As the summer months slowly begin to wind down, the Chaste Tree, or Vitex, takes center stage in your landscape. Known locally as the Texas Lilac, this beautiful shrub can quickly grow into a multi-trunked tree and features spiky clusters of lavender flowers projecting outward above the leaves.
This gorgeous tree attracts a variety of pollinators including butterflies, birds and bees. While hummingbirds are there for the nectar, several other bird species prefer the small berries; dark, peppercorn-size fruit widely used for medicinal purposes.
When mass-planted, this deciduous shrub makes an excellent screen or a mixed shrub barrier. It endures the hot, dry summer months and can tolerate the cold. The Chaste Tree does well during our winters; it may freeze back but will regrow swiftly in the spring.
Prune regularly to clean up crowded growth, and monitor seed spreading, as this shrub can become invasive if left unchecked. You can also promote a second bloom by removing wilted flowers to keep the show going.
There are several color varieties of Chaste Tree that include purple, pink and white. If shopping at a nursery, be sure the tree is in bloom to verify what color you’re getting (if you have a preference). This tree has actually been designated a Texas Superstar Plant by the Texas AgriLife Research program.
Spacing and height, 10’ to 15.’ Chaste Trees, although native to Europe and Asia, can be easily grown in the Coastal Bend region. It is a low-maintenance shrub that prefers full sun and well-drained soil. This hardy shrub does not mind even the hottest summer days in the Coastal Bend, but be sure to water until established; then no supplemental water should be needed. It will grow quickly in alkaline or acidic soils and no insects or diseases are a serious threat.
When planting Texas Lilac, dig the hole twice as wide as the plant and as deep as the root ball. Choose a spot that receives full sun for the best blooms. Prune in late winter and remove any unwanted volunteer plants. This shrub makes a quick comeback, so give it some space to bush out. Plant as a single specimen tree or line them up to create a stunning row display of summer blooms.
The name “chaste” comes from an ancient belief that the berries would decrease libido in men. Thus, monks would season their meals with them to help maintain their vows of chastity. It’s also said that consuming chasteberry can balance hormones related to premenstrual syndrome by stimulating progesterone in women. There are also some studies that suggest chasteberry can help with infertility—but as always, consult with your primary care physician before taking supplements.
Looking for more gardening content? Check out tips for growing the Fiery Summer Floral: Pride of Barbados