How to Grow Bittersweet — Celastrus

Bittersweet Celastrus

Bittersweet, Celastrus, is shrub or twining woody climber found in temperate woodland thickets. Its attraction as a garden plant lies in its ornamental autumn fruits which split when ripe and reveal colorful seeds.

Get to Know Bittersweet

  • Plant type: Deciduous fall-interest vine
  • Growing Zones and range: 3-8
  • Hardiness: Half-hardy
  • Height and width: 15’- 20’ tall; the vine climbs by twining and needs a large, heavy arbor, sturdy fence, or pergola. The full size is 15 to 25 feet across.
  • Foliage: Simple toothed leaves
  • Flowers: Insignificant flowers produce orange and scarlet berries. Both a male and a female plant is necessary for berry production.
  • Uses: Train against a wall, fence, or pergola, or up a tree.
  • Botanical name: Celastrus scandens
  • Common name: Bittersweet

Where to Plant Bittersweet

  • Plant bittersweet in full sun to produce berries but tolerates light shade.
  • Grow bittersweet in average to poor sbitteroil.
Bittersweet flowers, Celastrus
Bittersweet flowers, Celastrus

When to Plant Bittersweet

  • Set bittersweet in spring or fall.

Planting and Spacing Bittersweet

  • Space bittersweet 15 feet or more apart.

How to Water and Feed Bittersweet

  • Bittersweet needs ample moisture. Established bittersweet is drought tolerant.
  • Bittersweet does not need fertilizer.

Bittersweet Care

  • Prune bittersweet heavily each spring to control size.
  • Colorful bittersweet berries are poisonous.
  • Powdery mildew and fungal leaf spot can be problems.

Bittersweet Propagation

  • Insert root cuttings in winter, or semi-ripe cutting in summer.

Bittersweet Varieties to Grow

  • Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) is invasive; it is often spread by birds who ingest berries.

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