Chaste Tree Is Pure Delight

June 19, 2009 | By | Comments (200)

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).

Vitex

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.

COMMENTS

  1. Sharon Andrus

    Can u root to make more trees?

    July 19, 2014 at 1:54 pm
  2. Steve Bender

    Hi Christina,

    Surprise! I’m still here! Chaste tree is not normally browsed by deer. Starving deer, of course, will eat practically anything.

    July 10, 2014 at 2:49 pm
  3. christine

    Hi . I haven’t seen any recent comments so I hope you are still out there telling us all about chaste trees. I noticed someone else had asked if they are deer resistant. Is there any data? I live in Irvington Ny – we have lots of deer roamin around our neighborhood.

    best, Christina

    July 8, 2014 at 7:00 pm
  4. Steve Bender

    Becky,

    I’ve noticed bumblebees love my chaste tree. I don’t mind because they’re very docile and absolutely won’t sting unless you grab them. There is no way to drive them away other than by cutting off the flowers.

    June 23, 2014 at 4:12 pm
  5. Becky Farmer

    Is there any way to discourage or control the bee population on the chaste trees? There are SO many that I can’t get anywhere near it.

    June 21, 2014 at 4:09 pm
  6. Steve Bender

    Glen,

    If you want to move it, it should be soon before it gets too warm. Try as get as big a root ball as you can. Water it thoroughly after the move.

    April 15, 2013 at 12:26 pm
  7. Glen

    IMy chaste tree was cut way back to from 10ft tall to about three feet tall. is there a way to safely transplant the tree to another area. If not how do I remove the root system

    April 14, 2013 at 3:33 pm
  8. Steve Bender

    Mike,

    The roots aren’t a big problem. I would probably leaves at least 4 feet between the plant and foundation though.

    April 8, 2013 at 12:28 pm
  9. Mike bennett

    How far can you plant a Chase Tree from your foundation. are the roots aggressive?

    April 4, 2013 at 4:04 pm
  10. Are You Ready For Spring? – The Daily South | Your Hub for Southern Culture

    [...] the blooms. However, plants that bloom in summer on the current year’s growth (crepe myrtle, chaste tree, gardenia, ‘Limelight’ hydrangea, ‘Knockout’ rose, angel’s trumpet, [...]

    January 31, 2013 at 9:01 am
  11. Steve Bender

    Nancy,
    Unfortunately, the leaves have no fall color.

    January 21, 2013 at 8:12 am
  12. nancy steele

    Do the leaves turn a color in fall?

    January 16, 2013 at 4:36 pm
  13. Steve Bender

    Rick,

    There’s no need to water when they’re leafless. Start watering when they begin actively growing in spring.

    January 14, 2013 at 1:27 pm
  14. Rick Brady

    Based upon your discussions, I assume its normal for the Chaste pepper to drop all it’s leaves this time of year. We planted four pepper trees this fall and our recent cold spell seemed to make them dormant. We live in Peoria, AZ so we have a short winter season. What about watering during the dormant period?

    January 6, 2013 at 10:11 am
  15. Steve Bender

    Julie,
    I don’t think chaste tree would do well as a houseplant. It’s used to having a dormant period. What you could do is wait until its leaves fall off in fall and bring it inside to a cool, dark place like a basement for winter. Then take it outside after your last frost.

    January 4, 2013 at 1:05 pm
  16. Julie V.

    I live in Minnesota; not weather conducive to growing an outdoor chaste tree. Can I grow one indoors in a pot? If so, do I water it throughout the winter after its leaves fall off in the fall? Thank you.

    December 31, 2012 at 12:01 am
  17. Steve Bender

    Corinne,
    I’m not an expert on septic systems, but I would not plant anything as large as a chaste tree on top of a septic field.

    November 21, 2012 at 8:23 am
  18. Corinne

    This Chaste Tree is beautiful and would look nice in my front yard. The area where we would put it though has leach lines from the septic system running through it. You said not to put it over ceramic pipe with joints. Does the same apply to leach lines?

    November 20, 2012 at 12:55 am
  19. Steve Bender

    CP,
    Chaste tree gropws very well in containers.

    November 5, 2012 at 9:56 am
  20. CajunPearl

    Steve, will these thrive in large containers?

    November 5, 2012 at 1:50 am
  21. Steve Bender

    Mary,
    I can’t see any obvious reasons for the problem, so your best bet is to try planting it somewhere else. Sometimes a chnage in scenery really helps. Just make sure it has well-drained soil and lots of sun. Plant so the top of the rootball is just even with the soil surface and then mulch with park or pine straw.

    October 30, 2012 at 5:07 am
  22. Mary Reynolds

    Steve, I planted a Chaste tree a few years back, Zone 8, full sun, and it has not grown more than an inch. It is still less than 3 ft. tall. It blooms weakly once during the summer, but if you blink you’ll miss it. What gives? I am planning to transplant it shortly hoping a change of depth and location might help…..
    Mary

    October 21, 2012 at 1:44 pm
  23. Steve Bender

    Mike,
    They love Zone 8!

    September 26, 2012 at 10:42 am
  24. Mike Ramsey

    I just planted two 4′ Shoal Cheek chaste trees in my South Mississippi yard. They are gorgeous. I’d never heard nor seen them before. I’m hoping my zone 8 climate will be good to them!

    September 25, 2012 at 7:54 pm
  25. Steve Bender

    Rob,
    I would probably not plant it directly over a ceramic pipe that has joints.

    September 21, 2012 at 3:27 pm
  26. rob

    Great info! Like Sandi the potential home for the chaste tree is 8 ft diameter, but it is shared with a sewer line. Do you know if the roots are aggressive enough to cause any damage to ceramic pipe?

    September 20, 2012 at 11:49 am
  27. Steve Bender

    Chanterelle,
    I haven’t seen this problem before. Vitex is tough, though, so it should survive. If you see this problem next year, at the first sign I’d try spraying the foliage according to label directions with neem oil.

    Rick,
    Vitex is tough, but it hates wet feet. Sound like this is the problem. Now is a good time to replant, but before doing so, amend you soil with lots of organic matter, such as composted manure, ground bark, and chopped leaves. Plant the root ball so that the top is about an inch above the soil surface, and then mulch over it.

    September 4, 2012 at 11:10 am
  28. Rick Brady

    In followup to my August 5th comment, I tried agressive watering and prayer to no avail. It’s pretty much on it’s last leg and looks like i will have to replace it soon. How late in the fall should I wait before planting another one in it’s place? I also think the soli was not draining well, so how should I prepare my soil before replanting?

    September 3, 2012 at 9:41 am
  29. Chanterelle

    My Vitex Agnus castus tree is going on its 2nd year in my yard, was about 3 ft high when I planted it. It began dropping its leaves 2 weeks ago & about 1/3 have yellowed & fallen. Today is only Sept. 2 and our weather has been in the 80′s all summer ( I am in So Calif, Zone 9.).

    I did notice small white feathery things clinging to the bottom of the leaves. I thought they were whiteflies at first. They are insect-like but don’t move when i touch them-they are more like pupae cases left behind by some kind of insect that hatched. Does anybody have a clue what I am dealing with here & why the leaves are dropping? I have an underground drip system, so I know thw roots haven’t dried out. Thanks, gardening friends. :<)

    September 2, 2012 at 11:18 am
  30. Riverwatch

    Cleverly written. A joy to read. I have such a tree….about 15 years old now….and two years ago the seeds on the ground started springing for in many new little trees. I have already successfully transplanted one, and since that went well, I am thinking of transplanting several. Maybe along my driveway! Thanks for the tips.

    September 1, 2012 at 4:07 pm
  31. robin

    My two new Chaste trees are doing well. I am leaving them in bush form and they have been blooming all summer. If I dont trim them back this fall, will new leaves come out on the old growth next year, like a tree? Or will the old growth need to be cut back? I live in Charlotte NC.

    August 18, 2012 at 9:09 am
  32. Steve Bender

    Molly,

    The best time to plant it would be this fall. Plant it in a sunny spot.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:36 pm
  33. Steve Bender

    Rick,

    I’ll be honest, this doesn’t sound good. I think the plant dried out at some point and in the heat of Arizona, that can be fatal. The only thing I can suggest at this point is regular watering and prayer.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:25 pm
  34. Molly

    Hello Grumpy Gardener, you are informative and fun! I have rooted a Chaste Tree cutting in a pot and it is growing well in the shade presently, even has produced a flower. I am keeping it moist. When would be the best time to move it around to find the optimal location for planting in the ground, and then when to actually move from pot to ground?

    August 6, 2012 at 1:33 pm
  35. Rick Brady

    8 month old Chaste Pepper tree in AZ which was doing very well up until 2 weeks ago, suddenly the leaves appeared inverted and it was looking stressed. Watering has been unchanged, drips with weekly deep watering, took pictures to the nursery and they suggested liquid nutrients which I added and watered in a week ago. I’m now getting leaves turning yellow to brown and dying. Any suggestions on saving this tree?

    August 5, 2012 at 8:49 am
  36. Moss

    Great article. We have a chaste tree, the main trunks of which are spreading too far apart. We ‘d like to pull them back together, maybe using steel cable encased in old garden hose and just fasten it in a ring around the 5 trunks, and just pull it tighter. Would this work? If not, how can we accomplish this without damaging the tree?

    July 31, 2012 at 6:36 am
  37. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Yes. Dip the cut end in rooting powder and then stick it into a pot filled with moist potting soil in the shade. The cutting should be about 6 inches long.

    July 17, 2012 at 10:31 am
  38. Lynn

    can a new tree be started with a cutting or ‘sucker’ branch?

    July 16, 2012 at 5:56 pm
  39. Lynn

    can a new tree be started with a cutting or ‘sucker’ branch?

    July 16, 2012 at 5:56 pm
  40. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Chaste tree drops its leaves in fall.

    July 16, 2012 at 10:45 am
  41. Rhonda

    Mr. Grumpy,
    Is the Chaste tree evergreen or will it drop all it’s leaves in my pool every year?
    Thanks!

    July 15, 2012 at 12:38 pm
  42. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Melinda,
    You can prune it to a single trunk if you want. But I prefer to grow mine as a multi-trunked, small tree with a shape like a crepe myrtle. To do this, prune in winter. Let about 5 trunks remain and prune off all the side branches from them.
    Sandi,
    Chaste trees does lose its leaves in winter. I think you can grow it in Dillsburg, but it might die back following cold winter there. Don’t worry, though. Just cut off anything that’s dead in spring and it will grow back very fast and bloom.

    June 29, 2012 at 2:48 pm
  43. Sandi

    Is this a tree that loses its leaves in the winter?

    June 29, 2012 at 10:50 am
  44. Sandi

    I live in Dillsburg, PA, I believe zone 6. I am looking for a small tree to plant next to the house between the house and the sidewalk. The bed is about 8′ wide. Do you think this is an appropriate spot for this beautiful tree and do think it will live in Dillsburg? It will be on the west side of the house with full late morning and afternoon, evening sun. Thanks for your help!

    June 29, 2012 at 10:44 am
  45. Melinda

    In Ohio and had a Chaste Tree added last October while just branches. We thought it was dead this spring almost had landscaper come back to pull it ou!! It is now end of June and it is a big bush with lots of blooms- can’t wait till fully opened. How do I make this a tree?

    June 27, 2012 at 8:43 pm
  46. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Wendy,
    Yes, to get a second bloom, you always have to trim off the seeds. And they do bloom for about 3 weeks.
    Dody,
    You can transplant them, but it’s too hot now. Wait until the fall.
    Jan,
    Thanks. Beach vitex is Vitex rotundifolia and that is considered invasive.

    June 8, 2012 at 7:50 am
  47. Jan

    I believe folks maybe confusing Chaste tree (Vitex) with beach vitex which is considered invasive and is banned in some state.

    June 6, 2012 at 11:29 am
  48. Dody

    My chaste tree is beautiful and 12 yrs old. Have many young ones. Question is will they transplant?..Moving. Have grown from seed but we’re older now and want to start some that are a bit larger..

    June 3, 2012 at 2:12 pm
  49. Wendy

    Hi Grumpy, My tree is on its second year in Tyler,TX. I did prune the blooms after they produced seeds. What I want to know is, “will I always have to do this to get a second bloom?” and “how long do the blooms last?” Mine lasted about 2-3 weeks.Also,are there varieties last bloom longer or all summer? Thank you, really love your blog!!!
    Wendy

    June 3, 2012 at 10:21 am
  50. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Michelle,
    It’s easy. Train like like you would a multi-trunked crepe myrtle. Select about 4-5 evenly spaced trunks, let them grow, and prune away the others. As the trunks grow, remove all side growth up to about 4 feet tall. Keep the middle of the tree clear of foliage, so that you can see through it.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:48 pm

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