If I asked if you had bugleweed in your garden you would probably gasp and say I hope not. That’s just one of those unfortunate names for not only a great ground cover but a terrific plant to use in your cool season mixed containers.
Think of it as not a weed but ajuga which is a plant for the entire country as it is cold hardy from zones 3-10. It is in the mint family making it related to other garden plants like salvias and coleus.
Burgundy Glow which exhibits green, cream and pink with royal violet-blue flowers is one of my all-time favorites. While I like it for the low growing 8- to 12-inch texture it offers the front of the landscape, I love it in mixed containers as it gently tumbles over the edge. Simply put, this one of the best spiller or even filler plants you can use.
In the landscape, Burgundy Glow and other ajugas can be aggressive and seem to tolerate a wide variety of soils and light conditions. It quickly spreads by runners, forming a dense mat of colorful foliage, accompanied by showy blue or pink spring flowers. I will say in my 40 years of gardening I have never had it be a nuisance.
I believe that most gardeners have not taken advantage of the artistic possibilities in cool season designer type containers. Combined with other foliage like Goldilocks lysimachia and Ogon Japanese sweet flag Burgundy Glow is stunning in the contrast it provides. Use it with pansies and violas, and it will add even more interest to your container.
In the landscape, I have admired it in combination with flowers like perennial pink verbenas and other foliage plants among stepping stones.
Despite its durability, Burgundy Glow ajuga and others do best in fertile well-drained soil. A site in morning sun and afternoon shade, or high filtered light, allows them to look their best, although it is not uncommon to find exceptional plantings in full sun.
Nursery grown plants can be set out anytime during the growing season, with early spring or fall being the best choice. Space plants 6 to 12 inches apart. Ajuga is very easy to grow, after the spring bloom, deadhead the flowers, for a tidy look and to maximize air circulation. This can be accomplished with a string trimmer, high set mower or by hand pruning.
Dividing every 2 to 3 years will also increase air movement. Reduced air circulation can cause crown rot. You may find, keeping it confined to the designated area, requires a little digging, but it usually is not overwhelming.
While I have been touting Burgundy Glow, there are more varieties. Bronze Beauty with metallic bronze foliage, Catlin’s Giant with large bronze/green leaves, and Mahogany with the dark glossy purple leaves are some of the best selections. Multicolor, an unfortunate name used for marketing purposes, is dazzling with red, bright green, gold and pink.
Designing cool season containers can be so much fun. Make foliage plants like Burgundy Glow and other ajugas parts of your recipe.
(Norman Winter is director of the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him at: @CGBGgardenguru.)