- The Lamiaceae family includes herbs or shrubs that usually have aromatic leaves and square stems.
- Catnip (Nepeta cataria, Zones 3 to 7) is a perennial with spikes of white flowers with purple spots in summer and fall. It grows 36 inches tall.
- Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium, Zones 7 to 9) is a good perennial ground cover with lilac flowers in summer. It spreads easily and grows 4 to 16 inches tall.
- Peppermint (M. x piperita, Zones 3 to 7) has purplish stems and pink flowers in summer. It's an aggressive plant that grows 36 inches tall and 36 inches wide.
- Spearmint (M. spicata, Zones 3 to 7) is the most commonly grown garden mint. It has pink, lilac, or white flowers and grows 36 inches tall and as wide as you will let it. Because peppermint and spearmint are such vigorous growers, gardeners often grow them in containers to keep them in check.
(Text by Mary Pestel, photo courtesy of Monrovia Growers, www.monrovia.com)