Chaste Tree Is Pure Delight

June 19, 2009 | By | Comments (227)

The new July 2009 issue of Southern Living features an incredibly entertaining and informative story written by me about three great trees for summer blooms. In case you’re too cheap to buy  it, let me discuss my favorite tree of the bunch — chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus).


Native to southern Europe and central Asia, chaste tree quickly grows into a multi-trunked tree about 10 to 20 feet tall and wide with a broad, spreading habit. It gets its name from the erroneous medieval belief that a potion made from it could curb the libido. In reality, wearing a house dress with orthopedic shoes and multiple nose piercings is much more effective.

That doesn’t mean that chaste tree doesn’t have its pharmacological uses. An extract made from Vitex supposedly does a very good job of controlling PMS. Which means any of you guys out there who are routinely beaten every 28 days should definitely plant one in the yard.

Blue for You

But the best thing about chaste tree, in my uber-learned opinion, is the flowers. Chaste tree is one of the very few winter-hardy trees out there that sports true blue flowers (although they can also be pink, purple, or white). The one you’re looking at here is ‘Abbeville Blue.’ which bears large, spectacular panicles of deep-blue flowers in summer. Other selections I like include ‘Montrose Purple’ (purple blooms), ‘Shoal Creek’ (blue-violet), and ‘Silver Spires.’ (white). If you buy an unnamed chaste tree tree from a nursery, buy it in bloom so you can see the color of the flowers and the general shape of the plant. A good mail-order source for named selections is Forest Farm.

The Skinny on Chaste Tree

Here are some different ways to use chaste tree in the landscape:

1. As a single specimen in the lawn

2. In a row along a property line or a driveway

3. Limbed-up in a border with lower plants growing beneath it

4. As a small patio tree

Few trees are as easy to grow. Here’s the low-down:

Light: Full sun

Soil: Well-drained

Water; Regular moisture at first — very drought tolerant once established

Pests: None serious

Pruning: Not the tidiest plant in the world. Needs regular pruning to produce an attractive multi-trunked tree. Prune in winter. Clean out the entire center of the tree, removing all side branches from main 4 to 5 trunks. Also remove messy, twiggy growth that tends to crowd the ends of the branches. As an option, cut entire plant to ground in winter. It will sprout in spring and bloom in summer, although later than chaste trees not pruned so severely. You can also force a second bloom in summer by removing the first flush of blooms as soon as they fade.

Salt & wind tolerance: Good

Cold-hardiness: Winter-hardy through Zone 6; in Zone 5, may be killed to the ground in winter, but will sprout and bloom the following summer.

Bee alert: Bumblebees love this plant above all others and will even spend the night on the flowers. Keep this in mind if bees freak you out.


  1. LaFawne

    Is Vitex non toxic to dogs?

    May 7, 2016 at 10:26 pm
  2. Grumpy Gardener


    Doesn’t sound good. Maybe your tree has died to the ground. If so, it will send up new growth from the bottom that will grow quickly. Or maybe it’s completely dead. Only time will tell.

    May 5, 2016 at 2:37 pm
  3. Jacqui

    So it’s May no leaves on my chaste tree seems lifeless. What to do?

    May 3, 2016 at 6:32 pm
  4. bw

    thanks much for the suggestions! yucca & autumn sage together would look great around the base of the chaste’s. glad never thought of that! glad i stopped by your site. thanks again.


    >>Grumpy Gardener


    >>Try lantana, blanket flower, sedum, yucca, echeveria, aloe, sempervivum, ice plant, hedgehog cactus, Mexican feather grass, ruby grass, lamb’s ears, rock rose, and autumn sage.

    March 29, 2016 at 3:41 pm
  5. Grumpy Gardener


    Try lantana, blanket flower, sedum, yucca, echeveria, aloe, sempervivum, ice plant, hedgehog cactus, Mexican feather grass, ruby grass, lamb’s ears, rock rose, and autumn sage.

    March 29, 2016 at 1:18 pm
  6. bw

    i have five chaste trees in a row each with pavers making a circle around base of each. that area between pavers and tree has a thin layer of bark chips. i would like to plant a few small plants in those areas. like maybe 2-3 plants for each chaste trees. sort of tired of the “brown bark circle” at base. was great at first but now looks a bit bare.

    i live in nevada/arizona area. can i get a few suggestions on plants that i could plant at base of tree in that area? pretty plants that wouldn’t require much water and not be adverse to the chaste? thx

    March 28, 2016 at 4:56 am
  7. Grumpy Gardener


    I know of no reason why you couldn’t.

    I don’t know why your chaste tree changed color. Maybe a branch mutated. But the crepe myrtle isn’t the cause.

    Serial K,
    Southern Living spells it “crepe.” It always has and always will.

    February 23, 2016 at 3:03 pm
  8. Michelle Tallon

    Does anyone know if you can burn the wood of a chaste in a fireplace once it has dried?

    February 16, 2016 at 4:57 pm
  9. Serial K.

    Please, people, it’s CRAPE myrtle, not CREPE myrtle.

    January 29, 2016 at 2:40 am
  10. Serial K.

    Has anyone had luck planting this tree from seed? I have plenty of the seeds that hang on all winter.

    January 29, 2016 at 2:38 am
  11. ashley white

    I have had a chaste tree in my yard for several years now, and I love it. However, last spring I added a crepe myrtle to my yard. The following fall I noticed my chaste tree started putting out branches that had white blooms and looked like the crepe myrtle! This had never happend before, so it has to be because of the addition of the crepe myrtle. What is going on? And can I get my chaste tree to just be a chaste tree instead of both?!

    January 20, 2016 at 9:01 am
  12. Steve Bender


    If you remove the faded flowers in summer before they form seeds, you’ll get a second bloom. It’s too late for this to work now, however.

    September 19, 2015 at 9:12 am
  13. Diane

    I am new to that kind of tree, should I remove dead flowers and when should it be done

    September 18, 2015 at 3:27 pm
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    September 1, 2015 at 5:13 pm
  15. Steve Bender


    To be honest, I don’t know. It will surely die to the ground each winter and then have to grow back from the roots. That doesn’t mean you won’t get blooms though. If you plant one, let me know what happens. BTW, I love Nova Scotia.

    August 6, 2015 at 2:18 pm
  16. Eileen Carrigan

    Can I grow this tree in eastern Nova Scotia Canada??

    August 2, 2015 at 10:54 am
  17. Steve Bender


    An easy way to find a mail-order source is to Google the name of the plant plus “mail-order source.”

    July 30, 2015 at 10:16 am
  18. Rebekah Coryell

    I read about so many plats that I would love to try. Are there mail order companies that I could order from?

    July 27, 2015 at 12:12 pm
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    […] Chaste Tree Is Pure Delight […]

    July 26, 2015 at 10:00 am
  20. Sharon Hoffman

    Steve – thanks for the great information in the original article and answers to the comments. I have a Chaste Tree planted as a specimen tree several years ago – it’s always done great in our harsh West-Texas weather an has been a favorite of mine. This year, the tree has not grown back leaves on the old wood/branches, when it always has before. It only has new growth from the base and it is flowering, so I know the roots are still alive. Do you think there’s a chance it will come back at the top? I can cut down the old wood, but I love the shape of the existing tree and would hate to “start all over”. I have another Chaste Tree in a different location that is doing well, but we have had a record amount of rainfall this year, and the tree might not have liked all the rain we received in the spring. Thanks for continuing to look at your comments, happy gardening:)

    June 26, 2015 at 10:56 am
  21. Steve Bender

    Seedlings are often quite different from their parents. Chaste tree may be blue, purple, pink, or white.

    June 22, 2015 at 1:19 pm
  22. Steve Bender


    That’s not common. It must just be the cultivar.

    June 22, 2015 at 1:17 pm
  23. douglas T. Hawes

    I have a question. I have a chaste tree in my backyard. Today I realized that the flowers start out in the early morning the color pink and gradually darken through the day to a dark blue. Is this just my Texas cultivar or is this common with the species.

    June 8, 2015 at 7:50 pm
  24. Mary Filos

    Can I buy one The vitex tree from you?

    May 27, 2015 at 9:32 am
  25. Patriica Buchanan

    I have a seven year old chaste tree in the back yard that is about 20 ft tall with beautiful dark purple flowers. The chaste tree in the front yard is a baby of the one in the back and only three years old but is putting out almost white flowers. Can you tell me why the color is so different between trees? Both get full sun.

    May 20, 2015 at 8:15 pm
  26. Shelley Bero

    I wanted to leave my observations on growing a chaste tree in Southern California, Zone 9b.
    I planted mine about three years ago against a north facing fence. It seemed to grow and bloom alright, reaching about 6 ft tall. But I was concerned because it would drop all its leaves starting at the end of summer. Then I realized that it was probably not getting enough sun, as a Crepe Myrtle next to it was shading it. The branches had become very leggy. So I pruned it back by 2/3 and transplanted it to a sunnier spot. I tried to get as big as root ball as I could and still lift it myself. Also, I transplanted it in the spring, when it was dormant, just before the new growth began. I’m happy to see that it’s doing great. The little tree seems to love the new location and is leaving out all over. Although I cut it back to only 30″ tall, The four main branches have a twisted and gnarled form that looks like a bonsai tree. I’m very happy with it I can’t wait to see if it Will bloom this year.

    May 2, 2015 at 5:40 pm
  27. Steve Bender


    Yes, you can root cuttings, as long as the cut stem is still slightly pliable and not old and woody.

    July 31, 2014 at 11:33 am

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