Grown principally for clusters of handsome autumn fruityellow-to-orange capsules that split open to display brilliant red seeds inside. Birds seem uninterested in the fruit, so the display extends into winter. Branches bearing fruit are much prized for indoor arrangements. To produce fruit, you will need to plant a male and a female plant close to each other.
Bittersweets are vigorous, twining vines with ropelike branches; they need support. They will become a tangled mass of intertwining branches unless pruned constantly. Cut out fruiting branches in winter; pinch out tips of vigorous branches in summer.
C. orbiculatus. ORIENTAL BITTERSWEET. From Japan. To 3040 ft. Roundish, toothed, medium green leaves to 4 in. Fruit on short side shoots is partially obscured until leaves drop. Foliage may turn an attractive yellow in fall. A very aggressive grower that has escaped gardens and become a noxious weed that blankets woods.
C. rosthornianus (C. loeseneri). LOESENER BITTERSWEET. Native to central and western China. Grows to 20 ft. Dark green, oval leaves to 5 in. long. Heavy crops of fruit. Like C. orbiculatus but not as rampant.
C. scandens. AMERICAN BITTERSWEET. Native to eastern U.S. To 20 ft., or even higher if plant has something to grow on. If allowed to climb shrubs or small trees, it can kill them by girdling the stems; still better behaved than C. orbiculatus. Very light green, oval, toothed leaves to 4 in. Fruit is borne in scattered, dense clusters that are held above leaves; it looks showy even before foliage falls. 'Autumn Revolution' is self-fertile.