How to grow and care for Ajuga reptans

Ajuga reptans

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 dark blue but there are many cultivars of this plant and their flowers can range from pale blue through to bright blue, violet, white and pink. Its leaves are dark green, but can be a deep red, bronze or purple in other varieties. Known also as bugle, bugle plant 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.

Reptans means ‘creeping’ so if you want to prevent ajuga taking over, think carefully about where you plant 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 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.

Where to grow Ajuga reptans

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 mat, creating 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 and cultivars in moist soil. Choose a spot grown in sun or partial shade, but avoid full sun as it may scorch the leaves.

How to plant Ajuga reptans

How to grow bugle – planting Ajuga 'Calluna Girl'

Planting Ajuga reptans ‘Braunherz’

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 in your border to the same depth of the pot your plant came in. Tip your plant carefully out of its pot 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

How to grow bugle – Ajuga reptans 'Black Scallop'

Ajuga reptans ‘Black Scallop’

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

How to grow bugle – Ajuga reptans 'Burgundy Glow'

Ajuga reptans ‘Burgundy Glow’

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

A white powdery mildew infected leaf

A white powdery mildew infected leaf

Look out for powdery mildew on your ajuga plants. The leaves will be covered in a white dusty coating. The best thing to do is 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.

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Advice on buying Ajuga reptans

  • Ajuga plants are available in garden centres and nurseries, as well as specialist nurseries and online.
  • If possible, buy a good sized plant, around 2-3 litres, as this size will establish faster in your border than a small plant.
  • Look at the different varieties of Ajuga 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

Ajuga reptans 'Alba'

Ajuga reptans ‘Alba’

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 bright green leaves that look good all year.

Ajuga reptans ‘Burgundy Glow’ – light up the front of your border with this variety which has red and cream evergreen leaves and spires of deep blue flowers.

Ajuga reptans ‘Black Scallop’ – a popular bugle plant 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.