Schisandra How to Grow Schisandra berries

schisandra vines and berries

Schisandra aka Chinese magnolia vine produces small clusters of delicate creamy white flowers in mid spring followed by edible crimson red berries. I’d like to say they are delectable and tasty but they are not, they are friggin weird, although not over overpoweringly unpleasant they’re simply bizarre and not comparable to any other fruit I am aware of. In its native China it is referred to as Wu Wei Zi which translates to ‘5 flavored berry’. The taste is a poignant meld of sweet and sour with bitter and salty, what 5th flavor the Chinese detect is unbeknownst to me.

It has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for Centuries and many modern herbalists have incorporated it into their venue. As per the Web Md it is used ‘for increasing resistance to disease and stress, increasing energy, and increasing physical performance and endurance… preventing early aging and increasing lifespan… treating liver disease (hepatitis) and protecting the liver from poisons. The Chinese have developed a liver-protecting drug called DBD that is made from schisandrin, one of the chemicals in schisandra.’ [1]

Schisandra vines are aesthetically pleasing eye candy that can be grown successfully in USDA zones 4 to 8. It does not die back in winter in the more temperate zones. The vines normally grow 8 – 12 feet long, but claims of 30 foot vines have been touted. A support system such as an arbor, fence or trellis is advisable.

Schisandra can be grown from seed, but not without many trials and tribulations. It is difficult to germinate and slow to get started. The seeds also require cold stratification, which is the process of treating seeds prior to sowing to simulate winter conditions that they would have experienced in nature. If you are able to get hold of some young vines, that would be just dandy. They can also be propagated from cuttings . See: New plants from Cuttings

Seedlings / young vines should be planted outdoors in the spring when any danger of frost has passed. A location with partial shade is best, they do not fare well in full sun and will not grow in full shade.

Soil should be well-drained and slightly acidic, they will not grow well in clay soils. Schisandra thrives in a slightly acidic soil, Optimal soil pH is 5.0 – 6.0. See: Tracking and Adjusting Soil pH .

Place the root ball about 2 inches into the soil, it should be completely covered.

Space plants 3 to 5 inches apart and be sure to have at least one male and one female in order to get fruit.

They are not self pollinating so at least two plants will be needed to produce fruit, one male one female, ideally if you are growing multiple plants, one male is needed for every 3 or 4 females. Berries start to appear by the second season, sometimes the 3rd.