Shoal Creek Chaste TreeVitex agnus-castus 'Shoal Creek'
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Vitex agnus-castus 'Shoal Creek'
Outdoor Growing zone
The Shoal Creek Chaste Tree is a large shrub or small, multi-stem deciduous tree growing up to 15 feet tall and 12 feet wide in warm regions, and it stays smaller in cooler areas. It has lobed, gray-green leaves that smell of sage and long spikes of blue-violet flowers from early summer into fall, depending on your area. It can be grown as a small flowering shrub in cooler zones, and a flowering tree or wall-plant in warmer areas. A great choice for xeric gardening, coastal locations, and any sunny, hot part of your garden.
Full sun is great for the Shoal Creek Chaste Tree, that will grow in any well-drained soil. Once established it is very drought resistant, as well as growing with salt-spray and in salty soil. It normally has no pests or diseases and it is deer resistant. Some formative pruning of young plants and a spring trimming will give the best results.
We don’t hear the word chaste used much anymore, in these liberal times, and anyway, you could hardly describe the abundant flowering of this tree as ‘chaste’. It is one of those plants that has no relatives in our gardens, but with its outstanding beauty it shouldn’t be ignored, but grown wherever it can be. Flowering late in the summer, it is just what our hearts need at that time – a fresh brightness in the garden, and blue is especially valuable, and always rare. In fact, there are very few blue-flowering shrubs at all, so that is another reason to choose the Shoal Creek Chaste Tree, a fabulous sight when in bloom, with its foot-long clusters of bright blue-violet flowers at the ends of branches. This spectacular shrub is rarely seen in most areas, yet it is easy to grow and its strange absence from our gardens is something you can easily set right.
The Shoal Creek Chaste Tree is an upright, deciduous shrub growing into a vase-shaped small tree. It reaches about 15 feet tall and 12 feet wide in warmer zones, growing smaller in cooler areas. In zones 5 and 6 it is often killed back above ground, but the roots survive, and it will push up new shoots that will grow to between 4 and 7 feet tall, usually flowering well. The leaves are gray-green and smell of sage when crushed. They are divided into 5 or 7 leaflets, like the fingers of your hand, and each leaflet is about 6 inches long. In mid or late summer flower clusters develop at the ends of the new stems, and these are 12 inches long, densely clustered with small, open flowers of a rich lavender blue color. These attract scores of butterflies, hummingbirds and bees, bringing lots of interest into your garden. Flowering often continues into the fall.
In cool zones this tree is best planted among shrubs and flowers, where it forms an attractive, late-blooming bush about 5 feet tall, dying back each year. In warmer zones it can be planted as a lawn specimen, or background tree in beds, in a row as a border or for summer screening, and as an interesting semi-wild plant in a natural garden. In areas with cool summers it is often grown as a wall-shrub, to maximize flowering. Choose a sunny wall and spread out the branches as it grows. In spring prune back to a framework of older stems, which will sprout and flower well in the extra warmth against the wall. In areas with hotter summers this tree is a profuse bloomer, and an excellent choice for xeric gardening. It grows well in coastal areas and at the beach.
The Shoal Creek Chaste Tree is hardy from zone 6 to zone 9, growing best in areas with hot, sunny, dry summers. It is tolerant of high humidity.
Grow the Shoal Creek Chaste Tree in full sun for the best flowering. It grows well in any well-drained soil, but avoid planting it in wet areas and heavy, often-wet soils. Once established, don’t overwater it. This plant will grow in brackish water, and salty soils. It resists salt spray from the ocean.
This tree has no significant pests or diseases, and it is deer resistant. Prune in spring, removing any dead stems and weak growth to develop a sturdy multi-stem structure. Once mature, stems from the previous year can be cut back to a framework of older branches annually, to encourage a bushy plant and plenty of blooms.
The Chaste tree, Vitex agnus-castus, grows naturally throughout southern Europe, around the Mediterranean and into Central Asia. The name Vitex means ‘able to be woven’, and in Greece the stems are still sometimes used for basket making. It was believed to ‘reduce lust’ and the leaves were used to stuff the mattresses and pillows of monks. ‘agnus-castus’ is a double-barreled made-up word meaning ‘lust-lust’. The dried seed-pods (fruits) are called ‘monks’ pepper’ and look a little like peppercorns. A tea made from them was traditionally used to treat infertility in women and menstrual symptoms, but there is only very limited research showing it might be effective.
The variety called ‘Shoal Creek’ has larger than normal flowers in a stronger violet-blue color. It is more vigorous growing and more likely to flower in cooler regions. We don’t know where this recent introduction was developed, but it might have been at the Louisiana State University College of Agriculture in Baton Rouge.
The Shoal Creek Chaste Tree was made the Louisiana Super Plant for Spring 2011 and given a Gold Medal by the prestigious Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. That tells you what a quality plant this is – and we agree. If it is a new tree to you, give it a try – you are going to love how easy it is to grow and how well it does. Order now, though, because our stock is very limited, and this hard-to-find tree will soon sell out.