Vitex Tree - Chaste Tree
Vitex agnus castus
The Vitex tree is a small, multi-trunked deciduous shrub or tree which can grow to 25 feet but more commonly tops out at 10. The showy season for Vitex agnus castus is mid summer when it is fully foliated and adorned by lavender flowers.
Vitex Chaste Tree
Vitex flower buds
Vitex tree flowers occur in 8-10 inch spikes at the stem tips.
The small, tubular blooms are followed by small, round, reddish fruits.
Chaste tree fruit turns black as it ripens and resembles black peppercorns.
The leaves of the Vitex tree are palmate. The are dull green on top with gray undersides. Each one will have 7-9 "fingers".
A friend of mine came to visit once while my trees were just seedlings. She thought I was growing marijuana and warned me to watch out for the police. I had a devil of a time convincing her that they were not marijuana plants!
Never having seen a marijuana plant growing, I looked for a picture of it on the Internet. They are strikingly similar. Chaste leaves are aromatic. No, they do not smell like marijuana.
Another thing Vitex agnus castus has in common with marijuana is that it is used medicinally. Only it is the fruit and not the leaves that are used. Chaste tree berry is used primarily as a natural remedy for menopause and other hormone problems.
There are a few selections of Vitex available. Vitex agnus castus Latifolia has larger leaflets than the others.
'Alba' and 'Silver Spire' have white flowers, 'Rosea' blooms pink, and the flowers of 'Abbeville Blue' are purple.
The Vitex tree will grow in any well drained soil. It likes sun and doesn't mind heat. It is drought tolerant once established and can be grown near salt water.
Vitex chaste tree is normally grown from seed or cuttings. I raised my two trees from seed. The seed is large and easy to handle. Sow them in the spring and they should sprout within 3 weeks. If you want to use cuttings, wait until the weather is warm. They will root easily then. The young plants are quick growers.
When to Prune Chaste Tree
Not much pruning is needed. You can limb the tree up to make it look more like a tree and less like a shrub. Otherwise, just shape it during early spring while it is still dormant. It won't harm the plant if you prune it at another time, it's just easier to see what you're doing when the tree is naked.
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