The chaste tree (Vitex angus-castus) possesses many commendable qualities, with pros far outnumbering the cons. Indeed, it's hard to find downsides to the tree, which grows up to 20 feet, unless pruned to keep it a shrub. Flowers bloom in pale purple or nearly blue, with varieties offering colors like white and pink. Chaste tree leaves look similar to those of marijuana; the chaste tree is sometimes called the hemp tree. According to the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension, the trees got their name as the ancient Greeks used extracts from the plant's fruits to calm "sexual passions."
Pro: Easy Care
Among the top chaste tree pros growers might list is the tree's easy care. It's drought resistant, isn't picky when it comes to soil, and isn't much bothered by disease and pests.
Chaste trees are long-flowering, their blooms appearing in the spring or summer, depending on your location, and continuing into the fall. The flowers cluster together on spikes up to 6 inches long. The flowers emerge on new growth, so pruning won't end flowering.
Besides its attractive flowers, the chaste tree also offers fragrance. The leaves smell like sage to some, and when crushed, smell peppery. Following the flowers, fruits look something like peppercorns. The peppery smell and the fruits explain another alternate name of the chaste tree: pepper bush.
The chaste tree is versatile. If a grower wants to keep its growth under control, say for use as a border, chaste tree can be cut to the ground in late winter. It can also be trained to be a multibranching, multitrunked tree or a tree with a single trunk, this accomplished by pruning lower branches.
Thanks to its flowers, a downside for some growers is the chaste tree's attractiveness to bees. They are so attractive that beekeepers sometimes plant chaste trees as a source of nectar. To avoid problems, the tree shouldn't be planted where a lot of people will pass near it. Besides bees, the flowers also attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
The tree is not particularly long-lived, which might be frustrating for those who have invested a lot of time training the tree in order to achieve the umbrella-like shape the tree can attain. Chaste tree, the Alabama Cooperative Extension reports, begins declining after about two decades.
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