Vitex Chaste Trees Buying & Growing Guide
The vitex chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) is a lovely, low-maintenance shrub that adds color, fragrance, and grace to your landscape. Most varieties of this ornamental plant grow between four to 15 feet tall and four to 12 feet wide, but some grow up to 30 feet tall and just as wide. All chaste trees are known for their flower spikes, which feature blooms of blue, pink, lilac, or white from late spring to early fall and attract butterflies and birds. Here are some other common traits for vitex chaste trees:
- Deer-resistant, drought-tolerant, and does best in soil with good drainage
- Are a good choice for seashore landscapes
- Can be grown in a pot to add color and beauty to sunny patios
Vitex Chaste Trees for Sale
- Fast Growing Trees – Starting at $79.95
- Brighter Blooms – Starting at $24.95
- Arbor Day Foundation – Starting at $34.99
Vitex Chaste Tree Overview
|Origin||Western Asia and the Mediterranean|
|Scientific Name||Vitex agnus-castus|
|Type||Evergreen or deciduous trees and shrubs|
|Common Names||Vitex tree, Chaste tree, Chasteberry, Monk’s Pepper, Hemp tree, Cloister Pepper|
|Height||Up to 20 feet|
|Pests||Aphids and whitefly|
Planting and Care
Though chaste trees are easy to grow, the best way to assure a healthy plant is to choose the right spot for planting. To deliver robust flowering, plant your chaste tree in a spot that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. The plant prefers well-draining soil with a pH that is acidic to slightly acidic. Moisture-retaining mulch and peat moss should only be added if the soil is sandy. If you’re planting a chaste tree in soil with poor drainage, it’s a good idea to do so in a raised mound.
If you’re growing a chaste tree in a container, use moist, well-draining soil in a container with drainage holes. Adding perlite or pumice to the soil mixture will provide greater drainage. Use a container that’s at least eight inches wider than the root ball to allow for a few years of growth and place it in an area where it’s protected from high winds.
Though the vitex chaste tree is naturally vase shaped, it can be trained to grow as a single trunk tree. It’s a deciduous shrub that thrives in hot weather but can be planted in zones 5 and 6 where its branches will die and then grow back the following year.
Watering and nutrients
During the summer, avoid watering your chaste tree until the soil has either dried out or is only slightly damp. Overwatering will lead to root rot, so the best approach is to give the plant a thorough soaking and then allow it to dry out rather than watering it daily. If your plant starts to drop leaves, it needs more water. During cool months the plant needs little water.
The chaste tree requires very little fertilization. Feeding this shrub a dose of slow release balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) or mild organic plant food once a year in late winter or very early spring.
As with many trees and shrubs chaste trees can be pruned for shape and size and to remove dead or diseased limbs. Prune in mid to late winter when the plant is dormant. When pruning branches, cut just above a lateral bud if possible. The pruning cut will stimulate new growth.
During the growing season, deadhead spent flowers before going to seed. Deadheading encourages more blooms. Vitex chaste trees grown in areas that see winter freeze will die back to ground level. Dead branches can be pruned severely. New growth will arise from the roots the following growing season.
Pests and diseases
The chaste tree is generally resistant to diseases and pests. It can fall prey to root rot, fungus, or leaf spots if over watered. Aphids, whiteflies and scales sometimes attack the tree. These can be treated with horticultural soaps and oils.
The vitex tree enjoys full sun conditions but can also grow well in partial shade. Aim to provide the plant with at least 6 hours of sun a day to ensure prolific blooming. If you don’t have a full-sun position available for the vitex tree, sit it in a spot where it will receive morning sun and afternoon shade. This will help to offer the plant some relief during the hottest portion of the day.
Most varieties of vitex trees are hardy from USDA growing zones 6 through 9, though some varieties can grow in zone 5. The plant is not frost-tolerant and may die back each winter in colder areas, though do not worry as it grows well from roots and will bounce back in the spring.
Some gardening experts recommend pruning the plant back to ground level before the first anticipated frost, and mulching it over. This will help to insulate the roots and protect them from freezing during winter, therefore ensuring the plant is healthy enough to resume growth in spring. This is a good technique to employ, but in most cases, the vitex tree will survive even if you make no attempts to protect it through winter.
Pruning the tree back to ground level each year also helps to control its size, as it does have a habit of getting out of control.
The vitex tree propagates easily by itself by reseeding. Spent blooms develop into berries that contain seeds, and new vitex trees will appear wherever the berries have fallen. If you are happy to have more vitex trees growing randomly around your garden, then be sure to leave the spent flowers on the tree to do their own thing.
Some people find that the plant reseeds so well to the point that it becomes invasive in their garden. If you want to prevent the self-seeding, you should remove flowers as soon as they are spent. Deadheading will also help to encourage a longer blooming period, so the benefit of this effort is two-fold.
To propagate the vitex tree more intentionally, you can grow the plant from seed or from stem cuttings. Sow seeds directly outside after the last frost, or get a head start by sowing the seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before the last expected frost.
Seeds have a good success rate, but the weakest seedlings should be thinned out, allowing only the strongest to continue growing into a tree. Ensure soil is kept slightly moist until the plants are established.
Propagation from stem cuttings is also an easy process with vitex trees. You will need to locate a softwood cutting from your plant of 4 to 6 inches long. Softwood cuttings are those that are neither brand new nor old. To find out if you have correctly identified softwood, simply bend the stem to see how it reacts to the pressure.
New stems will bend easily, whereas old stems will resist being bent. Softwood stems should snap in response to bending, and these are the stems you need for propagation. Remove the lower leaves from your stem, dip the cut end in rooting hormone, and then set it into a soilless potting medium. Tuck it in well, then cover it in a plastic bag or container to mimic the conditions of a greenhouse. Set the cutting in bright indirect light, keeping the potting mix moist.
Roots should develop in around 4 to 6 weeks, at which point you can remove the plastic bag or container and transplant the cutting to a larger pot. Allow these new plants to develop over the coming months, planting the tree outside in spring.
The flowers of the vitex tree appear on long spikes and bloom from spring through fall. They are typically a purple-blue color, but some varieties grow pink and white flowers. The blooms have a pleasant scent and are attractive to butterflies and other pollinators. Once spent, the flowers develop into dark berries, which also have a pleasing fragrance. Each berry contains four seeds that resemble peppercorns.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I prolong my chaste tree’s flowering season?
The best way to keep your vitex chaste tree flowering is to snip off individual flower stems before or as soon as they start to form seeds. This helps encourage the plant to bloom again.
Do chaste trees attract wildlife?
Chaste trees are environmentally friendly plants that provide nectar to bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies.
Vitex Chaste Tree Varieties
This cultivar grows to around 6 feet in height, with a similar-sized spread. It features deep blue flowers on spikes that range from 12 to 18 inches long.
This variety of vitex grows rapidly to heights of 15 feet, with a maximum spread of 20 feet. It features white blooms.
This is one of the more common vitex trees you will see, typically growing to 15 feet tall. Its flowers are purple-blue, and the foliage of the tree is leaf spot-resistant (Clemson University Cooperative Extension).
This compact variety grows well as a shrub, as it reaches heights of just 3 feet, and is wider than it is tall with a spread of 4 feet. It is a relatively new cultivar, introduced in 2016, and features dainty blue flowers (North Carolina State University Extension).
The flowers of this vitex plant are pink and heavily scented. It grows up to 15 feet tall and 15 feet wide.