Native to southern Europe and central Asia, chaste tree quickly grows into a multi-trunked tree about 10 to 20 feet tall and wide with a broad, spreading habit. It gets its name from the erroneous medieval belief that a potion made from it could curb the libido. The chaste tree is a native of China, but it has a long history in the U.S. It was first cultivated in 1670, and since that time it has become naturalized throughout the Southern part of the country. Many southerners use it as a replacement for lilacs, which don’t tolerate hot summers. Chaste trees, which are considered shrubs or small trees, grow 15 to 20 feet tall with a spread of 10 to 15 feet. It attracts butterflies and bees, and it makes an excellent honey plant. Wildlife shuns the seeds, and it’s just as well because you’ll have to remove the flower spikes before they go to seed to keep the plant flowering. Chaste trees need full sun and very well-drained soil. It’s best not to plant them in soil that is rich in organic matter because organically rich soils hold too much moisture close to the roots.
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