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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Vitex Water Management Affects Blooms and Growth

Q. I have a Chaste tree that has been growing in my backyard for about seven years.  The branches have always been full of leaves and I would get an abundance of beautiful purple blooms. Last spring, I noticed there were not as many leaves and I would only get purple flowers here and there. This spring again the leaves are sparse and the branches are mostly bare. Should I be doing something extra to bring back the lushness of my Chaste tree?

A. Vitex, or chaste tree, is relatively pest free. It originates from the Mediterranean region where the summers are usually hot and dry and the winters cool to cold and wet.
Vitex in winter
            The only real problems the plant has are if the roots remain too wet or the plant doesn’t get enough water. So my reaction to your question was concern about your irrigation practices; either watering it too often or not giving it enough water when you do irrigate.
            Both could cause similar problems. If the roots stay too wet, root rots develop and you might see a thinning of the canopy and branches dying back. Watering too often results in poor growth or worse. If overwatering continues, you would probably see dieback in the tree and eventual death from root rots.
            If the plant does not receive enough water, the plant canopy will begin to thin out and along with that a reduction in blooms.  If you feel like this tree does not get much water then try flooding the area around the tree once a week in conjunction with your irrigations. If the problem is not enough water, you should see a reaction to additional applied water in 3 to 4 weeks.
Vitex in bloom
            It also will do best with irrigations similar to other most of your landscape or fruit trees. This means regular deep irrigations.
            Avoid daily irrigations. Water about twice a week during the hot summer months. In the spring and fall months, water deeply and thoroughly once in a week. As temperatures cool towards winter, you would probably irrigate deeply every 10 to 14 days.


  1. From the reader sent to me by email:
    Hi Robert,
    We emailed each other this late spring regarding my Chaste Tree. It was not blooming and there were very few leaves on it.
    Well, after hand watering it several times each week, like you suggested, it has finally come back and made many beautiful blooms these past weeks!
    Thank you for helping me resolve this problem!
    I look forward to more of your great blogs

  2. Mine has a ton of leaves but are completely wilted like they are melting....not sure what to do..

    1. Not sure what to tell you besides either not enough water or too much. Water during the summer no more than three times a week. My guess it is not enough water applied when you do water. That has been a common problem with homeowners with some plants during this heat. Try an experiment. Take your hose and apply about 15 to 20 gallons to the base of the plant slowly so it soaks in and see if the vitex perks up. If it does then you know you arent applying enough water and add more drip emitters if it is on drip. As trees get larger they require more water. That can only be done by adding more emitters. Adding more minutes to the station applies more water to EVERYTHING on that station which is not needed if this is the only plant not getting enough.

  3. Help! Just bought two Vitex
    . Love them! But a small sprinkler was accidentally left on overnight on one and it looks slightly wilted. What do I do?

    1. Sorry for the late response. All you can do is wait for the soil to dry out and see what happens. It will dry out faster if you can punch some vertical holes a few inches in diameter under the canopy. The easiest way to do this is using a posthole digger down to about two to three feet. A more permanent solution is to then fill these holes with gravel to help keep them open. Basically French drains.