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What is the Best Variety of Elderberry (Sambucus)?

Michael Gonzales
December 18, 2023

what is the best variety of elderberry

Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) varieties differ in maturity size, fruit set and foliage characteristics, making selecting the optimal variety dependent upon your growing conditions and personal tastes.

American black elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) grows 6-8 feet tall in zones 4-9. This species offers superior hardiness over European varieties and tolerates more variable soil conditions, producing delicious fruits such as berries and flowers with intense flavors.


Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) varieties best suited to your garden will depend on which characteristics are most important to you. When starting, first assess your growing zone and available space; once this information is known, review descriptions of various cultivars until one fits best with your desired characteristics.

Elderberry cultivars have been specifically selected and bred for specific qualities, like producing large flower heads or sweet fruits, and are generally more productive than older ‘wild-type’ species of elderberries. When selecting the ideal shrub for your landscape, be mindful of how much direct sunlight there will be each summer in your location; 8 hours should provide sufficient energy for plants to set and ripen fruit successfully.

American Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) berries make delicious treats when added to pies, jams, jellies, juices or wine, making an attractive natural source of food in fall for birds and other creatures alike. Elderberries can be grown either as evergreen shrubs or thickets; their fruits can then be consumed fresh, dried or used to make syrup and preserves – native elderberries thrive wild in moist forest clearings, field edges or damp areas such as stream banks and swales where they spread through root suckering forming dense thickets of elderberries that attract birds as natural food sources in fall – perfect natural sources!

Elderberries are packed with Vitamin C and fiber. Plus they’re loaded with antioxidants that can protect the heart and prevent disease – and may help alleviate stress or ease flu symptoms while strengthening immunity! Elderberry flowers and berries have even been touted to reduce stress and boost immune systems!

Elderberries are typically easy to care for once planted and require little attention afterward. As they have shallow-rooted shrubs, it is important to provide ample drainage. Elderberries tend to produce fruit on their own; for optimal yields it is advised that multiple varieties of the same species be planted in your garden to aid cross pollination.


Elderberry (Sambucus) plants make stunning additions to gardens, but be wary as their unripe fruit, stems and roots contain poisonous cyanide glucosides that could prove fatal without prior preparation or drying of fruit. Elderberries also make striking hedgerow plants which offer shade from neighboring properties while providing privacy from them.

Gardeners generally favor European elderberry (Sambucus nigra) due to its medicinal qualities and delicious berries; both species thrive in North America, growing with graceful shrubs featuring vase-like shapes with attractive fernlike foliage that adds visual interest in fall and winter months. Furthermore, European elderberries produce large clusters of small white flowers beloved by butterflies that grow at an impressive rate.

Many cultivars favored by growers are hybrids between Sambucus canadensis and Sambucus nigra, with hybrids often preferring those from the latter species. Nigra hybrids generally thrive better in North American climates and often demonstrate resistance to diseases that threaten native canadensis varieties such as those seen at University of Missouri trials involving canadensis varieties such as Marge (Nige heritage). Marge has proven especially resistant to leaf diseases while growing well across zones 4-8.

Growers I spoke to often recommended the compact cultivar ‘Ranch,’ which can tolerate various conditions and produces large-than-average berries while being highly resistant to disease. Another favorite cultivar is Bob Gordon which produces large yields while remaining disease resistant – both varieties reach 6-8 feet tall.

Elderberry cultivars are available for purchase both online and at nurseries, but it’s best to buy only named varieties to ensure you receive one that works in your growing zone and meets all the characteristics important to you. Furthermore, planting multiple different varieties within 50 feet from one another has been shown to improve pollination and yields.

Plant elderberries with companion plants that will attract beneficial insects that can assist with controlling pests that target elderberry crops, such as aphids and other leaf-feeding bugs. Also, select plants that can tolerate damp conditions and have soil pH levels similar to elderberry’s; the University of Vermont provides a list of recommended companion plants.


Sambucus nigra (black elderberry) flowers and its fruits, especially its berries, have long been valued medicinally. A tea made by pouring boiling water over one tablespoon of dried blossoms may provide relief from cold and flu symptoms like fever, coughing and congestion. Herbalists use flowers from this shrub to prepare tinctures that treat asthma, hay fever and allergies by decreasing inflammation in mucous membranes. A 2015 review of evidence on its medicinal benefits is available online through EthnoHerbalist. Elderberry blossoms and berries are renowned for their aesthetic appeal, making elderberry plants popular ornamentals in nurseries nationwide. Many cultivars of elderberries exist such as the “Lemony Lace” variety with its white blooms with purple edges, which grows up to 6 feet (2 meters).

Some varieties of elderberry are grown specifically for their foliage rather than fruit production. One such European elderberry cultivar, Variegated Green and White, features leaves marked by green and white hues – perfect as an accent or container planting choice, yet not suitable as foundation or hedge planting due to producing less-than-intense berry production.

For maximum yields of berries, look to American self-fruiting cultivar ‘Adams.’ This hybrid combines disease resistance of Sambucus canadensis with more vigorous growth from Sambucus nigra, yielding larger berries than other American cultivars. Another choice would be ‘York, which also produces self-fruitful yields but offers increased returns when planted together with another cultivar of the same species; you can purchase both varieties together easily from Burpee as part of their Elderberry Collection offering.

Elderberries require regular maintenance in order to remain productive. Pruning should include annual removal of dead or damaged stems to stimulate new growth that produces the maximum yield. More extensive annual pruning should be carried out either late winter or early spring with care taken not to cut off fruiting spurs that might otherwise produce fruit.

Branchs left after berry production can be pruned down to the ground for easier management, though this will reduce their ability to produce fruit in subsequent years. Some elderberries can withstand being pruned to this degree while others do not tolerate being trimmed so severely.


If you want to grow elderberries for their fruits, choose varieties with edible and safe berries such as the ones found in John’s, Adam’s, Nova or York varieties; these perform particularly well in Midwestern and Eastern United States regions and tend to produce larger berries than wild cousins. Harvest from August to September before refrigerating until used. Blue and purple berries work best as culinary ingredients while elderberries can also be used in jellies jams or wine production.

To find the ideal elderberry plants for your garden, begin by considering which attributes you most desire – such as fruit production or leaf beauty. Next, read descriptions of available cultivars to identify those which possess these traits, taking climate and growing zone into account as you narrow down your options.

European elderberries (Sambucus nigra) tend to do better in cool climates than American elderberries; however, Sambucus canadensis provides superior immune-boosting properties and thrives better across North America.

Elderberries tend to be deciduous plants, though some varieties can remain evergreen in warmer tropical areas. In colder environments however, their leaves will typically fall off every fall.

Elderberries are native to temperate and subtropical forests throughout the world, where they form either clumps or small trees depending on the cultivar chosen. Some elderberry types are grown for their fruit while others are appreciated for their medicinal qualities.

Elderberry plants are rarely affected by pests or diseases, though powdery mildew may appear on leaves during damp weather. Fungicide blightylex may be used to manage this disease, with infected leaves removed and destroyed before autumn arrives. Cane borers may also be present in certain regions; any cane showing signs of borer damage must be removed immediately.

If you’re cultivating the plant for its berries, prune in spring to encourage new growth and fruiting, while clearing away branches that produced fruit that year in autumn to prevent overcrowding or any reduction in yield. Three or four year-old canes should always be removed, since they tend to produce less.


  • Michael Gonzales

    Michael has a diverse set of skills and passions, with a full-time career as an airline pilot and a dedicated focus on health and fitness consulting. He understands the importance of balancing a busy lifestyle with maintaining a healthy mind and body, and is committed to helping others achieve the same success. Michael's expertise in health and fitness is not just limited to physical training, but also extends to nutrition, stress management, and overall wellbeing. He takes a holistic approach to health and fitness, helping clients to achieve their goals in a sustainable and fulfilling way. With a strong desire to inspire and motivate others, Michael is always ready to share his time and knowledge with those who seek his guidance. Whether in the air or on the ground, Michael is dedicated to helping others live their best lives.

    https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-gonzales-07bb4b31/ [email protected] Gonzales Michael


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