Bittersweet Shrubs

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American Bittersweet Shrubs

The American bittersweet is a vine that twines and climbs around its support. During the fall, you can find a yellow-orange capsule filled with orange-red seeds attached to the vine. These vines are North American native plants that can thrive throughout most areas of the United States.

You can typically find these vines growing on the edges of glades, on rocky slopes, in woodland areas, and thickets. It’s fairly common to find themselves winding around trees and other low-growing shrubs. When used in home landscaping, you can grow the bittersweet vine along a fence or other structures of your home.

What is the American Bittersweet Vine?

The American bittersweet is a perennial vine that can grow anywhere between 15 to 20 feet tall. In the spring, you can find them blooming petite yellowish-green flowers. Eventually, those flowers will bloom into yellow-orange capsules.

Once the late fall and winter begin, the capsules will open up and display the bright red berries inside. The berries will stay on the plant and brighten throughout the winter. These berries are beneficial for birds and other wildlife. However, they are poisonous to humans if consumed.

Their leaves are involute, which means they are rolled in like a scroll. Their tips are also long, and the body is ovate, finely serrated, and hairless.

American Bittersweet v. Oriental Bittersweet

The oriental bittersweet plant is very similar and highly invasive vine. To tell the difference between the two plants, always look at their physical appearance. When flowers and fruit grow on the Oriental bittersweet, you’ll find them at the leaf axils. Whereas, on the American bittersweet, you can find them on terminal panicles on the stems.

The fall fruit capsule colors differ between the two species as well. When looking at the Oriental bittersweet plant, you will find that the fall fruit capsules are yellow compared to the American bittersweet capsules, which are more orange.

Leaf shape will also help you distinguish the difference between the American and Oriental bittersweet plants. For Oriental bittersweet plants, their leaf shape will fold in half lengthwise with the upper side facing inward. As for the American bittersweet, their leaves will curl inward. As for the leaves’ shape, Oriental bittersweet is known to have much more rounded leaves than the American bittersweet.

Growing Bittersweet Vines

To get the attractive berries that grow on the American bittersweet vine, you’ll need both a male and female plant. The female plants will produce the berries, but only if the male plant has fertilized it. When in the right setting, these vines can grow rather quickly.

Caring for American Bittersweet Plants

To best take care of your plant, they will need exposure to full sun for about 6 hours per day. They also prefer soil types such as Akaline, moist, well-drained, or sandy soil.

With all plants, it can be difficult to determine when to water them. As a rule of thumb, if you live in an area where you experience less than 1 inch of rainfall in a week, then you should take the time to water your vines. When watering, make sure you’re allowing the water to directly sink into the soil, avoiding getting any of the foliage wet.

This vine can be fertilized annually in the early spring with some compost or slow-release organic fertilizer. So you avoid damaging the roots, work the comport or fertilizer into the soil with a cultivating tool!

Pruning is recommended in the early spring to help keep the plant under control and promote fruiting. Always remember to remove any damaged and diseased branches. Also, branches that have already produced berries will not produce again, so you can remove those too if needed.

What Are the Other Uses for The American Bittersweet Plant?

The American bittersweet is valued by many because of its looks. Their branches filled with colorful berries are often used in flower arrangements and winter decor. It is also used as a food source for songbirds, ruffed grouse, pheasants, and fox squirrel. However, these berries should never be consumed by humans.

Various parts of this plant have also been used in decoctions and ointments for a variety of ailments. The plant’s related species, Celastrus paniculatus, has been used medicinally in India for centuries. The oil helps increase memory and facilitate learning. It also helps improve your feeling of well being.

Where Can You Find This Plant?

The American bittersweet grows in the eastern U.S. (except for Florida.) You can also find this vine on the western edge of Texas and Oklahoma to Wyoming and Montana. You may also find it across southeastern Canada from Saskatchewan to New Brunswick.

Wholesale American Bittersweet Shrubs in Michigan

If you’re looking for an American Bittersweet shrub for sale in Michigan, Cold Stream Farm is your place to go! We are a retail bare root tree and shrub nursery located in Michigan. Take a look at our selection of American Bittersweet Shrubs, and contact us today if you have any further questions!