The Q&A Archives: No Berries on Bittersweet

Question: How old does bittersweet have to be before it will set berries? I have two plants that I ordered from a nursery about five years ago. The plants are doing well and have blossomed for the past two years, but still no berries. I am aware that there are male and female plants. How can I tell them apart? Should I be doing something to help the process along?

Answer: You're correct that Celastrus has separate male and female plants and that it takes one of each for the female to produce berries. The plants may have been mislabeled at the nursery and you may have two females instead of one of each. The flowers of the bittersweet are very small, but you should be able to tell the difference by comparing them under a magnifying glass. The male flower will have slender filaments with pollen-laden pads at the ends. The female flower will have a long stigma protruding from the center of the flower and a swollen ovary at the base of the flower. If flowers from both bittersweets look identical, you'll need a plant of a different gender before you'll get berries.

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