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Growing Sambucus

Growing Sambucus

Black Lace Sambucus


Hardy shrubs with large, flat clusters of attractive, fragrant flowers and striking, dark foliage. Has a spreading, multi-stemmed habit. Fruit is edible and sometimes used for jams, jellies, juice, and desserts, but is less flavorful than American Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis). Good plants for background plantings, hedges, massing, specimen plants, around ponds, and in rain gardens. Hardy in zones 4 to 7. Plant in spring after the danger of frost has passed. Dig a hole 12 to 18 inches deep and wide, and mix in compost or other organic matter. Plant with the roots slightly deeper than in the pot.


For full sun to part shade in moist to wet, well-drained soil. Benefits from mulching. Responds well to pruning in winter. Can be cut to the ground and treated as a herbaceous perennial more than a shrub. Other pruning options are removing old and weak stems or cutting year old stems back by half. Planting more than one variety improves pollination and fruit production. Can spread somewhat aggressively in favorable sites.

Fertilizer Recommendations

Use full rates of Gromax Fertilizer Tablets 20-10-5 (51165), Algoflash All-Purpose Liquid Fertilizer 6-6-6 (51085), or Neptune Fish & Seaweed Fertilizer 2-3-1 (51221).

Alternative Products

Other hardy shrubs for moist to wet sites include Bergeson Compact Dogwood (20329), Little Henry Sweetspire (20587), and Ruby Spice Summersweet (20307). 

Complimentary Products

Low to moderate feeders that benefit from occasional fertilization. Good combined with summer-blooming perennials like Coneflower and Garden Phlox in perennial beds when pruned to the ground annually.

Sambucus Facts

Usually not bothered significantly by pests or problems. Aphids, borers, mites, canker, leaf spot, and powdery mildew are occasional problems. Classified as Sambucus nigra and also called Black Elder, it is related to American Elderberry. Its flowers are edible can can be battered and fried to make fritters.

Growing Tips