greenish-white flowers become showy orange-red berries in fall
5 to 20 ft.
3 to 5 ft.
eastern United States
USDA zones 3-8
hardy to 7,000 ft.
American bittersweet is native to the eastern two-thirds of the United States, where it is grown for its glossy green leaves and orange berries. It naturally grows as a low, spreading, vining shrub on the ground or over other plants.
Small, greenish-yellow flowers bloom in May and June, followed by attractive orange fruit, which hang on the plant from June through November. To form flowers and the resulting fruit, both male and female plants must be present. Bittersweet cannot cling to structures, so it must be supported if grown upward. It can also be planted to drape over walls, boulders, or slopes.
At the Xeriscape Demonstration Garden, American bittersweet is planted at the base of a rock wall where it is supported to grow up the wall's front side. It has been challenging to train to grow upward and would probably grow better at the top of the wall draping over the front. The berries are quite attractive in fall. It has not been overly vigorous at the Xeriscape Garden.
Prune out any winter-killed branches in spring.