Ajuga – will it survive Zone 3 winter?

(Question)

I am wondering if this plant would winter in Central Alberta I believe we are Zone 3. Looking for plants to fill a shaded dry bed. Seldom gets rain , so plants are watered. Lily of the Valley growing, but would like to move it to a better location and fill bed with other hardy plants.

 

(Answer)

Ajuga reptans, or bugleweed, is a creeping groundcover that can grow to a height of 15 cm (6 inches) or more, and blooms from spring through mid-summer.   It spreads via runners, so can be invasive and challenging to control.  Ajuga grows in sun or part shade, in zones 3 to 10.  So it should work well in your garden, unless the garden offers only deep shade.

You may want to consider additional plant options to fill your shady garden.  Lily of the valley is a good choice (it is also quite invasive).  Other plants that should  thrive in your zone include astilbe, black cohosh, columbine, coral bells, goat’s beard, hosta, lady’s mantle, northern maidenhair fern, and Solomon’s seal.  Most of these will grow taller than the ajuga, but provide lots of interest year-round. Cover with a mulch layer in the fall (e.g., chopped leaves or straw) to protect the plants from freeze/thawing cycles that might occur in your area during the winter.

There are several lists of hardy perennials on the internet, e.g., Dave’s Garden “The hardiest of hardy perennials”  and Northern Exposure Gardening’s Plant List: Hardy perennials for the north .  These might be of some help, but make sure you check for plants that are both shade-loving and will survive to your zone.

Finally, why not ask your neighbours which plants have thrived (or not!) in their gardens?  As well, your local garden centre should have several plants they recommend for conditions in your area.  If you are in a rural area and don’t live near a large city, it may be worth contacting experts at Hole’s Greenhouses, who are known across Canada.

Our Ask a Master Gardener site primarily serves gardeners in the greater Toronto area and Ontario.  Consider contacting the Master Gardeners Association of Alberta . They may be able to suggest helpful sources of information for you.