American Black Elderberry Shrub
The American black elderberry shrub (sambucus canadensis), also known as American elderberry or common elderberry, is a shrub or small tree prized for its nutritious and medicinal properties, beautiful flowers, and ease of care. They produce beautiful white or cream-colored flowers in the spring. In fact, you can use these plants to make wine, juice, syrup. The shrub/tree are also hardy to zones 3-9. Additionally, these plants are very productive, fast growing and can tolerate wet and dry sites, which makes them the perfect plants for a garden.
- Uses: You can use the flowers to make wine and the fruits you can make pies and preserves. Since many people don’t prefer the raw fruit, it is better to cook it. While you can eat the elderflowers raw or cooked, the berries, leaves, and bark contain a toxic substance which can lead to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. This is why it is important to cook the berries.
- Benefits: Elderberries are very good for your body. Not only do they contain antioxidants which limit the damage of free radicals, but they also boost your immune system, decrease stress and inflammation. People have used elderberries for the common cold, the flu, sinus pain, back and leg pain, nerve pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, cancer, heart disease, high cholesterol, headache, toothache, and weight loss.
- Taste: Elderberries have a bright, earthy and tart flavor which complements sweeter fruits such as strawberries really well. Additionally they can go well with other tart fruits such as blackberries.
- Size: Depending on how you prune, an elderberry can be a shrub or a tree, ranging from 5-20 feet and have a spread of 6-12 feet. In fact, elderberries grow very fast.
- Color: When the elderberry is ripe, it will turn from green to deep purple/black. It’s important to pick the elderberries when they are ripe since under ripe elderberries will not ripen after being harvested. Do not eat elderberries when green.
- Hardiness Zones: 3 – 7
- Harvest period: The berries will ripen from mid August to mid September.
- Pollination: Elderberries need cross-pollination in order to produce fruit. Therefore plant another variety no more than 60 feet away.
- Cultivation: These plants prefer a moist, well-drained soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. However since they are adaptable, they can be grown in other types of soil as well. They do need full to part sun. Additionally, you can add mulch to control the weeds. Lastly, be sure to water them deeply the first season after planting.
- Storage: You can keep these berries refrigerated before using them. If you want the sweet flavor of the blue berries, be sure to cook them.
How to Water an American Black Elderberry Shrub
- Water with a garden hose or a watering can.
- Water the tree deeply when you see the soil has dried out.
- Additionally, water the tree slowly and evenly all around the root zone.
- In fact, avoid splashing the leaves with water, as this can cause fungal diseases.
- Let the soil dry out between waterings.
- Mulch around the base of the tree in order to help retain moisture and reduce weed growth.
- Lastly, provide supplemental water during periods of drought or dry weather.
Planting American Black Elderberry Shrub
- Choose a suitable location: American Black elderberry shrubs/trees prefer full sun to partial shade and moist, well-drained soil.
- Dig a hole: Dig a hole that is two to three times wider than the root ball of the tree and the same depth as the container or root ball.
- Amend soil: If the soil in the planting area is heavy clay or sandy, consider amending it with compost or other organic matter to improve its structure and fertility.
- Position the tree: Remove the tree from its container and gently loosen any tangled roots. Place the tree in the center of the hole, making sure it is straight and level. The top of the root ball should be even with or slightly above the surrounding soil level.
- Backfill the hole: Replace the soil around the tree, firming it gently as you go to avoid air pockets. Water the tree deeply to settle the soil around the roots.
- Mulch the base of the tree: Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as wood chips or shredded bark, around the base of the tree. The mulch should be 2-3 inches deep and extend out to the edge of the planting hole.
Caring for American Black Elderberry Shrub
- Fertilizing: American black elderberry shrubs typically do not require fertilization. However, if you notice slow growth or damaged leaves, you may want to fertilize the tree with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in early spring.
- Mulching: Applying a 2-3 inch layer of mulch around the base of the tree can help retain moisture in the soil and suppress weed growth. However, avoid piling mulch against the base of the tree, since this can lead to stem rot.
- Pests and diseases: Elderberries can have these common diseases, cankers, leaf spots, and powdery mildews. Therefore keep an eye out for them and consider integrated pest management. Additionally elderberries have moderate resistance to deer.