Vitex agnus-castus

Vitex

Vitex agnus-castus

Also know as Texas Lilac, Chaste Tree, Lilac Chaste Tree, Abraham’s Balm, Mexican lavender, hemp tree, sage tree, Indian spice, Chaste berry, or Monk’s pepper. According to the Texas A&M (“Aggie”) website, the vitex is a spectacular butterfly-attracting plant, hummingbirds love it, and it’s deer-resistant.

The following quote was found on the Aggie site also…

‘Texas Lilac’ Vitex

Horticulturists now have identified and tested improved varieties such as ‘Montrose Purple’, ‘LeCompte’ and ‘Shoal Creek’ which have 8- to 12-inch long spikes.  These varieties will all be marketed under the name, ‘Texas Lilac’ Vitex.

The bloom spikes on these improved varieties are not only large and beautiful, they’re fragrant and provide long-lasting cut flowers.

But, once the bloom spikes have provided several weeks of spectacle, black and dark-brown seeds result.  Not only do these seeds prevent a additional bloom spikes, they may, in some regions, produce a mutant seedling population that will not be as glamourous (sic) as the parent plants.

What to do?  Deadhead, of course.  If you want to enjoy the full monty of these spectacular blossoms you must prune the spent blooms. Diligently. The challenge is that Vitex is extremely fast growing.  It can grow into a small tree if not cut to the ground yearly.

The seed pods of  ‘Texas Lilac’ Vitex must be removed after EVERY bloom cycle – it will be blooming again in less than a month.

The Plant Answers website gives this advice:

…[T]o some people, cutting is like killing. If you have that attitude, you will not enjoy the maximum floral display of the Texas Lilac Vitex* – only the spring bloom. The Texas Lilac Vitex* must be cut after EVERY bloom cycle, and cut back to the ground EVERY winter….

Remember, shrubs that bloom after June usually do so from buds that are formed on shoots that grow the same year. These shrubs should be pruned in late winter to promote vigorous shoot-growth in spring….

It is best to remove the seed pods before they harden-the sooner after the bloom petals drop, the better, and the faster the plant will come back into bloom.

To annually maintain the plant in a desirable size range of six feet, plants should be cut within a few inches of the ground every winter. It will sprout and bloom by June if cut to the ground in winter. If the plant has gotten large during the previous growing season, you can use a small chain saw to cut them back, then use hedge shears to deadhead them during the growing season. Cutting the plants back will make the spikes much longer but, of course, there will be fewer of them (at least with the initial cut-down)

One of our two ‘Texas Lilac’ Vitex (blue blooming) plants was blooming a few days ago. Here is a photo of it.

Blue-Blooming Vitex

Blue-Blooming Vitex

History & Background:

The “British Gardener” website offers some interesting history about the plant and its use by the ancient Greeks and Romans. The Aggie site reports that it was used medicinally and (among other “fun facts”) provides this insight: “The English name for Vitex agnus castus, “chaste tree”, is derived from the belief that the plant would suppress libido in women.” 🙂

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