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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Open 9 to 6 Mon. through Sat.
and 10 to 5 on Sun.

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

Deadheading And Renewal Pruning Affect Subsequent Bloom Of Chaste Tree

Garry V. McDonald, Michael A. Arnold, and Jerry M. Parsons

Dept. of Horticultural Sciences, Texas A&M University, Mail Stop 2133, College Station, TX 77843-2133


Index Words:  deadheading, chaste tree, landscape maintenance, renewal pruning, Vitex agnus-castus.


Nature of Work: Large flowering clones of Vitex agnus-castus L., such as ‘LeCompte’, ‘Shoal Creek’, and ‘Montrose Purple’, are being promoted as a summer alternative for lilac (Syringa vulgaris L.) for southern U.S. climates (2).  The overall effect of the flowering of these cultivars is somewhat reminiscent of lilacs in bloom, but they have the potential to withstand the summer heat and low winter chilling of the southern regions.  As an added benefit, repeat bloom during the same growing season sometimes occurs on this species (1, 2). 


Despite these positive landscape characteristics, V. agnus-castus suffers from some limitations including a tendency to grow too large for many small residential home sites, a tendency to accumulate a number of dead twigs and small branches in the interior canopy over time, and a potential to produce copious amounts of seed that could potentially contribute to weeds in the surrounding cultivated or non-cultivated landscapes (1).  Removal of inflorescences after flowering would reduce the potential for seed development and dispursal.  The objectives of this research project was to determine the effect of various pruning severities after flowering flushes on the subsequent ability of plants to produce additional flowers in the same season and during the initial bloom in the year after pruning.


Rooted cuttings of Vitex agnus-castus ‘LeCompte’ were growth in #1 (2.3-L) black nursery pots (Nursery Supplies, Inc., Fairless Hills, PA) and planted in May 2003 to raised landscape beds in College Station, TX.  Beds were weeded and irrigation was applied as needed.  In Feb. 2004, all plants were trimmed back to within 15 cm of the ground and allowed to grow until flowering occured in early June 2004.  The number of inflorescences were counted on each plant and the length of the primary axis on each inflorescence was measured.  Four pruning treatments were then imposed: 1) no pruning (control), 2) deadheading by removal of only the spent inflorescences, 3) pruning each flowering stem to one half of its original length, or 4) pruning the entire plant to within 15 cm of the ground.  This process was repeated following bloom in August 2004 and September 2004.  Inflorescence number and length were again determined in May of 2005 to access the residual effects on the initial bloom of the subsequent year following pruning.


Results and Discussion:  A significant (P ≤ 0.001) interaction among time and pruning treatments was found for both the number of inflorescences and length of the primary inflorescence.  Prior to imposition of the pruning treatments, all the groups of plants assigned to the various treatments did not differ in inflorescence number or length (Table 1).  During the year plants were deadheaded following flowering, deadheading either had no effect (inflorescences number and length in August and inflorescence length in September) or increased (inflorescence number in September) flowering compared to non-pruned controls (Table 1).  Deadheading also increased flower length in the spring of the subsequent year (May), but decreased the number of flowers in the subsequent year (May).  Pruning stems to half their length had only minimal impact on inflorescence length, but substantially reduced the number of inflorescences produced in subsequent bloom cycles, completely eliminating a third bloom in September of 2004 (Table 1).  Pruning plants to within 15 cm of the ground following bloom, caused severe reductions in the number and length of blooms in subsequent cycles, and like the half height pruning treatment eliminated a third late summer flush of flowers in September 2004 (Table 1).


Significance to Industry:  Deadheading Vitex agnus-castus ‘LeCompte’ eliminated the potential for seed production without substantial reduction in flower number or loss of inflorescence size.  Severe pruning of this cultivar should curtailed if reductions in flowering are to be avoided.  This practice documents an environmentally friendly way to cultivate this durable landscape ornamental shrub.


Literature Cited

1.   Arnold, M.A.  2002.  Landscape plants for Texas and environs, sec. ed.  Stipes Publ. L.L.C., Champaign, IL. p. 1094.



Table 1.  Interactions among time after pruning and extent of pruning of Vitex agnus-castus ‘LeCompte’ planted in landscape beds in College Station, Texas, n = 16.

                                                                                         Length of primary

                                                              Number of               infloresences

Date          Treatment                      inflorescences                            (cm)     


June 2004     Non-pruned control                                              36.8 ax                      22.8 a                       

                 Deadheady                                  42.0 a                         22.7 a


                 Prune to half height                         45.1 a                      21.4 a


                 Prune to within 15 cm of ground                   36.7 a                         21.8 a


August 2004     Non-pruned control                                              23.2         a                           17.9 a                     

                 Deadhead                                  26.9      a                          17.1 a


                 Prune to half height                           9.1        b                           15.3 a


                 Prune to within 15 cm of ground                     1.1        b                             8.7 b


Sept. 2004     Non-pruned control                                              11.6 b                       21.0 a   


                 Deadhead                                   28.2 a                         18.2 a


                 Prune to half height                            0.0 c                       0.0 c


                 Prune to within 15 cm of ground                      0.0 c                             0.0 c


May 2005     Non-pruned control                                               78.3 a                      18.0 b  


                 Deadhead                                   57.3 b                         21.6 a    


                 Prune to half height                          12.5 c                     22.4 a


                 Prune to within 15 cm of ground                     3.6 c                             8.8 c


ANOVA Effects

                 Month                                            ***z                                        ***

                 Pruning treatment                           ***                                 ***       

                 Month x pruning treatment                     ***                                         ***       

xMeans within a date and column followed by the same letter are not significantly different using a least squares means test at P 0.05.

yDeadheading indicates removal of spent inflorescences only immediately after flowering, whereas, other pruning treatments included cutting limbs back to half their original length after flowering or pruning all stems to within 15 cm of the soil immediately after flowering.

z*** = significance at P 0.001.