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Part of the fun of moving into a house built back in the 1980s is being surprised by the number of things that just pop up in the landscape.
We moved into our new place last August. There's over an acre that was simply unattended for at least two years, one of which included a drought. The majority of the previous owners' landscape choices are questionable to say the least ... like bending Cypress trees allowed to grow out over the pool like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.
But, hallelujah, there are three Vitex trees that are probably the smartest choices those people made over 25 years ago. They're on the verge of blooming, and they will likely keep their blooms for the next four months. I truly love that they are so low-maintenance — I fed them just one time with a slow-release blooming plant food, and I likely will not do anything else to them until January or February when I prune the expired seed pods.
I wish more people planted Vitex instead of crape myrtles. They don't get hammered with powdery mildew or insect infestations the way most crapes do. As long as they have ample sun, this fast-growing, somewhat small blooming tree will give you a bounty of purple spikes that sort of look like tufts of lavender. Coincidentally, Vitex can often be found listed on the Internet as a "lavender tree" or "chaste tree."
Even though I consider it a "small" tree, it has an ability to develop multiple trunks. Most found in this region are 6-12 feet tall and mostly bloom in purple. Some very mature Vitex in Houston have reached 20 feet, however, and white or pink versions are found here and there.
I have noted in past articles and blogs that Vitex is a great "drought-tolerant" plant, but I think my favorite attribute is how adaptable it is to almost any kind of soil. In other words, it tolerates poor soil ... and poor planting practices.
I suppose my only negative comment is that it looks kind of scraggly during the winter when there are no leaves or blooms. Then again, so do crape myrtles. And the blooms, like those of crapes, and despite the "lavender" moniker, are not aromatic at all.
By the way, remember that the blooms happen on new wood. So make sure to prune them like crape myrtles coming out of winter. Just don't over-prune them.
And, much as with the crape, almost any kind of food will work ... from standard crape myrtle food to rose food.