Sunday, May 17, 2009

Chaste tree love

If you’re looking for a large shrub or small specimen tree, you can’t go wrong with a Vitex, often called chaste tree or lilac chaste tree. Some call it hemp tree or sage tree.

I have two in my yard, one that has been established for about five years now (it’s the one in the photo) and the other entering its second year. They both have brought much pleasure, not only for their beautiful 8-12 inch spires of lavender blooms (which makes it less painful knowing we can’t grow lilacs in the South), but also for their fragrant leaves, which resemble hemp leaves. The leaves give off a pleasant, herbal fragrance, which only adds to its charm.

Vitex grow well in most soils. They bloom best in full sun and are drought tolerant once established. Like its other Vervain family cousins, it attracts butterflies. Cut the spent spikes after the first flowering to encourage another spurt of blooms. Vitex respond well to pruning – you can take off as much as one-third – and come back fuller the nest spring.

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