The elderberry shrub (Sambucus canadensis) grows wild in numerous places in North America. Each spring the elderberry produces a massive display of sweet-smelling blossoms. The elderberry is also a coveted home garden shrub because of its massive production of purplish black fruit. The fruit is used in jams, jellies, pie-fillings, wines, juices and even soups. Many people also utilize the berries for a natural color additive.
The elderberry enjoys being grown in well-drained loam soils. The shrub prefers moist soil conditions but will not tolerate wet roots for an extended time. Organic material is a benefit when planting an elderberry. The shrub prefers a mixture of 50 percent organic humus and 50 percent garden soil upon initial planting.
The elderberry is fairly easy to plant and withstands change well but it does not like to have its roots dry out. Care should always be taken when planting the elderberry to insure that the roots are kept moist not only as it grows but also prior to planting.
The elderberry benefits from having a cultivar planted beside it to aid in fruit production. The shrub is considered to be partially self-fertile but for ideal berry production two elderberries should be located beside each other.
A popular hedgerow shrub, elderberries should ideally be planted at a distance of 6 feet from each other. Plant in the early spring. Once planted, the elderberry should be watered thoroughly once a week until the shrub establishes itself.
Provide the elderberry shrub with 3 to 4 inches of mulch to help the soil retain moisture. When the elderberry is planted in a hedgerow, weed control can be difficult, so mulch will help keep the weeds away from the shrubs.
During its first two years the elderberry should be allowed to grow free and establish itself without pruning. Once established, the plants should be pruned annually in the early spring. Pruning older canes will help to encourage new shrub growth. Diseased wood or dead stems should also be cut away. An established elderberry shrub can have its canes pruned to the ground and return more vigorous.
Harvest elderberry fruits from mid-August to mid-September. A shrub will begin full-scale berry production when it is three to four years old. Refrigerate berries promptly refrigerated to keep them fresh.