If you'll recall just two weeks ago, your email tip was about avoiding the Mimosa tree if at all possible. While this week's tip sheet is about the Vitex (a.k.a. the Lavender Tree) I'm not telling you it's a good replacement for the Mimosa, but it is a good replacement for the Crape Myrtle. Especially if you have the kind of Crape that gets hammered with powdery mildew and aphids year after year.
I suppose I did lay the negatives on the Mimosa a little thick two weeks ago so, to counter all that negativity, I give you nothing but accolades for the Vitex (a.k.a. The Chaste Tree).
The Vitex is the small, blooming tree with the purple spikes of lavender on the end of each branch. The purple bloom heads almost look like tufts of real lavender. Unfortunately, the aroma doesn't even come close. Most people call the radio program asking: "What's the flowering shrub/tree that looks sort of like a crape myrtle but the purple blooms are different?"
The Vitex is a fast-growing ornamental with multiple trunks. There are pink and white varieties available, but they are hard to find. Most of the Vitex specimens in the Houston area are in the 6 to 10 foot range, but the mature Vitex that doesn't suffer from hard freezes can reach up to 20 feet in some cases.
The Vitex loves to be in full sun, adores our intense summers and tolerates poor soils. What more could you ask for? I suppose the only negative comment that can be made, is that it looks kind of scraggly during the winter when there are no leaves or blooms, but then again, so do Crape Myrtles. The blooms happen on new wood. So make sure they are pruned coming out of winter, just like we do with Crape myrtles. Just don't over-prune them either.
And much like the Crape, almost any kind of food will work from standard Crape Myrtle foods to rose foods. If you need even more information regarding the Vitex, read these links:
Until next issue, here's to Great Gardening from the GardenLine, heard exclusively, 6-10 a.m. Saturdays and 7-10 a.m. Sundays, only on NewsRadio 740 KTRH.
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