How to Grow Elderberry


Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) is also known as American Elder and sweet elder. It is a fruit-bearing deciduous shrub that can grow 10 to 15 feet tall with an equal width. Elderberry is an indigenous plant to the North American continent from as far north as Nova Scotia to as far south as Florida. Elderberry bushes produce late-summer fruit that is shiny, edible, and black, blue or red, depending on the variety. They are hardy in the USDA zones 3 to 11. Elderberries are used in making elderberry wine, jams and jellies. Plant elderberry plants in the full in partial sun and make sure they are kept well-watered during their growing season.

Planting Bare Root Elderberries

Step 1

Prepare the planting area about a week in advance. Cultivate the planting area using a shovel or a rototiller to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. Remove weeds, roots, rocks and sticks from the area.

Step 2

Spread over the planting area a layer of aged manure, compost, pine bark or other similar organic media that is 3 to 4 inches thick. Mix the organic media throughly into the soil using a shovel or a garden fork.

Step 3

Set each of the bare-root elderberry plants in a container that can hold enough water to cover the entire root system. Soak the elderberry plants in the water for 12 to 24 hours but no longer.

Step 4

Dig holes in the planting area that are three times the diameter of the root system but 1 to 2 inches deeper. Each hole needs to be spaced 6 to 10 feet apart.

Step 5

Create a conical mound of soil in the center of each planting hole that is 3 to 4 inches tall. Remove a bare-root eldberry plant from the container in which it has been soaking and spread out its roots over the mound. Make sure the elderberry plant is not sitting too deeply in the hole. The top of its root system should be near to the same level to the surface of the surrounding garden soil.

Step 6

Hold the elderberry plant level and straight in its planting hole while you push in dirt over the root system. Pack the soil carefully and gently over the root system when the planting hole is about half-filled. Pour water into the hole until it's about 2/3 full.

Step 7

Scoop in more soil to fill the hole full of soil. Create a 2 to 3 inch high circular berm of dirt approximately 18 to 24 inches in diameter around each of the elderberry plants. (This is useful when watering so the shallow root system of each elderberry plant will receive enough water).

Things You'll Need

  • Elderberry plants
  • Shovel
  • Garden fork
  • Bucket
  • Organic matter
  • Fertilizer


  • Cornell University: Elderberry
  • Elderberries

Who Can Help

  • United States National Arobretum: The USDA Plant Zone Hardiness Map
Keywords: planting elderberries, planting an elderberry plant, growing an elderberry bush

About this Author

Katelyn Lynn is a certified holistic health practitioner who specializes in orthomolecular medicine and preventative modalities. She also has extensive experience in botany and horticulture. Lynn has been writing articles for various websites relating to health and wellness since 2007. She has been published on She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in alternative medicine from Everglades University.