Now here is something I have in my garden and it has become a game when pruning. Vitex, or more commonly known as Chaste Tree, was a small plant when it was given to me by my mother. I thought at the time that it would be a great idea to train it to be a tree for my front perennial bed, well girlfriend has trained me over the past few years.
At first I was a little nervous about pruning it, well now I whack it with complete abandon come late February or mid March about the same time I prune my Crape Myrtles. It will grow rapidly so you have to make sure you pay attention. Some people cut it back to the ground to maintain compactness, others (like me) use it as a specimen tree in the garden.....in Hilton Head SC they have them planted in the Walmart parking lot, so go figure.
Vitex have a 5 part leaf that gives an airy feel to the landscape, in July there are spikes of lavender flowers that bumble bees just love. Vitex actually have a sagey fragrance and makes a nice addition to summer flower arrangements. Last summer a friend asked me what was that beautiful purple tree blooming in my front yard, I told her and then I started looking for one for her but was only able to find 3 gallon sizes for sale...listen, she's a friend but not that good of a friend. So I decided to try my hand at rooting a small piece of vitex, and I was successful!!!
I basically prune my vitex tree the same way as I do my crape myrtles, except not as gently....meaning that I don't leave any small branches only 5 or 6 major branches that form the multi trunk.Vitex, like Crape Myrtles, bloom on new wood....so don't think you have to be gentle when pruning. Also if you are going to train yours to be a tree, remember to go out every 2-3 days and pinch off the new little buds on the trunks...they will grow there no matter how old your tree is. Think of it as cheap therapy after a tough day....sometimes I can simply run my hand up and down the trunk to get rid of them. Regardless of what you do, the tree is an awesome addition to any yard so look for one and have fun with it!!
Below are pictures of my tree....since these pictures were taken I have gone back and completed a second pruning after the initial bloom time......she gets a little crazy with growth in the summer but the craziness is worth it!!!!
Here is a view to see how the Vitex plays a part as a specimen tree in the garden.