Ajuga heralds spring with bugles!
Common Name : Common bugleweed
Science-y Name : Ajuga
A Few Other Varieties : A. genevensis, A. reptans
Native or Non : Decidedly non-native to the Americas. Ajuga is native to a number of countries in Asia and the Mediterranean, as well as some locations in Australia.
Characteristics : A leafy, full groundcover that produces precious little spikes of flowers in the spring. Flowers most commonly bloom in purple, white and pink. Leaves of ajuga are most commonly round with a wonderful lobed or undulated edge, and color that varies from deep green to purplish red in color. A good dose of sun each day, a few hours vs a full day, will bring out the best reds in the leaves.
Ajuga may die back a bit in winter, but we’ve seen it weather some serious frosts. If it does get a bit wilty it will regain its shape and grow new leaves when the temps warm back up in the spring. Its red to purplish foliage will bring a subtle interest to your yard. It’s a nice addition to the look of grass or mulch that often is prominent when the summer flowers are all gone.
If you are looking for a plant that is going to spread and help hold soil in place on a slope or in a lightly shaded area then ajuga is a great choice. It will spread over multiple seasons if it’s in a happy place. Planning out the initial planting is important so the ajuga won’t spread into other plants that won’t appreciate the crowding.
Deer and bunnies tend not to eat ajuga as the plant has a bitter taste.
Fun Fact : How does this little ruby leafed plant get its energy and photosynthesize when green
isn’t its main color?
All leaves share common pigment molecules: chlorophyll, carotenoids, and anthocyanins.
Chlorophyll is the main molecule used for photosynthesis. It does not absorb green light so that is the color reflected back to our eyes and, for the most part, why leaves look green.
Carotenoids capture energy that chlorophyll can’t or doesn’t and gives leaves red or orange tones. The same light absorbing/reflecting principles apply here.
Anthocyanins are not directly involved in photosynthesis, but give leaves red to purplish colors.
That’s all well and good, guru, but it doesn’t answer the question.
There are plants that produce more of one of the three pigments than the others. When carotenoids or anthocyanins are more prominent the green of chlorophyll is masked from our eyes, but the chlorophyll molecule is still present in the leaf. It is believed that carotenoids and anthocyanins with their non-green hues also help protect leaves from UV damage when a plant is in full sun environments. With that protection chlorophyll can do its work and the plant will keep on living. This is a super simplified take on the science of leaf pigment, and the topic is still much discussed among true scientists.
And none of this explains cactus or succulents.
Want to see the pigments in leaves for yourself? Try some science at home!
Care Considerations : Ajuga thrives in moist soils with sun to partial shade. It is a thick ground cover that is described as forming a mat of leaves where it is planted and happy.
While it will spread some through the distribution of seed, it is more likely to spread through its root system and the development of stolons. Essentially the roots send out runners. A runner that grows on the soil surface is called a stolon. (If it’s under the surface it’s called a rhizome.) A new root bunch develops on the stolon and a new plant grows in that spot. RAG Thyme gardeners will help keep the spread of ajuga in check so the plant won’t take over where it’s not wanted. It needs ongoing attention to keep it tamed in one area.
The hearty ground cover is susceptible to crown rot if the soil or environment where it is placed is too humid. If it’s too much in the sun the leaves are prone to browning and burn. It can be moved to a more appropriate part of the yard as needed or wanted.
Contact us to get an estimate on RAG Thyme services for your yard and garden! We’ll help existing plants stay brilliant, or suggest alternatives with as much beauty and personality.