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How to Grow Vitex — Chaste Tree

Vitex agnus-castus flowers, also called Chasteberry
Vitex agnus-castus flowers, also called Chasteberry

Vitex–commonly called chaste or chaste tree–is grown for its handsome, divided leaves, and clustered flowers. There are both evergreen and deciduous Vitex. Vitex are mostly tropical and subtropical plants. Only a few of the many species are grown in gardens.

Vitex bears mid- to late-summer purple flower spikes and aromatic silvery foliage. there are some white-flowering cultivars.

Vitex’s common name chaste tree or chasteberry comes from a time when monks would season their food with the peppery seeds thinking that they inhibited carnal desire.

There are about 250 species in the Vitex genus. Vitex is a widespread genus found in tropical woodlands and dry river beds.

Chaste tree, Vitex agnus-castus

Get to Know Vitex 

  • Plant type: Deciduous or evergreen shrubs
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 6 to 9 
  • Hardiness:  Hardy to Zone 6
  • Height and width: 8 to 24 feet (2.4-7.3m) tall and wide
  • Foliage: Exotic-looking, aromatic foliage with handsome, divided leaves. 
  • Flowers: Small, fragrant, lilac, pale violet, or sometimes white flowers in spikelike clusters.  
  • Bloom time: Late summer 
  • Uses: Shrub border, gardens; modern herbalists use Vitex to treat problems related to menstruation. 
  • Garden companions: Panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata)  
  • Common name: Chaste tree, chasteberry
  • Botanical name: Vitex
  • Family name: Verbenaceae 
  • Origin: Tropical regions

Where to Plant Vitex 

  • Plant Vitex in full sun or partial shade.  
  • Plant Vitex in humus-rich, well-drained, slightly alkaline soil. 
  • All Vitex species will tolerate seacoast conditions. 
Pink pinnacle Vitex, Vitex agnus-castus 'Pink Pinnacle'
Pink pinnacle Vitex, Vitex agnus-castus ‘Pink Pinnacle’

When to Plant Vitex 

  • Set container-grown Vitex in the garden in spring or fall.
  • Plant Vitex seed in spring or fall. 

Planting and Spacing Vitex 

  • Space Vitex 8 to 24 feet (2.4-7.3m) apart depending on the cultivar.

How to Water and Feed Vitex 

  • Keep the soil evenly moist.
  • Fertilize Vitex with an all-purpose organic fertilizer in spring.

How to Care for Vitex 

  • Deciduous species are root hardy and can be treated as perennials in colder parts of their range.

Vitex Pests and Diseases 

  • Vitex can develop root rot and leaf spot. 
  • Vitex can develop scale. 
Leaves of Vitex lucens
Leaves of Vitex lucens

Vitex Propagation 

  • Sow seed in evenly prepared soil in autumn or spring.
  • Take Vitex cuttings in midsummer.  

Vitex Varieties to Grow 

  • Vitex agnus-castus var. latifolia, native of western Asia and southern Europe, this open species will form a shrub about 10 feet (3.1m) tall and wide but can be pruned as a tree up to 20 feet (6.1m) tall. Has broader, aromatic, compound leaves that are gray-green, silvery underneath, and aromatic. Lavender flowers are borne in spiky panicles from mid- to late summer. Is a more vigorous grower and thrives in heat. Tolerant of various soils, but prefers well-drained soil. Good in a shrub border. If trained high makes a good small shade tree. Plants treated as perennials should be cut to within 1 foot (.3m) of ground in spring; they will bloom on new growth. Zones 7 to 10.  
  • V. lucens, New Zealand Chaste Tree, evergreen tree. Slow to moderate growth to 40-60 feet (12.2-18.3m). Divided leaves with three to five glossy, corrugated-looking, roundish, 5 inches (12.7cm) long leaflets. In winter, loose clusters of pink buds form in leaf joints; these open to lavender-pink, 1 inch (2.5cm) flowers during warm weather. Blossoms are followed by bright red fruits that resemble small cherries. Needs deep, rich soil and protection from frost while young.  
  • V. negundo, Chaste tree, native from East Asia to southeast Africa, this shrub is openly branched and grows 10-15 feet (3.1-4.6m) tall and wide. The grayish-green compound palmate leaves have three to seven leaflets, often serrated. The blue to lavender flowers bloom in spikes from mid-to late summer. Zones 6 to 10.  
  • ‘Silver Spire’ has white flowers.  

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