Elderberry – How to Plant, Grow, Care for Elderberries

Interested in growing your own elderberries in yours?  Read the complete guide on how to grow elderberries and take care of them in your yard in home.

The elderberry is a deciduous shrub with bright white flowers and small, dark bluish-black berries.

Know the Plant – Elderberry

Elderberry (Sambucus) is a large bush or shrub that is native to the U.S. and Europe. This plant is becoming increasingly popular as a great addition to ornament gardens and lawns.  The antioxidant-packed berries are used to make wines, juices, jellies, and jams.

Although raw blue and purple elderberries are bitter and unpleasant and are seldom eaten raw. However, they can be processed for medicinal and cooking in kitchen recipes.

There are many varieties of elderberry that are sold to home gardeners today. Some Elderberry plant varieties are;

  • Johns
  • Adams 
  • Kent
  • Nova
  • Scotia York
  • Lacinaiata (a cutleaf variety) 

Benefits of Elderberry Plant 

The plant is very useful and the berries stem of the plant, flowers can be used in the home, kitchen, apothecary, or garden.

The white flowers also are used for herbal and culinary applications. they can be cooked or processed to make jams, jellies, wine, pies, flavored vinegar, and teas.

Note: The berries contain alkaloids that may cause nausea. Never eat or use the fruit from red elderberries, Sambucus racemosa, which are poisonous. Even the stems, leaves, bark, and roots of these plants contain cyanide toxins. Be extremely cautious about the kind of elderberries you consume or touch.

How to Grow Elderberry

Growing Elderberry bushes is quite easy to grow and care for. Elderberries can be grown from cuttings, starts, or seeds. There are different varieties, you can choose from.

How tall do elderberry trees grow?

They can grow from 10’ to 20’ tall.

It is recommended that you plant in pairs, no more than 60 feet apart, for the full benefit of cross-pollination.

Botanical name – Sambucus


Elderberry shrubs thrive best in partial shade or full sun.


Elderberries grow best moist and fertile soil conditions with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5, but these plants can tolerate different soil types, like poor soil or wet areas.

Elderberry does best in well-drained soil conditions, which is the key to prevent root rot. Thus, you should avoid standing water conditions

Although the Elderberry plant is quite adaptive, one thing the plant cannot tolerate is drought conditions. Elderberry shrubs are able to handle a pH range from acidic to alkaline but do best in slightly acidic soil.

SEASON – To Plant & Harvest

The Elderberry bush is planted in fall or early spring. The berries usually ripen in late summer, between mid-August and mid-September.

Typically, they will begin producing fruit two or three years after planting.


American elderberry shrubs’ easygoing nature extends to temperature and humidity as well. While elderberries thrive in zones 3–11, they’re deciduous through zone 8, and evergreen in zones 9–11, where there is no frost.


Elderberries need to be well watered, especially the first year after planting because the shrub cannot tolerate drought and dry conditions.  The soil around the elderberry plant should be moist but should be well-drained.


Fertilization is never a bad idea, either. Your soil can provide much of what the plant needs if it’s amended with some manure or compost. Gradually, add fertilizer with additional compost yearly in springtime.

Preferred USDA Hardiness Zones

Zones 4-9, depending on the species. May survive in colder regions with protection. If you are in zones 5 through 7, you should be able to plant this shrub in your yard.


The common elderberry is very tolerant of pruning and can be cut all the way down to the ground in late winter to help keep the shrub healthy and neat.

You will need to prune away suckers to keep them in check, or they may spread throughout your garden.

Care of Elderberries

After you have done your elderberry planting, you should weed once in a while, but do so carefully. You do not want to disturb the roots. Use mulch where necessary to prevent weed growth, and pluck weeds that manage to sneak through.

When growing elderberries, remember that the bushes require about an inch or two (2.5 to 5 cm.) of water each week. Therefore, if summertime comes and you find that you are running into periods of no rain, be sure to water them often.

The first two years after planting elderberry bushes, you should let them grow wildly. Do not prune and do not bother picking the berries. After that, you can prune the elderberry bushes in early spring by cutting them back and removing all the dead areas. This way, the bushes will grow and produce a lot of berries for you.

Right around mid-August and mid-September, there is a 5- to 15-day ripening period. This is the time when you want to begin harvesting elderberries. Be sure to pick them before the birds do, and enjoy!

FAQ’s and Tips

Q. Can we grow elderberry in pots?

A. Yes, Elderberry can be grown in pots and containers in your garden. Though elderberries have shallow roots, these shrubs are fast growers that spread via suckers, so planting them in pots is a smart way to keep them in check.

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