These low-growing ground covers and rock garden plants from Europe offer both handsome foliage and showy flowers; both leaves and blossoms come in several different colors. Bloom runs from spring through early summer. Most types spread quickly to form mats. Easy to divide at any time of year. Good drainage is essential to avoid crown rot. Plants are not browsed by deer.
A. genevensis. GENEVA BUGLEWEED. Rock garden plant 514 in. high, 112 ft. wide; does not spread by runners. Grayish, hairy stems and coarse-toothed leaves to 3 in. long. Blue flowers in spikes. 'Pink Beauty' and 'Alba' offer color choices.
A. pyramidalis. Erect plant 210 in. high, 1 2 ft. wide; does not spread by runners. Stems have long grayish hairs, are set with many roundish, 2- to 4-in.-long leaves. Violet-blue flowers are not obvious among the large leaves. 'Metallica Crispa' has reddish brown leaves with a metallic glint.
A. reptans. CARPET BUGLEWEED. This popular form spreads rapidly by runners, making a mat of dark green leaves in the basic species. Each oval to tongue-shaped leaf is 23 in. wide in full sun, to 4 in. wide in shade; entire foliage mass tops out at around 4 in. high. Blue flowers in 6-in. spikes appear in spring. Plant 1 ft. apart in spring or early fall. Subject to root rots and fungal diseases where drainage or air circulation is poor. Mow or trim off old flower spikes.
Many selections are available, and some are sold under several names. The following are among the better choices; all have blue flowers unless otherwise noted. Selections with bronzy or metallic-looking leaves keep their color best in sun.
'Alba'. White-blooming form.
'Black Scallop'. Blackish purple foliage with scalloped edges.
'Blueberry Muffin'. Vigorous ground cover of small, dark leaves and blue flowers on spikes up to 6 in. Comparable to 'Chocolate Chip' but spreads faster.
'Bronze Beauty'. Bronze foliage, a fast spreader.
'Burgundy Glow' ('Burgundy Lace'). Reddish purple foliage variegated with white and pink.
'Catlin's Giant'. Large, bronzy green leaves; flower spikes to 8 in. tall.
'Chocolate Chip' ('Valfredda'). Narrow, chocolate-brown leaves on a slow-growing dwarf plant. 'Toffee Chip' was a mutation and is similar in every way, except leaves are cream and green.
'Jungle Beauty'. Clumps of large, rounded, wavy-edged, bronze-toned leaves; flower spikes to 810 in. high.
'Jungle Green'. Large-leafed form with green foliage. Less mounded than 'Jungle Beauty'.
'Linda Applegate'. Bright green form with white flowers that is slow to spread.
'Multicolor' ('Rainbow'). Leaves are green blended with white and pinkish purple.
'Pink Lightning'. Pink blooms, white-edged, gray-green leaves.
'Sparkler'. This variegated form has splotches of white on a green leaf, more striated than others.