Quicker, Cheaper Groundcover

Chocolate Chip ajugaTo save money on groundcover, plan on planting it in late summer or early fall. Late in the season, you should be able to find discounted plants, as garden centers are looking to unload stock before winter. Look for plants that are ready to burst out of their pots—these should be easy to find, as they’ve been growing all summer. Then, at planting time, divide each plant into two or three smaller individuals. Plant them separately, following the recommended spacing on the plant tag. In the end you’ve bought, say, 3 plants, but planted 6 to 9. The divisions will settle in easily during the fall, developing a good root system, and take off running in the spring.

Image: Chocolate Chip bugleweed (Ajuga reptans ‘Valfredda’). Courtesy of Walters Gardens, Inc.

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12 thoughts on “Quicker, Cheaper Groundcover

  1. Lets get down to the basics of what this article is referring to. GROUND COVER!!!! For areas that you need a complete coverage vinca is your best bet, but Ajuga reptans is excellent also. Your placement of plant materials should always be considered as a priority when planning your gardens. Ground covers are known to be invasive! This is why they are known as ground covers. They offer something else to look at besides weeds in a hard to plant area, such as walk ways, shaded areas, hillsides, etc.. Study your choices before purchasing materials and then decide what is best for your paticular site. There are certain ground covers which can help to stablize hills which are effected by soil erosion. Euonymous is an excellent example, but don’t plan on having much room for anything else because once established they dig in and do their job! Soil erosion problem sovled! Just do your homework and let mother nature do it’s thing!

  2. I live in a hot, dry Mediterranean climate, where most of the above comments about ajuga aren’t relevant. I therefore have a suggestion (Meghan, maybe you can put this in your column: everyone commenting on articles should note WHERE THEY LIVE. Other readers in far-flung places will then know immediately whether or not a specific comment will be useful, not useful, or even counter-productive in their own gardens. What’s good for the goose in Albany is not likely to work for the gander – or goose either, for that matter – in Albuquerque.
    Barbara
    Jerusalem, Israel
    Barbara, Jerusalem, Israel

  3. I sprayed Miracle Grow on some flowers growing close to the Ajuga and it killed the Ajuga. Probably any fertilizer would do the same. Instructions on Preem says not to use in beds with Ajuga so here are two killers for it. So far I like the minature but will watch for invasion.

  4. Many plants are invasive in one part of the country, but not in another; also within one micro-climate, but not another in the same area. I have one ground cover that takes over everything in a moist shade area, but on the other side of my house in a drier shade area it does not spread. I prefer researching the plant before buying it to know its growth habits. Dave’s Garden on the web is a great place to read comments from gardeners in different environments.

  5. It’s hard to believe you would recommend planting ajuga! I planted one flat twenty years ago have it everywhere – and I pull it out in cartloads. I do not find that it inhibits weeds but it does try and overwhelm my perennials. It would be fine along the road, I guess, but planting it on purpose to speed things up seems like a panicky move: right up there with planting beebalm and other invasives.

  6. Ajuga is a nightmare in my lawn, it was there long before we purchased this home. Since it is such a low-grower, you can not damage it by mowing, making it easy for it to escape the garden beds. I have the variety that is pretty solid green in the lawn; newer varieties may be less aggressive.

  7. Ajuga makes a great groundcover.. seems to do best in partial shade. Go ahead and move it.. get as much roots as you can, note position of crowns at soil level so you don’t plant too deep. If you move any shallow-rooted plant late in the season, it may not anchor itself well enough to prevent freeze-thaw heaving.. where it pushes out of the ground and dies before you notice it. Best to pin it into position with wire loops or criss-cross stakes to hold it firmly in position.

    • I was under the impression that Ajuga would grow on your shoe if you stood still long enough. I enjoy the spring flowering, but agree that it seems to try and eat my perennials. Will Preen keep it from spreading in the perennial bed?

  8. I have a small patch of ajuga growing on the edge of a large patch of vinca minor underneath my mature Japanese maple front tree. The vinca is a wonderful ground cover, completely carpeting the ground under the maple. The ajuga usually blooms in spring. I guess I never thought of ajuga as a ground cover. Does anyone know how transplantable it is?

    • Dear Kevin,

      Ajuga is easily transplantable. What I do is take the very edge of new spreading growth and dig in and pull it out and put it into another area and water it. It hasn’t disappointed me yet. And mid-summer is a good time to do it after its blossoms have dried away.

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