American bittersweet is a climbing vine that twines around its support. Its attractive feature is its autumn fruit, a yellow-orange three-lobed capsule with showy red seeds. For fruit, American bittersweet needs both male and female vines and should be should be sited in full sun and pruned in early spring. Do not confuse this vine with Oriental bittersweet, Celastrus orbiculatus, an invasive plant.
- Deciduous (foliage falls off)
- Chicago area
- North America
- Zone 3
- Zone 4
- Zone 5
- Zone 6
- Zone 7
- Zone 8
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
- Partial sun (4-6 hrs direct light daily)
- Dry sites
- Occasional flooding
- Clay soil
- Road salt
- Alkaline soil
- Moist, well-drained soil
- Sandy soil
- Early winter
- Mid winter
- Early fall
- Mid fall
Size and Form
A twining vine growing 30 to 40 feet long.
Tree & Plant Care
Prune in early spring to keep under control and promote fruiting.
Both a male and female plant are needed to produce fruit on the female plant.
Not to be confused with Oriental bittersweet, Celastrus orbiculatus, an invasive plant.
Disease, pests and problems
Powdery mildew, crown gall and euonymus scale
Native geographic location and habitat
Found in a wide range of growing conditions.
Bark color and texture
Bark is thin and brown and will peel on older stems.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Simple, alternate leaves are 4 inch long ovals with finely toothed margins; leaf tips elongated.
Fall color is yellow.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
Inconspicuous; small flowers in dangling clusters.
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
Fruit is a yellow-orange, three-lobed capsule with showy red seeds, often persistent into winter. Male and female plants are required to set fruit.