Bugleweed (Ajuga) – The Complete Guide

Bugleweed demonstrates unbridled naturalness beyond the strict rules of formal garden design. Wherever it is necessary to green low-light areas or to cultivate a well-tended garden despite limited time, the busy perennial is at hand.

Planting Bugleweed Properly

Bugleweed (Ajuga), also known as ground pine, carpet bugle, or simply bugle, is a genus of herbaceous flowering plants. This undemanding woodland and meadow perennial demonstrates its frugality as early as the planting stage.

In light or shady locations, choose a spot in slightly moist, loose garden soil that provides space for 3-5 specimens 8-10 inches (20-25 cm) apart. There, prepare the soil so that it is crumbly and work in sifted compost or bark humus.

Place the potted root balls in the soil only deep enough to maintain the previous planting depth. After giving a good gulp of water, a mulch layer of leaves, grass clippings, or bark mulch will promote rapid rooting.

Care Tips

Prudent site selection sets the stage for bugleweed for vigorous growth without cumbersome maintenance efforts.

Watering during dry spells and an organic starter fertilizer in spring meet all the requirements for water and nutrient balance.

To prevent the wild perennial from wasting energy growing cloistered fruit, cut off wilted inflorescences in a timely manner. Also, cut off the wintergreen leaves close to the ground just before new shoots appear in early spring.

The hardy perennial manages its way through the cold season under its own steam. Only in the pot, the root ball should be protected from frost damage by a cover of bubble wrap.

Which Location is Suitable for Bugleweed?

Bugleweed reaches its optimum in light to semi-shady locations. Uni-green species and varieties will accept a shady location as long as the location is not completely dark.

The sunnier the bed, the more moist the soil should be, so that the herbaceous plant does not come under drought stress. In addition, deep-humic and nutritious soil are advantageous for flower abundance and vitality.

The Right Planting Distance for Bugleweed

If you have intended your bugleweed to be a carpet-forming ground cover, we recommend a planting distance of 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm).

In this arrangement, a dense, compact cushion of flowers and leaves will develop within a short time, reliably suppressing any weeds.

If you prefer a tightly upright variety as an eye-catching solitary or to set pretty accents in a small group, a planting distance of 12 inches (30 cm) has proven useful in practice.

What Soil Does Bugleweed Need?

Looking at the main requirements for the soil, bugleweed does not meet any surprising aspects. It thrives wonderfully in any normal garden soil, as you usually have in the classic perennial bed.

The crumb should be humic, nutrient-rich, and fresh-moist because the wild perennial does not like to be confronted with sandy dryness.

When is Flowering Time for Bugleweed?

The blue, purple, and white lip flowers of the carpet bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) herald the arrival of spring in April and May. Much to the delight of bees, bumblebees, and butterflies, who go wild for the sweet contents of the flowers.

Various upright species and varieties, such as Geneva bugleweed (Ajuga genevensis) or pyramidal bugle (Ajuga pyramidalis) bloom from June to August.

A creative combination of plants with divergent bloom times thus guarantees cheerful splashes of color from spring well into summer.

Pruning Bugleweed Properly

Cut off withered stems promptly so that the perennial does not invest its energy in seed formation. With its runners, it provides for widespread spread anyway.

The wintergreen foliage, on the other hand, should remain on the plant until early spring as an attractive eye-catcher on gray days and natural protection of the root ball from frost and snow.

If you are cultivating a species of bugleweed with variegated foliage, consistently cut off unicolored leafy tendrils. Otherwise, sooner or later, the distinctive leaf coloration will be lost.

Watering Bugleweed

Light and temperature conditions determine watering needs. Always water bugleweed in beds and pots when the thumb test indicates dried substrate.

In sunny locations with largely dry soil, this may be necessary every 1-2 days in summer, while in rainy seasons the watering can is not used at all.

Fertilizing Bugleweed Properly

Each bugleweed will joyfully accept organic fertilization in the spring. This can be a portion of compost with horn shavings, bark humus, guano granules, or nettle manure.

Avoid using nitrogenous fertilizers, because they only stimulate the growth of leaves, which is at the expense of the abundance of flowers.

Therefore, administer vermicompost or guano sticks as fertilizer in the pot and balcony box. Commercial liquid fertilizer should be diluted with water by at least half.

Overwintering Bugleweed

The robust character of bugleweed is expressed not least in its perfect winter hardiness. No special precautions are needed for the wild perennial to get through the cold season in good health.

The only exceptions are plants in pots or balcony boxes, as here the root ball could freeze in strong frost. A covering of bubble wrap or jute prevents this shortcoming.

Propagating Bugleweed

The propagation of bugleweed fits seamlessly into the uncomplicated cultivation.

The simplest variant is achieved by dividing the root ball in spring or autumn. After lifting the plant out of the ground, simply divide the root ball. As long as a segment has at least 2 buds, it will turn into an adult plant.

Plant the individual segments promptly after amending the soil in the new location with compost.

In addition, the numerous stolons act as vegetative material for re-growth. Plant root segments with a length of 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) in humic soil in a semi-shaded location, where they will root quickly. Constant soil moisture is essential in this process.

Is Bugleweed Poisonous?

Bugleweed is a medicinal rather than a poisonous plant. In fact, the wild perennial contains valuable ingredients that give it a wound-healing, astringent effect.

Thus, the leaves, prepared as tea, can relieve excruciating sore throats. The pharmaceutical industry uses bugleweed to make healing ointments for abrasions and other skin injuries.

Beautiful Varieties

  • Ajuga reptans ‘Atropurpurea’: A popular variety with blue-purple spring flowers and reddish-brown, wintergreen leaves. The height of growth is 4-6 inches (10-15 cm).
  • Ajuga incisa ‘Frosted Jade’: A handsome, upright bugleweed with blue flowers above white variegated foliage. The growth height is 12-16 inches (30-40 cm) without runners.
  • Ajuga reptans ‘Black Scallop’: This orgeous, creeping variety comes with eye-catching dark red, glossy leaves. The height of growth is 4-6 inches (10-15 cm).
  • Ajuga reptans ‘Alba’: This white flowering variety harmonizes wonderfully with ‘Black Scallop’ as a colorful ground cover. The growth height is also 4-6 inches (10-15 cm).
  • Ajuga reptans ‘Toffee Chip’: A small-growing bugleweed whose cream-colored edged leaves shine even in shady areas. The height of growth is only 2-4 inches (5-10 cm).
  • Ajuga genevensis: A powerful, tightly upright species, which convinces with rich blue flowers and three-lobed leaves. The growth height is up to 24 inches (60 cm).