Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus) is a lovely deciduous tree that will grow to heights of 10 to 20 feet and will spread out nearly as far. The clusters of purple flowers that appear in late spring are strikingly beautiful and will attract honeybees, butterflies and hummingbirds to the landscape. Vitex, also known as chaste tree, can be propagated by taking softwood cuttings in late spring or early summer. Take several cuttings, because some cuttings might not root successfully.
Fill a container with coarse sand that has been moistened ahead of time. Any container with at least one drainage hole in the bottom will work.
Test a vitex stem to be sure it's at the softwood stage. If the stem is at the proper stage, it will break with a snap when you bend it. If the stem is too young, it will bend easily but won't break. If the stem is too old, it won't bend at all.
Cut a 4-inch to 6-inch stem from a healthy vitex plant, using a sharp knife or pruners. The cut should be made just below a set of leaves or buds.
Remove leaves from the lower half of the stem. Dip the bottom inch of the stem in powdered or liquid rooting hormone. Use a pencil to make a hole in the damp sand, and plant the stem cutting. It's beneficial to plant several cuttings in the same container because the stems will share the hormones in the soil. Just be sure the stems don't touch.
Place a clear plastic bag over the container. Put the container in bright, indirect light. Avoid putting the container directly in a sunny window, because the sun will magnify through the plastic, making it hot enough to scorch the cutting.
Check the sand daily; mist inside the bag if the sand feels dry to the touch. The sand should never be allowed to dry out, but should be kept just lightly moist. Too much moisture can cause the stems to rot.
Check for roots in about four to five weeks by removing one or two cuttings from the soil with a spoon. If the cuttings haven't rooted, check again after another two weeks.
Remove the plastic bag when the vitex stems have taken root. After seven to 10 days, plant each cutting in a 4-inch to 6-inch container filled with commercial potting mixture.
Allow the vitex to mature for a few more weeks, then plant the vitex outdoors in a spot where the shrub will be protected from cold winds and hot sunlight. After two years, plant the shrub in its permanent home.
Things You Will Need
- Container with bottom drainage
- Coarse sand
- Sharp knife or pruners
- Powdered or liquid rooting hormone
- Spray bottle
- 4-inch to 6-inch container
- Commercial potting mixture
- Clear plastic bag