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How to Grow Elderberry Plant Outdoors

Updated: December 23, 2022

Elderberry is a deciduous shrub that is native to Europe and North America. It is known for its medicinal properties and is commonly used in herbal remedies. Elderberry plants are easy to grow and can be grown in most climates. In this article, we will discuss how to grow elderberry plants outdoors.

Choosing the Right Variety of Elderberry Plant

There are several varieties of elderberry plants, but the two most common ones are American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) and European elderberry (Sambucus nigra). The American elderberry grows up to 12 feet tall and has a spread of up to 10 feet, while the European elderberry grows up to 20 feet tall and has a spread of up to 15 feet.

When choosing a variety, it is important to consider the size of your garden or yard. If you have limited space, then the American elderberry is a better choice. However, if you have a large garden or yard, then the European elderberry is a good option.

Planting Elderberry Plants

Elderberry plants prefer well-drained soil and full sun to partial shade. They can tolerate a wide range of soil types, but they grow best in moist, fertile soil. To plant an elderberry plant, follow these steps:

  1. Choose a sunny location with well-drained soil.
  2. Dig a hole that is twice as wide and deep as the root ball.
  3. Mix compost or aged manure into the soil.
  4. Place the root ball into the hole and fill with soil.
  5. Water thoroughly.

Caring for Elderberry Plants

Once your elderberry plant is established, it requires minimal care. Here are some tips on how to care for your elderberry plant:

  • Water: Elderberry plants require regular watering, especially during dry spells. Water deeply once a week to ensure that the roots receive enough moisture.
  • Fertilizer: Elderberry plants do not require fertilizer, but you can add compost or aged manure around the base of the plant in the fall to improve soil fertility.
  • Pruning: Prune your elderberry plant in late winter or early spring to promote new growth and maintain its shape. Remove any dead or damaged branches and cut back old wood to encourage new growth.
  • Pest Control: Elderberry plants are generally pest-free, but they can attract aphids and spider mites. You can control these pests by spraying the plants with a mixture of water and dish soap.

Harvesting Elderberries

Elderberries are ready for harvest in late summer or early fall. The berries should be dark purple and have a waxy bloom on their surface. To harvest elderberries, follow these steps:

  1. Cut the clusters of berries from the plant with a pair of scissors.
  2. Remove the berries from the stems.
  3. Rinse the berries in cold water.

Elderberries can be used fresh or dried for later use in teas, syrups, jams, and other recipes.


When is the best time to plant elderberry plants?

The best time to plant elderberry plants is in the spring or fall when the weather is mild.

Do elderberry plants require full sun?

Elderberry plants prefer full sun to partial shade.

Can elderberry plants grow in containers?

Yes, elderberry plants can grow in containers, but they require regular watering and fertilization.

How long does it take for elderberry plants to bear fruit?

Elderberry plants typically bear fruit after three years of growth.

Are elderberries poisonous?

Elderberries are safe to consume when cooked, but raw elderberries and other parts of the plant are poisonous and should not be eaten.