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Growing Bittersweet

Growing Bittersweet

Autumn Revolution Bittersweet



Bittersweet is a vigorous, hardy North American native vine with showy fruit. The twisted woody vines are are used in crafts and decorating. It  yellow fall foliage and its contorted vines and persistent fruit provides winter interest. Vines can easily grow to 20 feet or more. Unlike older varieties that have separate male and female plants, Autumn Revolution Bittersweet has perfect flowers and will self-pollinate, so a single plant will produce fruit.

Bittersweet fruit is poisonous if eaten, but is a good food for wild birds.

How To Plant

Plant bare root Bittersweet Vine in spring 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost. Prepare a planting hole 12 inches wide and deep amended with compost or other organic matter. Plant with the roots as deep as when grown in the nursery. Can be grown on a trellis, fence, or arbor or allowed to sprawl on the ground. 


For full sun to part shade, but fruits best in full sun. This vigorous, self-climbing vine tolerates a range of sites and is usually trouble-free. Best grown on a sturdy trellis or fence.

Bittersweet is very tolerant of pruning, and can be cut back heavily to harvest twisted vines for use in crafts or for display. Little pruning is needed to maintain plants, but dead wood and overgrown vines can be pruned. Can cause damage by girdling branches and trunks if allowed to climb trees.

Fertilizer Recommendations

Bittersweet is a low to moderate feeder that benefits from occasional fertilization. Use low rates of ALGOplus All Purpose 6-6-6 liquid fertilizer, Osmocote slow-release 14-14-14, or Neptune Fish & Seaweed Fertilizer 2-3-1.

Common Problems

Usually not bothered by pests or diseases. Scale and leafhoppers are occasional problems. Insect pests can be treated with 70% neem oil.

Alternative Products

Other ornamental perennial vines include clematis, passionflower, and honeysuckle.

Product Recommendations

For earlier color, can be combined with flowering annual vines like morning gloryFiskars Power Gear Super Pruners make pruning bittersweet vines easy thanks to their patented gear design.

Bittersweet Facts

American Bittersweet is a native species that is not invasive, unlike the introduced Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus).

Growing Tips