867 Ajuga reptansCommon Names: carpet bugleweed, common bugleweed Family: Lamiaceae (mint Family)
Carpet bugleweed is a low growing evergreen perennial 6-10 in (15.2-25.4 cm) tall which forms a dense matlike groundcover as it spreads along underground stolons. As is typical of herbaceous plants in the mint family, bugleweed has square stems and opposite or whorled leaves. The basal leaves are dark green and oblong or spoon shaped, 3-5 in (7.6-12.7 cm) long and 1-2 in (2.5-5.1 cm) wide; stem leaves are a little smaller. The flowers (usually blue or purplish) are about 1/2 in (1.3 cm) long and borne in whorls on erect spikes 6-10 in (15.2-25.4 cm) tall. They are typical mint flowers: tubular with two unequal lips. Many cultivars have been selected for foliage or flower color. 'Alba' has white flowers. 'Rubra' has rosy red flowers. 'Pink Elf' has pink flowers and gets only about 2 in (5.1 cm) tall. 'Jungle Bronze' has bronze leaves and flower spikes to 10 in (25.4 cm) tall. 'Jungle Beauty' has unusually colorful foliage, consisting of purple leaves with red margins. 'Purple Brocade' has leaves variegated with purple. 'Multicolor' or 'Rainbow' has leaves variegated with cream and pink. 'Variegata' has gray green leaves variegated with cream.
Carpet bugleweed, Ajuga reptans, is native to Europe, western Asia and Iran. It has escaped cultivation and become naturalized in some parts of the northeastern and northcentral U.S.
CultureCarpet bugleweed grows rapidly even in poor, heavy soils. It should be divided every 2-3 years to reduce crowding and the chance of fungus diseases. Light: Grow bugleweed in partial shade to full shade. Bugleweed can tolerate morning or late afternoon sun, but the leaves will surely scorch if they are exposed to full midday sun. Moisture: Carpet bugleweed needs moist conditions. It does best in fairly well drained soils with frequent watering. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 9. Bugleweed may suffer from crown rot in hot humid climates, especially if air circulation is limited. In the South, it's best if bugleweed is grown in a well-ventilated area. Propagation: Bugleweed is easily propagated by separating the little plants that arise from the spreading stolons. This can be done any time of year. Bugleweed also can be started from cuttings in summer. Larger areas can be seeded with bugleweed, but seed from the named cultivars will not come true.
Carpet bugleweed makes a showy groundcover in moist, shady areas of the landscape. It grows well in areas too shady for grass. Under ideal growing conditions bugleweed will spread rapidly from its underground runners. It forms such a dense mat that weeds cannot grow through it. Bugleweed does not, however, tolerate heavy foot traffic. Another drawback is that bugleweed may spread onto adjacent lawns. Don't use it next to places you don't want it to spread into. Some gardeners enclose the planting bed with edging to keep bugleweed in bounds.
The variegated cultivars of carpet bugleweed are especially attractive groundcovers in all seasons, with the springtime flowers only adding to the beauty. There are some 40 species of Ajuga, all native to temperate Eurasia. Only a few are normally cultivated.
Carpet bugleweed can be invasive and become a persistent weed in lawns that are watered regularly.
Steve Christman 11/8/00; updated 12/6/03