Schisandra, alternately spelt schizandra, is a genus of vining plant in the Magnolia family. Of the 25 species within the genus, Schisandra chinensis is the most widely cultivated. Schisandra chinesis produces berries that are a traditional food and medicinal source in their native China. In the west, schisandra berries are becoming increasingly popular as a health food.
The Schisandra Vine
Schisandra chinensis is a native of China. Given a structure to climb, the vines can reach up to 25 feet during one growing season. The plants are deciduous, loosing their leaves in the fall and winter to expose the woody stems. The vine produces small white flowers in the spring that are set against a backdrop of deep green leaves. When cultivating schisandra, plant a male and a female in the same area to allow pollination. The female plants produce the edible berries, but the males are required for pollination.
Climate and Growing Regions
Schisandra chinensis grows in temperate areas of China. Schisandra vines are hardy to USDA planting zones 4. The cold-hardy aspect of this plant makes it a suitable vine, both as a crop and an ornamental, in northern North American Gardens. Plant schisandra chinesis near a trellis or arbor to give it something to climb. In the spring and summer, the area will be filled with the sweet, floral scent of the tiny white flower.
Selecting a Suitable Site
The schisandra berry plant grows in damp soil in dappled sun or shifting sun. The roots enjoy frequently damp soil conditions but cannot tolerate standing water of boggy soil. Rich loam or sandy loam is best. Plant the vines in an area where they will get some protection from the afternoon sun. As the schisandra vines grow fast in a single season, it is best to cut the plants back to 1 to 3 feet early in the spring. The vines will quickly rescale the trellis or support as the growing season begins.
The schisandra berry plant can be propagated from stem cuttings or from seed. Seed propagation is time consuming and not very reliable. The seeds must be stratified by cutting or roughing up the seed coats to stimulate germination. A period of freezing temperatures is also required. The seeds can take up to 18 months to germinate. Rooting softwood cuttings is the most reliable way to propagate this plant but hardwood cuttings is also suitable.