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Celastrus

Bittersweet
Celastraceae
Deciduous, Vines, Decorative fruit or berries

Grown principally for clusters of ornamental summer fruit: yellow-and-orange capsules that split open to display brilliant red-coated seeds. Branches bearing fruit are much prized for indoor arrangements. Since birds seem uninterested in the fruit, display extends into winter. To get fruit, plant male and female plants close to each other; unfortunately, nursery plants are not always labeled with gender. Self-fruitful forms of Celastrus orbiculatus are available. Foliage turns yellow in fall.

Vigorous and twining, with ropelike branches, these vines need support. Don’t allow them to climb shrubs or small trees—they can kill them by girdling the stems. Prune tangled or intertwined branches before new spring growth begins; prune as needed during summer to manage growth. Growing in poorer soils helps keep vines to a more manageable size.

Celastrus scandens First Editions® Autumn Revolution™ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)
Celastrus scandens First Editions® Autumn Revolution™ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)

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Celastrus scandens

Native to eastern North America. Grows to 20 ft. or more. Oval, tooth-edged leaves to 4 in. long. Fruit appears in scattered dense clusters; these are held above leaves, making Celastrus scandens showier than the other two species sold in nurseries.

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