July 5, 2014
There are some garden events that you can set your calendar on, and if it's June, then the vitex are blooming. Vitex are one those plants that that make gardeners and non-gardeners alike stop and take notice. Vitex, also known as Chastetree, makes an outstanding small tree for the landscape. It typically is produced as a multi-stem tree, and will eventually grow to 15 to 20 feet tall and wide. The flowering period begins around Memorial Day on the Gulf Coast and soon afterwards in north Mississippi. The flowers are called panicles, and are composed of many clusters of small individual flowers. Some varieties have panicles up to 18 inches long. The color can be a brilliant, nearly fluorescent blue and have the appearance of being hazy and cloud-like. They have a delicate fragrance described as being slightly floral and rose scented. There is an improved selection called Shoal Creek that is worth asking for at the garden centers and nurseries. The spring/summer flush of flowers is more vigorous and the flower color is a more intense and deeper blue than the regular species. But the flower color is not limited to bluish purple. There are some really pretty pink selections available, like Pink Sensation. The four to six inch long panicles are not as big as some other vitex varieties, but the abundant clear light pink panicles are produced all summer long. Vitex is the perfect plant for our hot southern summers. When planted in the full sun it will make the perfect specimen plant in your landscape. I'm horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening.