September 2011 Plant Profile: Vitex agnus-castus

September 1st, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

I’ve decided to go with a woody species this month so I selected the fabulous Chaste Tree. Our specimen here at CUH is just coming into bloom and will absolutely peak in the next couple of weeks attracting bees, butterflies, and other wildlife while also attracting the attention of our frequent visitors who inquire as to “why do you grow butterfly bush? Don’t know you know it’s a noxious weed?!”


Vitex agnus-castus makes a wonderful substitute to the agressively self-seeding Buddleja davidii. It has a far more elegant appearance with it’s scented, silvery green, palmately compound leaflets and the conical, upright flowering stems that bear lavender flowers that really look like butterfly bush.

As a Mediterranean native, it prefers a warm environment in full sun and fairly well drained soil. It is readily available in most garden centers and while the most common form is the lilac color. Vitex also comes in white and pink. Though hardy and thrives in the Pacifc Northwest, it is VERY slow to leaf out and looks like a dead tree in early summer before it begins to leaf out. Vitex comes into its own in later summer entering fall, which makes it so ideal for later season interest.


Common Name: Chaste Tree
Family: Lamiaceae
Location: Douglas Conservatory Parking Lot
Origin: Mediterranean
Height: 5 meters
Spread: 5 meters
Bloom Time: Late August-September
Bloom Type/Color: Upright panicles of lavender, occasionally white and pink forms available.

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