Elderberries are one of the most medicinally beneficial shrubs you can grow in your garden. Cooking them cuts back on their tart taste, then they are wonderful to eat. They are packed with vitamins and minerals, and they are fairly easy to grow!
Thankfully, there are many elderberries uses and benefits so that gardeners and growers can make the most of this plant.
Which Plant do the Elderberries Come From?
Elderberries come from the American Elder Shrub (Sambucus canadensis). After the flowers bloom, the shrub forms umbel-shaped drupes that can be used for a variety of purposes.
Where is the Elderberry’s Native Habitat?
Plants from the elder genus grow in Europe and North America. They are native to forest and subtropical regions. Elder shrubs grow on woodland edges, ravines, and anywhere they can receive plenty of sun.
Elder shrubs can tolerate a wide range of soil conditions, from clay soils to rocky and sandy soils. They tend to prefer slightly acidic soils and thrive in rich, organic, and well-drained soil conditions.
What are the Elderberry’s Growing Habits?
The elder is a deciduous woody plant that can be grown as a shrub or a small tree. This plant spreads by root suckers and through seed dispersal. It tends to form colonies which can be mitigated by removing the suckers.
While it can spread, the elderberry has a somewhat shallow root system. Gardeners should be cautious when planting or digging near the elderberry shrub.
Height and Spread
American elderberry can grow anywhere from five up to 12 feet tall. It can grow even higher in the most ideal conditions. The elder shrub has a spread that matches its height and can be pruned in late winter.
It thrives in well-draining soils but prefers more moisture than most plants. To help the plant to retain moisture, you can water it one to two times per week or apply two inches of mulch in the fall.
The American elder shrub has ovate leaves with serrated or jagged edges. Its leaves are thin and susceptible to damage in high-traffic areas of the garden.
The beautiful white flowers of the elder shrub begin to bloom in June and carry on until July, the elder has tiny flowers on umbel clustered flowerheads. Most notedly, its flowers smell like lemons. The flower can be used to make champagne.
Flowers give way to clusters of black elderberry fruits (drupes) in late summer. Fruits of the elder shrub are sometimes used in baking. Some elderberry uses include jams and jellies, pie fillings, and elderberry wine.
Berries should be fully cooked before they are consumed. Uncooked berries have mild toxins that will cause stomach discomfort and other gastrointestinal issues.
What are its Health Benefits?
The humble elderberry has been used medicinally for thousands of years. It has a reputation as a medicinal powerhouse, and for good reason. Here are some of the health properties linked to elderberries:
- High in Vitamin C
- High in Potassium and Fiber
- Can help reduce respiratory symptoms
- Helps to reduce symptoms related to the flu and the common cold
- Can aid in weight loss
- Helps to reduce inflammation
Where Can I Buy an Elderberry Plant?
You can get elderberry shrubs from friends and family, greenhouses, and online nurseries.
Here at the Wholesale Nursery Company, we sell native perennials including the American elder shrub. We pride ourselves on providing quality stock at affordable prices. Our elder shrubs can be sent directly to you in time for planting. Our elder shrubs are shipped as bare roots to maximize planting success.
Check out our product listing below and click here to visit the product page.
Zones: 3 to 9
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Mature Height: up to 12 feet
Mature Spread: up to 12 feet
Water: Average to wet
The American elder is native to North America and grows best in moist, organic soils. Its berries and flowers are used to make jellies, jams, pies, alcoholic beverages, and teas. It prefers full sun and can be easily propagated through the use of cuttings. Click here to visit the elder shrub product page .
What are the Elderberry's Uses?
One of the best elderberry uses is for ornamentation. Its striking white flowers stand out in summer, and it has an enchanting, lemony aroma.
Beyond ornamentation there are plenty of edible and medicinal elderberry uses. Because the berries are tart and may contain toxins in their raw form, we recommend that you process them before consumption. Once processed or cooked, elderberries can be eaten.
One of the most common elderberry uses is in jellies and jams. They can make an excellent, dark, and tangy dessert spread. Jellies and jams can be served on toast, sandwiches, pancakes and waffles, and ice cream.
Here is a list of several specific elderberry uses:
Pies and Cakes
The next of the elderberry uses is for pies and cakes. Elderberries can be used to make pie fillings. They can also be used like blueberries in baking. In cakes and muffins, they make a delicious addition for those who like tangy sweets.
One of the best elderberry uses is to make tea. The flowers or cooked berries can be used to make tea. You can also dry the flowers and berries to store and use to make tea at another time.
Another elderberry use is in syrup. The liquid can be extracted and boiled down to create a thick, luscious syrup. This syrup can be made with cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and honey. All ingredients are boiled together, mashed, then strained to create the syrup.
One of the favorite elderberries uses is to make wine. Elderberry wine is made just like other fruit wines. The result is a dark, sweet purple wine that has a distinct, uncommon yet delicious taste.
This isn’t as much as an elderberry use as it is an elderflower use. The flowers that bloom before the berries develop can be used to make champagne. Yep! Champagne. The flowers have natural yeast so all that you need to add is sugar and water.
How do I plant elderberry?
Planting the American elder shrub is easy and similar to planting other shrubs. This shrub needs to be planted in moist soils and with all of the stem above the surface to prevent the introduction of bacteria and disease.
Step-by-step Elder Shrub Planting Guide
- Scout the ideal location. This spot should receive plenty of sunshine and have workable soil
- Dig a hole large enough to cover the roots, but not so deep that the soil covers the main stem (if the stem is buried, it will lead to rot)
- Backfill the hole and firm in the soil, being careful not to damage the roots
- Water thoroughly after planting, this will eliminate any air pockets in the soil and help the roots to establish
- Mulch with 1 to 2 inches of tree bark mulch or add an inch of compost in the fall
- Prune off any broken branches or branches that cross
- Do not fertilize until the next fall
The elder shrub can be pruned when needed in late winter. It can also be hard-pruned back to the ground to reinvigorate it. Even if it’s cut back to the ground, it can regrow back to the same great height and spread.
If you have any questions or comments about the American Elder Shrub or Elderberry uses, please reach out to us. We hope you found this article on elderberry uses helpful. Be sure to let us know if you have any additional questions and we will try to answer them as soon as we can!