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How to Grow Bittersweet

Bittersweet is a vine typically grown along a fence, arbor, wall or trellis. It is a hardy vine that can tolerate harsh winters and is the perfect vine for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Hardiness Zones 4 to 8. Bittersweet flowers in the spring, and several years after planting, the female plants should bear fruit, which is often used to make wreaths and other floral arrangements. Both the American and Oriental varieties are grown in the same manner, except Oriental bittersweet cannot tolerate USDA Hardiness Zone 5.

Select an area for planting. Bittersweet can tolerate both sun and shade. However, to encourage fruit to grow, some sun is needed. Bittersweet can also tolerate poor soil conditions, but by adding 2 inches of compost or peat moss to poor soil, it may thrive even more.

Dig a hole that is just as deep but two times as wide as the container your bittersweet came in. Take the bittersweet out of the container and place it in the hole, then backfill the soil. Water and pat down the soil well to avoid air pockets.

Plant several plants if you want your female bittersweets to bear fruit. You need to have both male and female for the females to bear fruit, but unfortunately, sometimes the sexes are not labeled. By purchasing and planting three to five plants, you are most likely going to get a mix. Plant multiple bittersweets about 5 feet apart.

Place 2 inches of mulch around the base of the plant, and keep it watered for the first several weeks. Established bittersweets do not need supplemental watering, except during drought conditions.

Fertilize bittersweet with an all-purpose fertilizer once a year in the spring, if desired. You don't have to do this, but it will encourage bittersweet to grow fuller with more fruits and blooms.

Prune in late winter to early spring. Cut back the vine as much as you want to control growth. Cut back damaged and dead branches anytime.

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