Ajuga or Bugleweed

All About Bugleweed

May 17, 2022
Adams Fairacre Farms

Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) is a fast-growing herbaceous perennial ground cover (the species name reptans means creeping) that does a good job of choking out weeds. It produces shiny, dark green leaves and beautiful flower spikes, producing blue, violet, or purple flowers in mid- to late-spring that can reach eight to ten inches tall, although the flower spikes on some cultivars are shorter. Several cultivars offer variegated foliage colors and patterns. Plant bugleweed in the late spring or early summer.

Bugleweed spreads via stolons, runners that take root at points along its length to form new plants which enables it to quickly overrun its planting area. Bugleweed spreads quite aggressively so plant it where it won’t creep into other areas of your garden or lawn.

Bugleweed can make quite a nuisance of itself through its aggressive spreading via underground runners (called stolons), but there are a few situations in which its good qualities will be enough reason for some gardeners to grow it.

The plant excels at filling in large, shady areas where lawns are difficult to grow, and it can work well on banks or slopes or planted around trees and shrubs. It looks especially attractive within rock formations. Bugleweed is also used as erosion control in many areas because its extensive root system can prevent soil loss. It forms a dense mat that will displace weeds.

Bugleweed has an unusual character in that it is so tough that it can even grow under black walnut trees, which produces a chemical that discourages most plants.

However, avoid planting bugleweed near lawn areas because it can quickly spread into turf grass. Plant bugleweed in an area where air circulation is good, spacing the plants about one foot apart.

Bugleweed does well in full sun to part shade locations. Foliage color is most vibrant when the plant receives at least three to four hours of sunlight daily.

Bugleweed prefers medium moisture, well-drained soils with a good amount of organic matter. It will tolerate moderately dry soil.

Bugleweed prefers moist soil, so while new plants are becoming established, give them one to two inches of water per week including rainfall. Once established, plants can tolerate some dryness but one inch of water per week should be sufficient. Water whenever the top one to two inches of soil becomes dry.

Temperature and Humidity
Bugleweed does well in a wide range of temperatures, but in very hot, humid areas, it requires good air circulation to prevent crown rot.

Feeding is rarely necessary unless the plant is growing in poor soil. When it is needed, apply an all-purpose granular fertilizer. Or, use a water-soluble fertilizer at a rate of 1 tablespoon per 1 gallon of water. Morning feeding is best, and make sure to rinse off any fertilizer granules from the leaves.

Pruning helps to keep bugleweed under control. Rigorously prune runners twice a year. Be sure to remove any runners escaping the desired planting area. In addition, cut off the flower spikes in late summer after the flowers have faded. To shear back a large area of bugleweed, use a lawnmower set to a high blade height.

If the planting area becomes crowded, thin out the plants in the fall by digging up the entire clump and replanting half of the roots. To control it in your garden beds, stay vigilant about pulling it out from where it doesn’t belong or it will gain a toehold and become a nuisance.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases
Mostly free of pests and diseases, the only insect that truly likes bugleweed is the aphid, which can be sprayed off the plant with a garden hose.

The other common problem bugleweed could encounter is crown rot, a soil-borne disease that can affect overcrowded plants with poor air circulation. In the South, crown rot is also called Southern blight, and it is caused by a fungus. This is a problem in humid areas or when the plant is growing in heavy soils. You can prevent crown rot by planting in well-drained soil. If plants succumb to the fungus, they will quickly wilt and die.


  • What companion plants can I grow with bugleweed?

    You’ll find plenty of companion woodland plants for bugleweed that grow well in partial or full shade. For example, pair with coral bells, daffodils, violas, forget-me-nots, astilbe, and hardy geraniums. For extra greenery, plant hostas and ferns.

  • Does bugleweed have a scent?

    Although the blue flowers are prominent, they don’t have any fragrance.

  • Is bugleweed deer-resistant?

    Bugleweed is deer-resistant. It tastes very bitter and bad to most animals, except the muskrat, which likes to nibble on the roots.

Information courtesy of TheSpruce.com