Landscape Plants of the Upper Midwest

American Bittersweet

{Picture of American Bittersweet}

Plant Information

  • Plant Type: Vine
  • Scientific Name: Celastrus scandens Play audio of plant name
  • Family: Bittersweet
  • Zone: 3
  • Habit: Twining
  • Culture:

    Very adaptable. Tolerates dry conditions. Full sun to partial shade. A twining vine.

  • Notes:

    Bittersweet are dioecious, therefore both male and female plants are required for fruiting. Small white flowers in June are followed by interesting red berries inside orange capsules borne terminally on female plants. The fruit persist well into winter and are popular in dried arrangements. Can develop an unkempt habit if not managed. Good for naturalizing or the informal landscape.  Climbs via twining stems.  

  • How vines climb:

    The means by which vines climb can be divided into two broad categories: those that twine around a supporting structure, and those that hold onto structures by use of holdfasts.

    Twining: Twining vines wrap around a support using tendrils, petioles or the stem of the vine. These vines require a support structure that facilitates twining such as a fence, arbor or trellis. When these vines become overgrown they can be renewed by cutting the entire plant back severely in early spring.

    Holdfasts: This group of vines attach using holdfasts or aerial roots, structures that fasten the vine stem by sticking directly to a structure. These vines can affix to almost any surface, but are best used on masonry. They are not recommended on wood structures as they create a moist environment that can lead to rot, and the holdfasts are difficult to remove and may damage the wood

  • Pruning:Pruning animation

    When overgrown, this vine may be renewed by cutting it back to 1' - 1 1/2' above the ground level just above a few strong buds.

    Rigorous pruning such as this should only be done when the vine is dormant, late fall to early spring.

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Landscape Plants of the Upper Midwest

Bill Hoch, Associate Professor
Montana State University

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