Episode 9: What Is A Chaste Tree?


About This Episode

On this week’s episode of Ask Grumpy Steve Bender, also known as Southern Living's Grumpy Gardener, talks about the chaste tree, which is a beautiful blooming blue that bumble bees love. Plus, he shares his love for rosemary.

Question: I have fallen in love with chaste tree. Is it easy to grow, and when should I plant it?

Grumpy Gardener Answer: Chaste tree is one of my favorites. One of the reasons why is because it's one of the trees that has blue flower spikes. Blue is a very rare color actually in the plant kingdom. Lots of orange flowers, lots of red flowers, yellow flowers, white flowers, purple flowers. There's not very much that are blue. It tends to bloom in early June, just when the first crepe myrtles are coming out. You can grow it as a shrub, you can actually cut it to the ground every year and let it come back, and it will grow into this bushy thing that gets to be about five feet tall, and it'll bloom. Or you can grow it to a single trunk the way I do, like I do a crepe myrtle, a multi-trunk tree, and it gets a really sculptural look to it. Another really great thing about chaste tree is that it's an absolute favorite plant for bumblebees. If you're concerned about pollinators, you plant a chaste tree, it will be covered with bumblebees. And they like it so much that they will fall asleep on it at night, and when you come out in the morning they're all sleeping on the flowers and you can actually rub them on the back. Chaste tree is a plant that is hardy in Florida all the way up into zone six. Even though it may die back in the winter, it'll come back from the roots there. If you wan to know what climate zone you're in, it's real simple, just Google your ZIP code and the wordsUSDA climate zone and it'll tell you. It'll tell you whether your winters are too cold or whether they're not to grow something. So that's simple.

And, one other thing I would mention, if they don't recognize the name chaste tree, the botanical name is Vitex, V-I-T-E-X. Ask for that at the garden center, and if they have 'em, they'll show 'em to you.

Plant Of The Week


One of my favorite plants for the garden is a plant that has a whole lot of uses. It's the herb rosemary. It's hardy outdoors, so you can leave it out all year long. It's hardy down to about 5 degrees, that'll give you some idea where you can grow it. Where it’s not hardy you can grow it in a pot. It is absolutely essential for me because, not only can I enjoy it in the garden, where it's so fragrant, every time you brush the foliage, you get that rosemary smell. It has pretty flowers in the springtime. But I'm always snipping it for use in the kitchen, for all these different things we make with it. When we're doing some sort of a beef stew or something like that, we're always collecting rosemary. Rosemary is a really easy plant to grow. You can just let it grow by itself. You can trim it, you can shear it into a formal hedge if you want to do that. It looks great that way. You can just add it to a mixed border. It does need to have sun, but it doesn't need to have full sun. I've found out it will take part shade, part sun. It is also quite drought-tolerant, but it needs good drainage. If you plant it in a place where the soil stays wet, it's going to rot and die. But other than that, it has very few pests. And this is one of those plants where it's a joy to prune it. Because every time you're pruning it, you're bringing in all those aromatic herb leaves that you can use in all your cooking in the kitchen.

About Ask Grumpy

Introducing Ask Grumpy, a new podcast featuring Steve Bender, also known as Southern Living’s Grumpy Gardener. For more than 20 years, Grumpy has been sharing advice on what to grow, when to plant, and how to manage just about anything in your garden. Tune in for short episodes every Wednesday and Saturday as Grumpy answers reader questions, solves seasonal conundrums, and provides need-to-know advice for gardeners with his very Grumpy sense of humor. Be sure to follow Ask Grumpy on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen so you don't miss an episode.

Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript does not go through our standard editorial process and may contain inaccuracies and grammatical errors.

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