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Bittersweet / Celastrus

Bittersweets CAN be tamed! They are extremely vigorous, healthy and have splendid yellow leaves in autumn, and are often used for high greening, as there is less pruning to be done as with a Wisteria. In the garden, they can green up a pergola. The fruit will feed birds in winter.

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Celastrus orbiculatus / Bittersweet

Bittersweet "Celastrus orbiculatus"

Needs / Price

Sunny (full sun) to semi-shaded position, may be grown in the shade, but will produce less flowers and fruit. Best in nutrient rich soil. Distance between plants: 1.5 to 4 meters.

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Characteristics and pruning

Vigorous twiners with sturdy stem formation. Celastrus orbiculatus from China is the more common variety. It has a strong growth, broad oval, dentate or serrate and clearly acuminate leaves. Celastrus scandens from North America has oval, acuminate leaves with undulating margins. There are several other varieties that resemble each other as well as the Mini-Kiwi. Foliage from May to October, yellow autumn colouring. Inconspicuous, pale-green flowers, mostly dioecious (male and female on separate plants). In order to get the decorative berries it is best to plant several specimens together. There should be some yearly pruning to get on top of the very fast growth, especially in the first 6 to 12 years.

Growing aids on facades

The growth support should be sturdy, old trees can also be colonised by a celastrus. Lightning conductors, downpipes and roof gutters etc. should not be reached by the shoots and any growth supports should have a distance of at least 1.5 m from all such structures and to the roof gutters, to the side as well as to the top. Wire rope systems (see below) are suitable if the ropes are arranged parallel to each other as for the Wisteria: the shoots should be be twining around the wires and strangle them. Heavy or Massive Growth Support Systems.

Suitable wire rope trellises?

Click on the picture to jump to the table of all suitable trellis designs.

Foto gallery

Examples of celastrus / bittersweet.

High façade greening with celastrus on a trellis in autumn
Bittersweet on a trellis
Celastrus scandens on a trellis made of wood
Small bittersweet on a façade
Greening with bittersweet on a special construct
Greening of a winter garden
Small bittersweet on a building
Celastrus orbiculatus as a twining vine on a sculpture. Otto Niemeyer-Holstein Garden in Lüttenort / Usedem / Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
Two bittersweets in autumn
Celastri are strong twiners, they are vigorous enough to tear a trellis out of the wall if the shoots strangle the wires as in this picture.
This celastrus wasn't pruned: he left the trellis and grows on this downpipe. This should never happen!


Several species are represented with the flowers, fruits and leaves.

Celastrus orbiculatus with a debut of autumnal coloring
Celastrus flagellaris
Celastrus scandens (North America) and its long, ocal leaves
Bittersweet with yellow leaves
The fruit stay after the leaves have been shed
The berries will provide food for birds in winter

Suitable wire rope trellises for a bittersweet

Click on the pictures for more information on each trellis

 = suitable        = sometimes suitable      = not suitable