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We were fond of elderberry bushes when we'd float by them in a canoe - all in flower during summer paddles on Georgia rivers. Then we learned the dried berries can be steeped in vodka for a medicinal concoction and we had to plant a few for ourselves.
We planted four by the driveway and last summer harvested some fruit clusters - I must admit that I didn't actually make anything out of them, but I did have the satisfaction of "I could if I wanted to." We found the experience so rewarding that we've propagated off those shrubs and have them here for you. They are super fast growing!
We recommend planting in pairs for cross-pollination and best fruit set, exactly like the protocol for planting blueberries and other fruits. To that end, we grow two types 'Raab' and 'Bob Gordon'. If you order two, we'll send you one of each. If you order one, just let us know which one you want. 'Raab' is known to be a better pollinator and 'Bob Gordon' is know for fantastic fruit production.
birds like to eat the fruit too if you want to let them have it
elderberry is a fast horizontal grower and will bulk up fast - you will likely get good flowers/fruits the year after you plant it
it's a colonizer too so will take up some real estate - we like colonizers and they way the own the ground
elderberry, American elder
USDA Hardiness Zones
flowering shrub, deciduous, edible ornamental
Spring: medium green
Summer: medium green
Fall Leaf Color Quality
Native to USA?
Eastern United States
Soil Moisture Requirements
average garden, moist or wet soils (it grows in wet soils in the wild)
Soil pH Requirements
acid, neutral, alkaline
sun, part shade
To Make It Thrive
Give American elderberry full sun for best flowering (and therefore fruit production), though it certainly does flower and set fruit if it gets only half days of sun. Elderberries are not drought tolerant plants, so when rain skips a week or two, they will need you to drag the hose to them to give them the water they need.
So there's a European elderberry too - are they both edible? Yes, they are both edible and from what I read the berries have similar medicinal profiles. Our native American type is properly listed as a subspecies of Sambucus nigra. Sometimes you'll see it on its own as Sambucus canadensis.