Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Secret to Growing Ajuga in Texas

Ajuga.  Bugleweed.  Carpetweed.  Sounds like a weed!  Certainly doesn't sound hard to grow, does it?  When you read about ajuga, it is usually paired with the words "easy to grow", "naturalizes", and "groundcover".  Grows in zones 3 through 9, with average water needs.  Sun to part shade.  It is even sometimes labeled as invasive!

Sounds so easy to grow.  Well, my experience is different.

Ajuga

I first planted ajuga several years ago, in full sun.  They lived for a while, but never really took off.  Finally, they died.  Probably didn't get enough water that year.

Then, I put them where they received only morning sun.  I thought they would be so happy there.  But , the same thing happened.  Just never took off.  Finally, they died.  Probably didn't get enough water that year, either.

One last try.  I even wondered myself why I was trying again.  But, buy them I did.  And I placed them here and there in my garden.

Just as I figured, most of the ones I checked on have been doing nothing.  Still alive, but just not taking off.  I expect eventually they will die.

And then -


I found this patch of ajuga!  They were not only thriving, but they were actually multiplying!  Putting out runners!  Becoming a true patch!  Just like they're supposed to do.

What is different about this ajuga from all the other ajugas in my garden?

Where it is planted.


This ajuga is planted where it gets the runoff water from the gutters.  So, it stays constantly moist.

I think that is the secret to growing ajuga in Texas!  If you want to grow ajuga in Texas, plant it next to your gutters!

How about you?  Do you grow ajuga?

89 comments:

  1. Pretty patch of Ajuga you have and this groundcovering perennial needs indeed a lot of water, certainly in Texas with hot and dry summers I think.

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    1. I think you're right - with the heat, it just needs more water! To me, "average water needs" means semi-drought! :)

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  2. It's funny how some plants defy our encouragements. It's like they're trying to tell us something, but we can't understand. On that note I sure wish plants could talk. Things like "it's too hot here for me" or "more fertilizer please." It would make things so much easier.

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    1. Gosh, if they could talk, I'm afraid all of mine would be complaining! ;) I think I'd rather them just suffer in silence!

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  3. Pretty plant, great that you have cracked how to make it happy, even in Texas.

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    1. I planted six of them here and there in my garden. None of the others have grown an inch. I was shocked when I looked behind the hawthorn (I probably wouldn't have even noticed it back there if not for the hawthorn flowering), and noticed it was actually spreading! What a fun surprise!

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  4. I love this post and laughed because my rain gutters are dry most of the time, I even wonder why we have them :-)

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    1. I think it must have gotten just enough moisture from the dew collecting in the gutter!

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  5. I had much the same trouble with the regular sized ajuga. Then I discovered Ajuga 'chocolate chips'. It doesn't seem to require the moisture that regular ajuga needs.

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    1. I've tried Black Scallop, but have never tried Chocolate Chips. I'll have to give them a try! Cute name, too!

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  6. I'm in Georgia and mine is under a peach tree and gets no additional water. It's going into it's second year and is doing great! Spreading and blooming :)

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    1. See - that's what I expected! Anything with "weed" after it's name should do just that! I was starting to get a complex! :)

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  7. This is very interesting! About a year ago a Master Gardener friend gave me some Ajuga. He had it all over his garden and said it was so easy to grow. He even told me that his wife had trimmed some and thrown the pieces in a pile, and the pile started to grow. So I took my Ajuga and planted it at the end of the carport where all the water collects. It didn't take long for all of them to die. Then late last year a lady that had visited my garden during the garden tour last year came and gave me some Ajuga. This looked different from the other Ajuga...it was more of a mound instead of runners. I planted it in the back garden and all of them came back this spring and are even blooming! In my case it appears the ones that got more water died.

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    1. Very interesting. Yours drowned and mine are starved for water! That's why gardening is so challenging!

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  8. Beautiful! I'm waiting for my bugleweed to flower! I have a variety with dark red leaves.

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    1. Ohhhhh! Dark red leaves! Sounds beautiful!

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  9. I have 'Giant Ajuga' (which looks like the one you have), and it would take over the whole yard if I would let it. In fact it seems to be taking over. It is very pretty when it's blooming and the bees love it, but it is just so aggressive. I would take it out but my husband likes it. I would be happy if it would just stay in one place, but I have never found a way to contain it. I would say congratulations on getting it to grow, but I will also add beware of what you wish for!

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    1. I'm wondering if mine will try to take over everything, too, or if it will naturally stop where the ground is drier. It will be a fun experiment to see. I've been wanting some groundcovers for under some of my shrubs. I'm tired of weeding and mulching so much, and hoping that this will be a solution to both of those.

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  10. Moisture is not a problem here so Ajuga does well :)

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    1. "Moisture is not a problem here" - now, now, don't rub it in! ;)

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  11. Isn't it amazing how plants have to knock us over the head to let us know what they really want? They have needs, and we have to figure out what they are! My ajuga Chocolate Chip is doing well and filling out, so I guess I have enough water (and I'm further north with a cooler summer than you). Wouldn't it be great if plants could talk and let us know what they want.

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    1. Only if they were polite! I'd hate to hear what the thugs had to say! Or hear a weed screaming when I yanked it out of the ground! ;)

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  12. Ha!! Brilliant!!! I have some growing in my front bed that I have to tame a bit every year I enjoy its happy blue flowers in the spring!!! So happy it worked for you...and hey you are conserving water!!!

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    1. I figured that might be a problem area around that gutter! Lots of weeds grow there, and hopefully if this takes over the area, I will have less weeds there. At least, that's the hope!

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  13. No need to worry about it getting too much water here in Scotland. When they are happy they will spread like mad! I spent years getting rid of it in an old garden but finally succumb to its delight for this garden. I'll be keeping an eye on it. Well done for perseverance Holley.

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    1. I've heard it can really take over. Now that I've found my "patch", I'll be keeping an eye on it. But I do hope it continues to spread and thrive.

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  14. I do grow Ajuga, Holley, and I agree that in climates like ours it needs extra water. My most successful patch is growing in a thick sugar cane mulch, with its roots down in the cool soil beneath. It loves this and runs everywhere.

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    1. I didn't realize they would send out runners and grow into a patch under a thick mulch! Good to know! I bet they do love the way mulch cools the roots, and keeps the moisture in.

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  15. I just added Ajuga Chocolate Chip to my gardens and hope it takes off like crazy. I love it.

    FlowerLady

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    1. I hope it does, too! I am going to have to be on the lookout for Chocolate Chips! Yum! :)

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  16. Ah, good idea! I'm glad you found the right microclimate for it. I think I might try it near my gutters, too. Great idea and it's a beautiful ground cover!

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    1. "microclimate" is exactly right! I don't think it will spread out of control here, because soon it will run into much drier ground! I'm really loving its spread right now!

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  17. I grow Ajuga near Dallas. Mine is planted in almost full shade though. It spreads slowly and is blooming right now. I sometimes even remember to water it!

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    1. This area, although it doesn't look like it, is in almost full shade, too. I was truly amazed at the amount of growth! Maybe you could do an experiment and plant some of yours under the rain gutter - just to see if it makes a difference like it did to mine! Although, if yours is spreading, even slowly, you have had much better success with yours than I ever had before with mine!

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  18. I've never seen or heard of Ajuga before, so it sure looks pretty! Glad it's now thriving in your garden.

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    1. It really is a pretty groundcover. Even the leaves are nice, but it's especially pretty when it blooms.

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  19. I'm not sure I have much of a choice about the ajuga, really. It's throughout the lawn and regularly invades my beds and borders - where it is welcome in places, pulled out in others. It's a lovely plant, though, and I even encourage it in places, especially as a groundcover around the roses.

    (Mind you, our water table is only 10-20 inches below the surface, depending on the season, so I guess there's no risk of it drying out here...)

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    1. I had no idea your water table was so close to the surface! Impressive to someone that goes through a drought almost every year!

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  20. I have tried to grow ajuga several times. It lasts for a short time and then, poof, it's gone. I have not used the Chocolate Chip in my garden, but have used it at clients' gardens. Might have to give that variety a try and see if it does better for me. Glad you found a happy spot for it!

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    1. I think I'm going to try Chocolate Chip in some areas, too. It will be interesting to see if that variety does much better.

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  21. Replies
    1. Isn't it? I just love the purples and blues in the garden - they go with anything!

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  22. I have to confess, it isn't a problem to grow here in London with my clay soil, but your patch looks wonderfully healthy. It must really enjoy it's planting spot.

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    1. I am actually shocked how much difference a few drops of water must make! Most of what has been coming out of the gutter has just been dew!

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  23. I've debated off and on about getting some over the years. Now that I am reducing perennials I guess I won't though. I do really like them though.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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    1. Even if you're reducing perennials, don't you still need some groundcover for in between plants? :)

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  24. I grow one patch of the burgundy as it is invasive...planted in wet shade near the gutter :)

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    1. Oh, burgundy! I bet it is beautiful. Funny that yours also loves wet shade near a gutter!

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  25. Ajuga is a curious one and it's one of those - be careful what you wish for plants. Because once it likes where it is, you will never get rid of it! Strangely, when I planted some in our first garden in Manhattan, it curled up its toes and died, even though it had a moist part shady place. Here it decided it likes a dry sunny slope and we cant get it out of the lawn!!!! Go figure!

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    1. I have heard that it is invasive. When I saw this patch taking off, I wondered if I would be sorry later. But, I really don't think it will survive too long here without adequate watering. Interesting, however, that yours likes it dry and sunny there!

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  26. My ajuga is planted where it does NOT get any additional water from me and is thriving. It is on the east side of my house and we live in the piney woods. Sooo, I suppose it stays moist where it is planted.

    It may be a case of: First year - sleep. Second year - creep. Third year - leap.

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    1. Well, I have to say that when I had it planted on the east, it was not shaded by trees, just by the house in the afternoon. Or, maybe you just have better soil than I do! Now, that could be part of the secret! Don't think it's the 1-2-3 thing because I planted so many of them at the same time and this is the only patch that's growing!

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  27. I love ajuga especially the new cultivar Black Scallop, but it doesn't grow in dry areas. You found the solution.

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    1. Unfortunately, almost every area around here is dry, at some time of the year.

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  28. Beautiful! Love the flowers!

    I planted a 'Black Scallop' last year, but time will tell if it will survive...it's been a crazy winter and spring, so if it makes it through all of this, I'll be happy. I don't mind if it spreads, as I want it to take up a large space. ~Sheryl @ Flowery Prose

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    1. Good luck with your Black Scallop. Mine died, but it was a beautiful variety.

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  29. No---have seen it, but never tried to grow it.. I do love the little bluish flowers... Pretty!!!!

    Have a great day.
    Hugs,
    Betsy

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    1. I've been trying out new groundcovers lately. I think I need something under my roses and other shrubs besides mulch!

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  30. We have so much rain here that I never have trouble in growing Ajuga. More I think it is a real weed in my garden, it's everywhere, I found it on my lawn!

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    1. I would have an ajuga lawn if I could! That would save mowing!

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  31. That is a great tip to plant it where it gets a good dose of water at times. Lovely!

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    1. I wonder how far it will spread. It stays fairly moist in that area, so I hope it doesn't take over that entire area - just most of it! ;)

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  32. Ajuga is better adapted in my area, and is a lot more vigorous. It does like some moisture and at least light shade even here.

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    1. Yes, I don't think ajuga really does well here - but I see it for sale, so it's become a challenge!

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  33. Yes, it's so dry here mine just barely grows. I've placed it for erosion control in a couple of beds. It obviously needs more water. That's what gardening is trial and error. Thanks so much.~~Dee

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    1. I hope yours gets the water it needs, and takes off. It would be a beautiful plant for erosion control.

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  34. Wouldn't it be grand to live in a land where "invasive" plants were truly invasive? I know from experience those folks that make the plant id tags have never been to Texas.

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    1. No - if it's invasive here, it really could over the world!

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  35. They grow everywhere here! The untended parts of my garden are overrun, and I see them in the wild too... maybe that's part of the secret - forget about them and let them do their own thing! LOL!

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    1. I bet they are beautiful in the wild. Maybe you're right - maybe they are doing so well because I forgot them! I wonder now if they will start dying because I remembered them!

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  36. Interesting. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have very little (if any) rain from July through mid October. My Ajuga is barely holding on. You know how sometimes it's called "Bugle Weed"? I call mine "Bungle Weed" because it's bungling along. :)

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    1. Bungle weed seems much more accurate a name for it here, too! :) I am surprised to hear you don't get much rain from July through October. For some reason, I thought it always rained in the PNW!

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  37. Congratulations on your success! I've found the same thing - that ajuga loves moisture and hates it when it's too dry. With any luck, yours will do what mine has now done - take over an area where nothing else will grow. When it's happy, it's very, very happy!

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    1. That's what I'm hoping - that it will take over as a groundcover here between some shrubs. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that, if successful, I will be weeding that area a lot less!

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  38. Like Jason, our area grows it a little too well. It is a nice looking groundcover though. We have a number of plants considered invasive elsewhere that behave well here. Our cold weather keeps them in check and keeps seeds from germinating.

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    1. Like you say, each area is different, so I guess that invasive label can be true for some and not for others. I don't think this will ever become invasive here - it's just too dry!

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  39. Hi HolleyGarden, heard the name for the first time, but I am getting scared of anything that multiplies by runners. We have some kind of weed in our garden that does so but does not bloom and it's so difficult to get rid off them. I don't mind multiplying by tubers or seeds because then you can easily get rid off them, but runners! oh dear! they are something of a kind :-). Congratulations on your success. Isn't it funny how some plants are supposed to grow in certain conditions but I find them prefering something else in my garden.

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    1. I don't have a lot of things that grow with runners, but I figure I can just chop them off where I want! I think those labels of sun/shade requirements need to have zones or areas also included. A lot of plants here like more shade than in other parts of the country.

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  40. Looks similar to Mexican Heather except spired and Mexican heather is drought tolerant. The problem with our zone is we take the instructions too literally. I know many plants that read do not over water...so I don't and then they are begging for water from me. I still am going to do a conversion formula for plant growth in our zone one day.......Next time you are the nursery pick one up....I can't love them enough...I have to cover or protect in winter but they grow fast but still stay compact.

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    1. A conversion formula would be very useful! You are so correct that things in areas as hot as the ones we live in need more water, or maybe more shade, or both!

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  41. Well, now I don't know whether to try again or not...

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    1. Oh, sorry! I think if I had failed this time, I would have sworn off of ajuga forever!

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  42. My Mom had ajuga in her garden. I have tried several varieties of it in my own garden, but as in your experience it never really took off and eventually disappeared. I think it must be that late summer dryness that does them in. More and more I have come to think success with plants is as much about location as anything.

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    1. I think you're right about the late summer dryness doing them in. Location, location, location - important for plants as well as for real estate!

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  43. This is good news--I planted some Ajuga beside my sump pump outlet, so I hope I see lots of it this spring!

    Did it suppress competing weeds at all? That is my next wish!

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    1. Well, I did see one weed growing through it - but that is all! And this area is usually pretty full of weeds, so yes! Hooray!

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  44. As you know, I have several different types of Ajuga scattered around my garden and would like to try more.

    It seems they are unpredictable. I have one patch in quite a shady spot that is not doing well at all, while another in full sun (which Ajuga is not supposed to like at all) is doing just fine.

    I think with Ajuga the secret really may be to just try a number of different species in different places and hope that at least one or two types find a place they like and start to flourish there. If that happens, you can let it spread or maybe divide it (which I have not tried yet) and try to spread it around that way. Good luck! :) Hope for an update next year on how your Ajuga is doing!!

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  45. I think Ajuga is really unpredictable. One of my patches in shade is really patchy, while others in more sun (not near any downspouts) are thick and seem relatively healthy.

    I think the secret is to try different varieties and species in different places around your yard until you find where it is happy and then either let it spread or divide it around as you like.

    Here's another blog I found where Ajuga is making a beautiful full-sun groundcover in California. Go figure! http://gardensofpetersonville.blogspot.com/2013/05/consider-ajuga-for-sun.html

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    1. You are probably right about the different varieties needing different conditions. I have tried several different types, but it's not always easy to find the right conditions with the first try!

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