Common names: “Texas Lilac Vitex”, “Texas Lilac”, “Vitex”, “Hemp Tree”, “Sage Tree”, “Indian Spice” or “Chaste Tree”
Botanical names: Vitex agnus-castus
A favorite in Texas gardens, the Texas Lilac Vitex grows quickly and offers easy maintenance. Although thought to be a native of China, India and Southern Europe, it has been cultivated in North America for over 300 years. North Texas gardeners enjoy this Texas Superstar Plant as either a large shrub or small tree and it works well in xeriscape gardens.
Size: 10-15 feet tall, up to 15 feet wide
Flowers: Profuse spikes of lavender flowers bloom heavily in the early summer and then sporadically throughout the summer and fall.
Bloom time: May to September
Leaves: Palmate, compound leaves with five to seven leaflets. Leaves have a spicy fragrance when crushed. Fall color is yellow.
Plant Type: Deciduous shrub (loses leaves in winter)
Pests and Disease Problems: Vitex is heat, drought and pest tolerant.
Growing in North Texas
Propagate Vitex from seeds or cuttings. You can also propagate by layering lowering limbs (see NCSU instructions on layering). Transplant volunteer seedlings elsewhere in the garden. Fall remains the best time to transplant Vitex because they establish more easily in cooler weather. However, you can add container-grown plants into the landscape at any time.
Vitex grows best in full sun — at least 6 hours per day. Once established, Vitex requires only a little supplemental water every week or two depending on rainfall. Vitex accepts a wide range of soil conditions provided the soil is not compacted. Fertilize at planting time and each spring with either a timed-release product or a layer of compost.
Trim Vitex in late winter to early spring. Thin out older canes to encourage new growth from the base. It blooms on new wood so prune before foliage emerges in the spring. Deadhead spent spikes to encourage continuous flowering.
Warning: The Vitex’s juice or sap is an irritant that can cause painful blisters.
Easy Gardens for North Central Texas; Steve Huddleston and Pamela Crawford; Color Garden Publishing; 2009; pp 270-271
Keywords (tags): full sun, deciduous, flowering, shrub, tree, xeriscape, bees, butterflies, lavender; easy; drought tolerant; pest resistant