American Bittersweet

Zone: 3-8

Size: A vigorous twining vine growing to 10-20 feet.

Location: Prefers full sun to light shade. 

Flowering: Reddish-yellow capsules open in early autumn to expose red-orange berries. Both male and female plants are needed to produce attractive berries and many times sexed plants of the species are not available at garden centers. 

Cultivars: To make sure you have one of each sex in the area, look for named cultivars such as ‘Diana’ (female) and ‘Hercules’ (male) or ‘Indian Maiden’ (female) and ‘Indian Brave’ (male). To make insuring attractive fruit even easier there are new cultivars that are self-fruitful so you need only one plant and not two for fruit production. Look for Celastrus scandens ‘Bailumn’ Autumn Revolution™ or Celastrus scandens ‘Swtazam’ Sweet Tangerine®. Berry size and production on both are extraordinarily large.

Maintenance: Since only the female plant will bear the attractive fruit, both a male and female plant needs to be in the vicinity to ensure pollination and fruit production. Prune in late winter or early spring.

Additional notes: 

  • It is preferred over the invasive oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus). 
  • American Bittersweet, Image Credit: Chris Evans on