• July 28, 2014

Shoal Creek Vitex dazzles with the rarest blue in the landscape

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Posted: Saturday, June 21, 2014 4:30 am

Oh my gosh, if you aren’t growing the Shoal Creek Vitex you are missing the opportunity to add rare iridescent blue color to the landscape like few other plants can do. I’ve written about vitex for years but the award winning Shoal Creek has to be the best in the marketplace.

It was a Louisiana Super Plant, and listed as Texas Superstar but has a wide range of adaptability from zones 5-9. In warm climates it is grown as a large deciduous shrub or small open vase tree while in colder areas it freezes to the ground and returns in the spring as a shrub, almost reminiscent of a buddleia or butterfly bush.

It is known botanically as Vitex agnus-castus, and it is a marvel with its small structure, large, marijuana-looking leaves and fragrant, blue blooms that are most rare among trees.

Centuries ago, the seeds that followed the blossoms were used to keep monks’ libidos in check. It is said that in ancient Greece during the feast of the goddess Ceres, the women of Athens made their beds with the vitex leaves to cool lust and to keep themselves chaste for a time. Today, on the other hand, an extract from these plants is used to help women who want to become pregnant.

Vitex, or lilac chaste tree, is native to Sicily and is a member of the verbena family. It was recognized by the Greeks for its medicinal properties and has been in cultivation in British gardens since 1570.

As a shrub, it is at home in the perennial or cottage garden. We have several in the Coastal Georgia Botanical Garden.

My favorite is in a complementary color scheme where it is grown in combination with a golden torch lily or Kniphofia. As a small tree, use it as an accent or specimen.

Try combining in a cluster with pink or red forms of crape myrtles. Since it can attract hummingbirds and butterflies it brings added benefits as part of any wildlife habitat. In this garden, try combining with gold and orange shades of lantana. A Shoal Creek Vitex along with a sweep of gloriosa daisies and purple coneflowers will bring out the cameras.

Choose a well-drained, fertile bed in full sun. Dig the planting hole two to three times as wide as the rootball, but no deeper. This wide hole allows for easy root expansion and acclimation in the landscape. The top of the rootball should be even with the soil profile.

The Shoal Creek Vitex is drought tolerant, easy to grow, and has virtually no pests or diseases, making it an environmentally friendly plant. Feed established trees in late winter with an application of a slow-release, 12-6-6 fertilizer per 100 square feet of planting area.

The first bloom cycle occurs in May and June with a second flush in August.

I like to remove old blossoms and give another light application in early July for a more robust bloom but you’ll love it regardless. Maintaining moisture during prolonged dry periods will also help the late summer flush of flowers.

Shoal Creek is a big improvement with larger and more vivid blue flowers.

Now is a good time to shop your local garden center to pick up a few. You will be glad you did.

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