How to Find & Grow the Bittersweet Plant


Celastrus scandens and Celastrus orbiculatus, more commonly known as American and Oriental bittersweet, are fast-growing deciduous vines that boast deep green leaves and fragrant greenish-white blossoms. It is easy to care for and makes an attractive addition to woody home landscapes. In the fall, female bittersweet plants are covered in ornamental red-orange berries. Because bittersweet vines are dioecious, male and female vines must be planted in close proximately in order for the female plant to produce berries.

Things You'll Need

  • Male bittersweet plant
  • Female bittersweet plant
  • 15 gallon planting container
  • Shovel
  • Spade
  • Aged manure
  • Perlite
  • Drip, soaker or bubbler hose
  • Pruning shears
  • Purchase both a male and female bittersweet plants as well as a 15-gallon planting container from your local nursery or garden center. Ensure the planting container you select has holes in the bottom for adequate drainage. Purchase them from a reputable catalog or online merchant if you are unable to find bittersweet plants locally.

  • Select a location for your bittersweet plants. Look for a location that receives between six and eight hours of sunlight each day if you want your female ornamental bittersweet to produce its characteristic red-orange berries. Choose a location that also offers soil with good drainage.

  • Dig a hole for your bittersweet large enough to accommodate the 15-gallon container. Mixed the displaced soil with aged manure and perlite to create a nutrient-rich, well-draining growing medium for your plants.

  • Lower the 15-gallon container into the hole. Plant your male and female bittersweet plants together in the container at the same level they were planted in their nursery containers. Water your bittersweet plants after planting to help settle the soil.

  • Water your bittersweet plants two to three times a week in the absence of rain. Use a drip, soaker or bubbler hose to ensure the moisture can penetrate deep into the soil.

  • Prune your bittersweet plants in the late winter or early spring to control their size, if desired. Use sharpened and sterilized shears when pruning your bittersweet plants. Make clean pruning cuts directly below leaf nodes to minimize the pruning stress to your plants.

Tips & Warnings

  • Plant your bittersweet plants near a fence, arbor, trellis, pergola or other support so the bittersweet can twine around the support as it grows.
  • The bark, leaves and berries of bittersweet vines are poisonous if ingested.
  • The growth of both American and Oriental bittersweet is aggressive enough to be considered dangerously invasive in many areas. Consult your state university extension office before planting bittersweet to determine whether it is considered dangerously invasive in your area. Invasive plant species can upset an entire ecosystem by crowding out the native flora. Note the sale of bittersweet plants may be prohibited in some states.

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