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How to Grow American Bittersweet

By Melissa Lewis ; Updated September 21, 2017

American bittersweet is a perennial vine that can grow in most soils in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 8. It needs little to no care to thrive. Both the female and male vines bloom in the spring and the fall. It is essential to plant both sexes so the male plants can produce pollen for the female plants to bear fruit.

Grow American bittersweet from seeds in the fall or spring. If planting in the spring, place the seeds in a bag of moist peat or sand and refrigerate them for three months prior to planting. Sow the seeds into the soil. Cover them with mulch and water. The seeds will be about half female and male, which will likely ensure your female plants will bear fruit. If too many seeds germinate into vines, you can thin them in subsequent years.

You can also purchase young American bittersweet vines from your local nursery or garden store. Be sure that you have a least one male plant per six to eight female plants. Check the labels to determine the sex. You cannot tell the sex by looking at the plants until they are mature and bear fruit, which can take several years.

Plant young American bittersweet plants 1 to 2 feet apart along a wall, trellis or fence. Plant in full sun. Place the male plants in the center among female plants. Avoid planting near trees and other plants as the vines can strangle them. Dig planting holes as deep as the containers but two times as wide. Backfill with soil, tamp it down and water.


Things You Will Need

  • Seeds or plants
  • Refrigerator
  • Bag
  • Peat or sand
  • Mulch
  • Water

About the Author


Melissa Lewis is a former elementary classroom teacher and media specialist. She has also written for various online publications. Lewis holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of Maryland Baltimore County.