How to Grow American Elderberry


American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), also called elderberry and sweet elder, is a often planted as an attractive specimen plant thanks to its light, airy, feather-like foliage. American elderberry also produces clusters of delicate, white-colored flowers followed by blueish-black, edible berries. The small berries are highly attractive to a number of bird species. American elderberry can grow to between 10 and 15 feet tall, so make sure you plant American Elderberry where it will have ample room to grow.

Step 1

Choose a planting location. American elderberry like growing in a sun-filled location, but they can tolerate some light shade. However, they cannot tolerate soggy soil. To test the drainage in your planting area, dig a 2-foot-wide by 2-foot-deep hole, and pour water into the hole until it's full. If the water has not drained away within an hour, consider planting elsewhere or in a raised bed.

Step 2

Amend the soil in the planting area. Use a garden hoe to remove all weeds and their roots, then spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of compost over the planting area. Use a garden fork or a shovel to turn over the soil, mixing the compost thoroughly into the soil.

Step 3

Create a planting hole twice the diameter of the growing container the American elderberry is in, and about 2 to 3 inches deeper. If you intend to plant more than one American elderberry, for instance in a row, space each of the planting holes between 8 and 10 feet apart.

Step 4

Remove the American elderberry from its growing receptacle. Turn the container horizontally on the ground. Use a trowel to strike downwards at the base of the container. When the container starts to loosen, pull the container off the root ball.

Step 5

Set the American elderberry in the planting hole, and scoop in garden soil to fill the planting hole. Tamp the soil down around the American elderberry. Water thoroughly, letting the water run slowly to reach its roots.

Step 6

Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of an organic matter (such as bark, sawdust, hay or grass cuttings) for mulch over the planted area. Keep the mulch about 2 inches out from the stem of the American elderberry.

Things You'll Need

  • American elderberry plant
  • Hoe
  • Garden fork or shovel
  • Compost
  • Trowel
  • Mulch


  • American Elderberry
  • National Gardening Association: Elderberries
Keywords: growing american elderberry shrubs, planting american elderberry, american elderberry growing

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.