Thursday, May 27, 2010

Three for Thursday: Vitex 'Montrose Purple'

Every year at this time, the number one question from visitors to my corner of Katy is "WHAT is that tree????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!", followed by "Where can I get one?"




This is Vitex agnus-castus 'Montrose Purple', aka Chaste Tree, Texas Lilac or Lavender Tree. 'Montrose Purple' and 'Shoal Creek' seem to be the best varieties for this area: the bloom spikes are larger and deeper in hue than the species. Most of the independent nurseries in the greater Houston area should carry them.

Vitex are very easy to grow. Plant them in full sun in well-drained soil and give them room to spread. They can be grown as large shrubs, or limbed up and shaped into a small tree, as this one has been. They make lovely multi-trunked trees, and the HG has long been unhappy with me that I didn't shape ours that way. Vitex are fast growing and established plants purchased from a nursery should bloom for you their first year. Be aware that they do reseed (seedlings are easy to pull). They are deciduous trees and will lose their leaves before new growth emerges in spring. The leaves are very fragrant, with a sharp aroma. If you're prone to allergies, the leaves may cause problems for you as they have for me: mild irritation of the eyes and sinuses. Removing the spent blooms/seed pods can encourage another flush of bloom but in a tree of this size, that can be a difficult task! This year I chose not to prune off the spent bloom tips and I've been pleasantly surprised in how little difference it made to the lushness of the blooms.

4 comments:

Gail said...

It's one of my favorite trees~and you've pruned it up beautifully...gail

LindaCTG said...

That is gorgeous! No wonder the neighbors always ask about us. Actually, today at our HEB, there is one that is so lovely that I wished I had my camera.

Now: you're in a different spot than we are, but do you cut it back down every year to keep it fluffy? Or does it stay fluffy with just your limb pruning?

Cindy, MCOK said...

Gail, they really put on quite a show this time of year!

Linda, I've never cut this one all the way down and let it regrow. Most years I do nothing more than light pruning to eliminate dead wood or open up the interior of the tree. I have one in the back that is poorly sited and I've been whacking it periodically while I decide whether to dig it. It comes roaring back pretty quickly each time I whack!

Tiffan Chilcott Wong said...

This is beautiful! I've seen a couple in our neighborhood (Memorial Parkway) and have been wondering if it was simply a variant of the typical crape myrtle that I just hadn't seen yet. How lovely!