Plant of the Week: Chaste Tree
Updated: Dec 31, 2022
Chaste tree may be one of my new favorite plants! It looks an awful lot like a butterfly bush, but it grows to a larger size. Vitex agnus-castus, is also called vitex, chaste tree, chasteberry, Abraham's balm, lilac chastetree, or monk's pepper. With all of our heat waves going on these days chaste tree, which is from the Mediterranean, is a wonderful choice for your garden because it can tolerate very dry and sunny conditions.
Not only does it have long-lasting, beautiful, lilac-colored flower spikes and interesting leaves it also has a really cool history as a medicine and aphrodisiac. Vestal virgins in the temple of Vesta in Rome used to burn this particular wood to the virgin goddess. The women of Athens took part in the 8-day Thesmophoria – a fertility festival honouring the goddess Demeter – they decorated themselves with the plant's flowers and placed its leaves on their beds to preserve their chastity. Hence the name “chaste” tree.
I planted a small one in my garden and can’t wait for it to get to a large size. This tree is more like a large shrub and it’s very easy to control. So the next time you’re at your local garden center or online by chaste tree for your garden it will make a wonderful specimen plant and a conversation piece. Many people believe that it is a cure-all for any type of sexual issue from menopause to infertility. I don’t know much about that but it sure is a great addition for any yard.
Care: Remove any flower spikes as they fade so that the flowers that come later in the season will not be diminished. Occasionally you may also need to shape the bush. In extremely cold weather the chaste tree may die all the way back to the ground but fear not it will come back.