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PlantFiles: American Bittersweet
Celastrus scandens

Family: Celastraceae
Genus: Celastrus (see-LAS-trus) (Info)
Species: scandens (SKAN-dens) (Info)

6 vendors have this plant for sale.

23 members have or want this plant for trade.

Vines and Climbers

20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade

All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:
Chartreuse (Yellow-Green)

Bloom Time:
Mid Summer
Late Summer/Early Fall


Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
5.1 to 5.5 (strongly acidic)
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From softwood cuttings

Seed Collecting:
Remove fleshy coating on seeds before storing
Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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5 positives
3 neutrals
1 negative

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Dean48089 On Jun 18, 2013, Dean48089 from Warren, MI (Zone 6b) wrote:

When I was a kid bittersweet grew all over our farm. It was a great way to hide old equipment, rolls of old fencing, and other things that tend to accumulate around the farm -- just move it to the hedgerow and a year from now it will be covered with bittersweet.

I have also seen bittersweet growing in 2nd and 3rd generation woods, where it can reach 'Tarzan' proportions. In cultivation it would need a very sturdy support, such as one would have for wisteria, due to the size and weight of the vine.

I don't see bittersweet much anymore in Southeast Michigan, which is too bad. As far as I know I have never seen the oriental species.

Positive plant_it On May 26, 2012, plant_it from Valparaiso, IN wrote:

In the U.S., American Bittersweet is a native plant that is becoming endangered. Oriental Bittersweet is it's non-native, horribly invasive look-alike. DO NOT PLANT ORIENTAL BITTERSWEET. It is destroying native plants and the wildlife that depend on them. Be sure you have American Bittersweet.

Here's how you tell them apart:
"American bittersweet produces flowers (and fruits) in single terminal panicles at the tips of the stems; flower panicles and fruit clusters are about as long as the leaves; the leaves are nearly twice as long as wide and are tapered at each end. Oriental bittersweet produces flowers in small axillary clusters that are shorter than the subtending leaves and the leaves are very rounded. Comparing the two, American bittersweet has fewer, larger clusters of fruits whereas Oriental bittersweet is a prolific fruiter with lots and lots of fruit clusters emerging at many points along the stem. Unfortunately, hybrids of the two occur which may make identification more difficult. "

Neutral tiaj On Mar 6, 2010, tiaj from Strafford, NH wrote:

Although C. scandens is our native it readily hybridizes with the invasive C. orbiculatus, so no matter where you live it is not advisable to plant new plantings of it. This hybridization will only create MORE of the invasive plants. :-/

Positive grik On Aug 1, 2009, grik from Saint Paul, MN wrote:

I planted two vines of Celeastrus scandens 'Indian Brave' and 'Indian Maid' about 10 years ago. They are about 25ft tall now and look great.

I especially like the way the bark looks as they get big. The birds like them for shelter but I don't know how much use they make of the berries. I do have some reseeding but little vines are easily moved or pulled.

This is a native vine and there is no problem planting it. They are not considered invasive and I think many people confuse them with the oriental bittersweet which is rampant in some areas.

Neutral Robubba On Dec 30, 2008, Robubba from Moulton, IA wrote:

Clovers are a very suitable companion partner, 'cuz they attract many beneficials. Clovers don't need a lot of sun which makes them work well with this.

Positive beagelgarden On Oct 29, 2008, beagelgarden from Defiance, OH wrote:

The American Bittersweet is often confused with the Oriental Bittersweet. The Oriental Bittersweet is INVASIVE. Before removing or planting Bittersweet please look at this website ( ) to help you determine what Bittersweet you are removing or planting. American Bittersweet is native to America and is becoming endangered.

Negative ppatnaude On Sep 2, 2006, ppatnaude from Amherst, MA (Zone 5a) wrote:

This is one of the most invasie plants there is in my area, they are terrible once it escapes it's planting area and is readily spred by birds. I would call it the mother of Boa Constrictors in the vine world. The seeds that make it appealing are the seeds of doom to native plants.

Positive bopjg On Oct 24, 2003, bopjg from N. Vernon, IN (Zone 6b) wrote:

American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens ) is one of the most ornamental of our hardy northern vines. This deciduous, climbing woody vine is native to our area and is found growing in thickets, in stands of young trees, along fence rows and streams. It grows vigorously and can kill shrubs or small trees to which it becomes attached merely by tightly girdling stems and branches.
Bittersweet vines grow well in most soils, in full sun or shade, though adequate sun is important for fruit production. The only attention they generally need is a little pruning to keep the plants tidy or to limit their size. This may be done in late winter or early spring.
Bittersweet is a dioecious vine having male flowers on one plant and female on another; the two types must be near each other to produce fruit. In May or June, small greenish-white flowers open in clusters at the ends of branches. Bees are the main pollinators, although wind may also be involved.
Plants can be bought from a nursery in spring or propagated from seeds or cuttings. To start them from seeds, collect the ripe fruit as soon as the capsules have split to reveal the crimson berries, sometime between mid-September and November. Spread the collected fruits in shallow layers and allow them to dry at room temperature for 2 or 3 weeks. Then remove seeds from the capsules and allow them to dry for another week.
It's easy to raise new plants from seeds sown outdoors in fall or spring. Seeds sown in the spring must first be placed in moist sand or peat in a bag or container and kept in the refrigerator (34 to 41F) for 3 months. This breaks dormancy and promotes seed germination.
Seedlings will average about 50% each, males and females, but you can't tell which till they're old enough to bloom. You only need one male to serve as a pollinator for every six or eight females. The females will all bear the attractive fruit. The best way to get the sex ratio you want is through vegetative propagation of plants from cuttings of known sex.
Softwood cuttings can be taken from terminal (tip) shoots that are soft and immature with two or more nodes (the point on the stem where a leaf is attached). The 3-5 inch cuttings, with leaves attached should be taken in midsummer, cutting squarely across the stem just beneath a node. Remove the leaves on the lower half of the cutting and dip the base of the cutting into rooting powder. Rooting powder can be purchased at a nursery under a variety of names, for example: Hormex, Hormodin, Hormo-Root, Rootone, etc. The best method of application is to spread a little of the powder on a sheet of plastic or wax paper, dip the base of each cutting in this, then shake off any surplus and plant the cutting immediately. The cuttings can be rooted in potting mix of 2 parts coarse perlite to 1 part sphagnum peat.
The double-pan technique is an easy and successful way of rooting cuttings. Use two flower pots, at least 4 inches deep with one so much larger than the other that when the smaller pot is set inside the larger one, there is a 2-inch space between their rims on all sides. The inner pot should be clay, the other pot plastic. Plug the hole in the bottom of the smaller pot with a cork and set the pot inside the bigger one so their upper rims are level. Fill the space between the two pots with potting mix and insert the cuttings. Water with a fine spray and fill the inner pot with water.
Cover the cuttings and pots with a clear plastic bag and place them in bright, but indirect light. No further overhead watering is necessary. Sufficient water should pass through the porous sides of the small pot to maintain the potting mix in a moist condition. Keep the small pot full of water. If moisture collects on the inside of the plastic bag, open it to provide a bit of ventilation. The cuttings will produce roots in 2 to 5 weeks. Plant them outdoors in a protected location, as soon as they're rooted.
Hardwood cuttings, on the other hand, should be taken during winter when the plants have no foliage. Include at least two nodes in the 6 to 10-inch cuttings. Make the cuts squarely across the stem just below a node, then make a slant cut to 1 inch above a node. The difference in cuts will aid in distinguishing between the top and base of the cuttings when planting them. Dip the basal or square cut end in rooting powder and plant them in a plastic flower pot filled with the perlite and peat potting mix. Water the mix, then enclose the pot in a sealed clear plastic bag. Place the pot outdoors on the north side next to the house and check periodically to see that the pot hasn't tipped over or dried out. Frozen condensation inside the sealed plastic bag is an indication that moisture is present. Add a handful of snow to the pot and reseal if the bag is dry. The cuttings will be rooted by May and producing leaves. Remove the plastic bag but leave the pot in the shade for another week before transplanting the rooted cuttings to a selected site.

Neutral jody On Aug 31, 2001, jody from MD &, VA (Zone 7b) wrote:

Bears pea sized fruits containing scarlet seeds but both a male and female plant are required. Fully hardy but only fruits well in a warm climate.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Madison, Connecticut
Keystone Heights, Florida
Glen Ellyn, Illinois
Gurnee, Illinois
Niles, Illinois
Scottsburg, Indiana
Valparaiso, Indiana
Warren, Indiana
Iowa City, Iowa
Morehead, Kentucky
Brookeville, Maryland
Cumberland, Maryland
Amherst, Massachusetts
Boston, Massachusetts
Halifax, Massachusetts
Milton, Massachusetts
Dearborn Heights, Michigan
Grosse Ile, Michigan
Kalamazoo, Michigan
Northville, Michigan
Warren, Michigan
Buffalo, Minnesota
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Rogersville, Missouri
Missoula, Montana
Blair, Nebraska
Lincoln, Nebraska
Somerset, New Jersey
Fairport, New York
Staten Island, New York
Grassy Creek, North Carolina
Bucyrus, Ohio
Defiance, Ohio
Dundee, Ohio
Glouster, Ohio
Hulbert, Oklahoma
Portland, Oregon
Glenshaw, Pennsylvania
Milford, Pennsylvania
Collierville, Tennessee
Barre, Vermont
Hot Springs, Virginia
Blue River, Wisconsin
Verona, Wisconsin

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