The chaste tree, scientifically known as Vitex agnus-castus, is a deciduous shrub or small tree native to the Mediterranean region. It is also commonly referred to as the monk's pepper or the Abraham's balm. Here is a description and care guide for the chaste tree:
Size: The chaste tree can reach a height of 10 to 20 feet (3 to 6 meters) with a spread of 10 to 15 feet (3 to 4.5 meters). It has an upright, vase-shaped growth habit.
Leaves: The leaves are palmate, consisting of 5 to 7 lance-shaped leaflets. They have a gray-green color and are aromatic when crushed.
Flowers: Chaste tree produces fragrant, tubular flowers in shades of lavender, purple, pink, or white. They form on long spikes and attract bees and butterflies.
Fruits: After flowering, the chaste tree develops small, round, berry-like fruits that are green when young and turn dark brown or black when ripe. These fruits are not edible.
Sunlight: Chaste trees thrive in full sun, so provide them with at least six hours of direct sunlight daily.
Soil: They prefer well-draining soil with moderate fertility. They can tolerate various soil types, including sandy or clay soil.
Watering: While chaste trees are drought-tolerant once established, regular watering during their early growth stages is important. Water deeply but infrequently, allowing the soil to partially dry between waterings.
Pruning: Prune the chaste tree in late winter or early spring to remove dead, damaged, or crossing branches. You can also shape the tree if desired. However, avoid heavy pruning, as it may delay or reduce flowering.
Fertilizer: Chaste trees generally do not require heavy fertilization. If needed, apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in early spring.
Pests and diseases: Chaste trees are generally resistant to pests and diseases. However, they can occasionally be affected by aphids or spider mites. Monitor the tree for any signs of infestation and treat with appropriate insecticides if necessary.
Propagation: Chaste trees can be propagated from seeds or cuttings. Seeds require stratification (a period of cold treatment) before sowing. Softwood or semi-hardwood cuttings taken in late spring or early summer can also be rooted.
Chaste trees are valued for their attractive flowers and aromatic foliage. They are commonly grown as specimen plants, in borders, or as part of butterfly gardens. With proper care, chaste trees can be a beautiful addition to your landscape.