Cultivating black elderberry plants in a home landscape not only provides delicious and juicy fruits for jams and pies but the elderberries also have medicinal properties that many people desire. Elderberries grow well in a variety of soils, requiring full sunshine and moderate moisture. Grow black elderberry shrubs in a sunny area of your yard for an attractive ornamental hedge that will produce abundant berries in late summer and early autumn.
Prepare the planting area in the spring by turning the soil over with the garden spade. Work the soil down to a depth of 6 to 8 inches and add 2 to 3 inches of compost over the surface of the soil. Work the compost in thoroughly with the garden spade and then smooth the soil surface with the rake.
Dig holes for the elderberry shrubs, making the holes deep enough to plant the shrubs at the same depth as they are growing in their temporary containers. Make the holes approximately twice as wide as the root systems of the shrubs to prevent damaging the roots as you place the elderberry shrubs into the holes. Space the holes 6 to 10 feet apart.
Remove each elderberry plant from its temporary container and place it into a prepared hole, spreading out the roots as you situate the shrubs in the holes. Fill the holes with soil and tamp the soil down firmly with your hands around each shrub.
Provide a generous watering of the shrubs immediately after you finish planting them, watering the soil to saturate it evenly. Keep the elderberry shrubs evenly moist throughout the growing season, especially during the first month after planting and during dry periods. Make sure the elderberry shrubs receive at least 1 inch of water each week.
Spread 2 to 3 inches of mulch around the base of each elderberry shrub to conserve soil moisture and prevent weeds from encroaching upon the shrubs.
Fertilize the elderberry plants in the spring when the growing season begins, mixing the fertilizer with water according to package recommendations for the size of the elderberry shrubs. Pour the fertilizer carefully over the soil without allowing the fertilizer to splash onto the plant foliage.
Harvest elderberries when they ripen and turn purple on the shrubs at the end of the summer. Pick the elderberries by hand and store them in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Wait to prune new elderberry shrubs until the third spring after planting them to enable the plants to get a vigorous start. Starting when the shrubs are 3 years old, prune them each spring before the growing season begins, removing the dead and oldest canes back to the base of the shrub. Do not remove more than one-third of the shrub at one time.