Howdy Gardening Enthusiast!

Here's your GardenLine e-mail tip of the week from Randy Lemmon. Your tip last week was to avoid the Mimosa. Your tip this week is to give you an alternative.

I suppose I hammered the Mimosa tree a little hard last week. So, to counter all that negativity, I give you nothing but accolades for a highly recommended flowering tree for this area. And much like last week, it's another one of those unusual flowering trees that I also get a lot of calls about during this time of the year. It's the Vitex tree, also known as the Chaste tree.

The Vitex is the small, blooming tree with the purple spikes of lavender on the end of each branch. The purple bloom heads almost look like tufts of lavender, but the aroma doesn't even come close. Most people call the radio program asking; "What's the flowering shrub/tree that looks sort of like a crape myrtle but the purple blooms are different?"

The Vitex is a fast-growing ornamental with multiple trunks. There are pink and white varieties available, but they are hard to find. Most of the Vitex (or again, in some circles, known as the Chaste tree) specimens in Houston are in the 6 to 10 foot range, but the mature Vitex that doesn't suffer from hard freezes can reach up to 20 feet in some cases.

The Vitex loves to be in full sun, adores our intense summers and tolerates poor soils. What more could you ask for. I suppose the only negative comment that can be made, is that it looks kind of scraggly during the winter when there are no leaves or blooms. The blooms happen on new wood. So make sure they are pruned coming out of winter, just like we do with Crape myrtles.

Randy Lemmon is the host of the GardenLine radio program on Newsradio 740 KTRH. Randy has been doing GardenLine in one capacity or another since December of 1995, for all three of the now Clear Channel AM stations - KTRH, KPRC & KBME. When Randy took over GardenLine, he replaced long-time Houston radio veteran and GardenLine originator, Bill Zak. For those who remember that far back, GardenLine was a weekly radio staple on KTRH from 10 a.m. to Noon Mondays through Fridays - along with a Saturday show as well. Now GardenLine is heard exclusively on Newsradio 740 KTRH on weekend mornings.