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.
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.
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.
- 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.