Common elderberry, also known as American elderberry, is a perennial shrub that belongs to the Sambucus genus and Caprifoliaceae family. It is a subspecies of the Sambucus nigra, which is the elderberry tree that is native to Europe. The botanical name of common elderberry is Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis and it is native to parts of North America and United States of America. These shrubs can be easily spotted in marshy areas. If you happen to visit riparian lands in these regions, you can spot these shrubs on the meadows along the river banks. These can also be seen in open woodlands or forests.
While the clusters of white flowers and lush-green foliage are attractive features of this perennial shrub, the edible purple-colored fruits that are borne by this shrub are widely used for culinary purposes. Are you planning to grow this shrub in your garden? If yes, then leaf through the plant guide for growing common elderberry and gain insights on how to grow elderberry bush.
Information on Common Elderberry
The American Elderberry can easily attain a height of about 10 to 12 feet. This thicket-forming, perennial shrub, produces clusters of fragrant white flowers, that bring out the beauty of their green foliage. The leaves are opposite and have serrated margins. The rounded clusters of flowers start appearing towards the end of the month of June, but the bloom season continues till August. This tree can be easily identified with the umbrella-like clusters of purple-black berries that attract songbirds.
Unlike some other shrubs belonging to this genus that produce poisonous berries, the drupes of common elderberry bush are edible. In fact, these are widely used to add flavor to jams, jellies or wine. The flowers of common elderberry have therapeutic properties, and can be used for making herbal infusions for treating fever, diarrhea or congestion. While the flowers and berries are edible, the other parts of this shrub are not safe for consumption.
Growing Common Elderberry
Though you can propagate a common elderberry from cuttings, you could even try growing elderberry from seed. All you need to do is collect ripe elderberry drupes and soak them in water. You can then crush them, and separate the seeds from the pulp in the water. The seeds would then float on the surface, and can be easily removed. Spread out the seeds and let them air dry. Store them at a temperature of about 41 degrees Fahrenheit.
The ideal time to sow these seeds is during the spring or the fall. While sowing the seeds, make sure that the seeds are placed at least a quarter inch deep, and then cover them with sawdust mulch. Water them so that the potting medium remains moist. The process of germination will take a while, and only in the next spring season, would the germination take place.
At this time, you can place the seeds in potting medium of peat, sand and vermiculite within the seed drills in a greenhouse. Make sure that the temperature is in the range of 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Before the seedlings are planted in pots, keep the seeds in seed trays, and ensure that the seeds are closer to the soil surface. Also ensure that the soil is moist during this time.
In a couple of months, the seedlings would have to be potted. You can use pots that are about three inches deep. Wait for at least six to eight months, before planting them outdoors. If you are not keen on growing the common elderberry from seed, you can buy a small elderberry plant from a garden center.
Though the common elderberry is a fast-growing hardy shrub, providing it with the ideal conditions, required for its growth, would certainly ensure rapid growth and profuse flowering in the bloom season. Common elderberry grows best in well-drained soil. The pH of the soil must lie in the range of 5 to 7. Soil must not be fine in texture, and it would be best to plant the seedlings in medium-textured soil. It will do well in well-drained loamy soil. If the soil is fine in texture, it would be best to add some organic matter to it.
These bushes will grow well in the full sun, but these can also tolerate partial shade. It would be best to look for a spot that gets ample sunlight. These must be watered at least once every week. If you follow these instructions, you will surely see beautiful flower clusters on the elderberry bush in spring. When the berries appear, you will also get to see birds chirping and hovering around the fruit-laden tree.
I hope that the going through the aforementioned common elderberry facts has given you a basic idea on how to grow and care for this beautiful shrub. So, follow the instructions given in the plant guide for growing common elderberry, and wait for the beautiful flowers and berries to appear.