Richard C. Bogren, Owings, Allen D.
News Release Distributed 04/25/14
By Allen Owings
LSU AgCenter horticulturist
HAMMOND, La. – We all crave color in our landscapes. Beds full of annual and perennial flowering plants are often the primary source of landscape color, but they require a lot of work to keep them looking nice.
A lower-maintenance way to provide landscape color is through the use of trees and shrubs that produce attractive flowers at various times of the year. With careful selection, trees and shrubs can be blooming in your landscape virtually year round.
Although they generally don’t produce the intense, concentrated displays of color provided by annual and perennial flowers, these permanent plants bloom every year in their season with minimal effort on the gardener’s part.
For the summer season, nothing epitomizes this more than the crape myrtle. But other summer-blooming shrubs and trees can do a lot to contribute to the summer display. One of these great trees is the Shoal Creek vitex.
Shoal Creek is an outstanding selection of vitex with superior characteristics compared with the standard type. This variety has been previously named a Louisiana Super Plant in spring 2011.
For one thing, at 12 inches, the flower spikes are noticeably larger. In addition, the individual flowers in the spikes are larger and are a deeper, more vibrant lavender-blue color. They provide a wonderful addition to summer landscape color without the work involved with bedding plants. Vitex also come with white or pink flowers, but these colors are not very easy to locate at garden centers.
If you’re interested in welcoming wildlife to your gardens, as so many gardeners are these days, you’ll be glad to know vitex flowers are also attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. I especially like to see bright yellow sulfur butterflies fluttering around the flowers of my vitex trees. The yellow and lavender blue colors look wonderful together.
This versatile plant can be trained as a large shrub or small, multi-trunked tree about 10 to 15 feet tall and wide. Allowed to grow naturally, vitex will generally form a large, bushy plant about 10 feet tall. If you want it more compact, cut the plant back to about 2 to 3 feet from the ground each year in late winter.
Vitex also is popular when trained as a small, multi-trunked tree. To achieve this look, prune off lower branches starting at the bottom and working your way up. This is generally best done over several years, so take your time and do a little each year until you have achieved the look you want. Expect to see shoots growing from the lower parts of the trunk as time goes by. To maintain a nice tree form, remove these promptly as they appear.
Another advantage to Shoal Creek vitex is its exceptionally vigorous growth. A great thing about vitex is that it grows quite fast and quickly fills its role in the landscape. Shoal Creek is even more vigorous, and you can expect rapid growth once it is established.
If you’re looking for plants that aren’t fussy and don’t require a lot of care, you can’t do better than vitex. Once established, these plants are drought-tolerant and fit well in the lower-maintenance landscape. They need to be watered regularly during dry periods the first year or two after planting. But after that, you will never likely need to water again. Vitex flourish during hot, dry, late-summer weather when other plants languish in the landscape.
In addition to their beautiful flowers, vitex have attractive, star-shaped, aromatic leaves that are grayish green on top and gray underneath. When summer breezes blow against the foliage, the silvery undersides are flipped up, producing a lovely effect, especially when the plant is in bloom.
Vitex prefer a location that receives full sun. This will produce the stockiest plants with the most flowers. Also make sure you plant your vitex in a well-drained location. Avoid low spots that tend to hold water for days after rainfall.
You can see more about work being done in landscape horticulture by visiting the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station website. Also, like us on Facebook. You can find an abundance of landscape information for both home gardeners and industry professionals at both sites.