An incredible native berry packed full of antioxidants and widely used as a health tonic, elderberries are a must have for any yard or garden! Elderberries attract a bonanza of pollinators on their umbrel-shaped flowers (especially lightning bugs) and then produce copious amounts of berries around August. Wild elderberries tend to have smaller clusters and smaller individual berries and are highly favored by many species of birds. We also carry many cultivars which produce much larger clusters of juicy berries. These berries are not eaten raw, but are cooked and made into delicous wine, jellies, jams, syrups, tonics, and more! Flowers are also used to make teas and drinks.
Elderberries enjoy moisture and can be found growing wild in our area next to streams and ditches (but not in them). They enjoy full sun and will fruit better in those conditions but can also tolerate fairly heavy shade. Deer love to browse on young elderberry plants, but once established, elderberries are extremely resistant to deer, quickly growing above the browsing height of deer.
Plants will grow about 6-12' tall and about 10' wide depending on the conditions, but tend to grow on the taller side in our climate. They can be spaced as close as 4' apart for production or for a hedge. No major pests or diseases to worry about, they are the perfect no spray fruit for our area.
A mature elderberry plant next to our house. This one is approximately 12 ft tall and 10 ft wide.
Elderberries in bloom. Our native elderberry species doesn't have as fragrant flowers as the European ones, and so they are not as useful for making teas and othe drinks, but they are fantastic for attracting native pollinators, especially lightning bugs!
'Adams' Elderberry - Sambucus canadensis 'Adams'
The Adams No. 1 and Adams No. 2 cultivars were selected from the wild in New York in 1926. Both have large fruit, but Adams No. 2 has the largest fruit of all elderberries. Shrubs are vigorous with a strong upright growth habit. Shrubs can reach between 6-10 feet in height and 6-8 feet in width. The Adams cultivars are among the most productive cultivars.
'Bob Gordon' Elderberry - Sambucus canadensis 'Bob Gordon'
This cultivar was selected from the wild by Bob Gordon near Osceola, Missouri, in 1999. It was introduced by the University of Missouri in 2011. It is a determinate cultivar that flowers from the late May through mid-June. This cultivar produces vigorous open to upright shrubs that can reach 6-8 feet in height and 6-8 feet in width. It ripens at the end of July through the first part of August. It produces small to medium fruits that are purple and sweet. Once dormant in fall, plants could be cut down to the ground. They will produce fruit on primocanes, which are the current season’s growth.
'Johns' Elderberry - Sambucus canadensis 'Johns'
The Johns cultivar originated at the Kentsville Research Station in Nova Scotia. It is an open pollinated Adams No. 1 or Adams No. 2 seedling. It was released in 1954. It has medium-sized cyme with white flowers. It exhibits extremely vigorous upright growth. Glossy foliage makes it a very interesting landscape specimen. Its fruit ripens in mid-August. The fruit is purple-black, glossy, firm, sweet and juicy. Shrubs are 8-12 feet tall and 6-8 feet wide. This cultivar is excellent for wine, juices, jellies, jams and pies.
'Nova' Elderberry - Sambucus canadensis 'Nova'
The Nova cultivar is an open-pollinated seedling of Adams No. 2, selected in 1946 and released by the AgCanada Research Station in Kentville, Nova Scotia, in 1959. It was named by the province of origin. It is a multi-stemmed shrub with a vigorous and upright growth habit. It has wide clusters of creamy-white flowers. Fruit ripens in early August. It bears large, purple-black, soft, sweet and juicy fruit. In full maturity, it is 6-8 feet tall and just as wide. Excellent for wine, juice, jam and jelly.
'Ranch' Elderberry - Sambucus canadensis 'Ranch'
The elderberry cultivar with perhaps the widest range of growing conditions, Ranch can take much more extreme conditions and infertile soils compared to other cultivars. The cultivar was discovered on an abandoned ranch, which is what gives it its name. Ranch plants are short and easily harvested. The stems are strong and shorter in stature than other cultivars, growing 5-6 feet tall. Clusters of fruits can be found in the middle of the stems to the top. The plants grow in most soil types and are the most tolerant to non-fertile soils.
Wild Elderberry - Sambucus canadensis
Seedling elderberries pop up on our farm all the time because the birds love to eat them and spread the seeds around! These wild elderberries are just as tasty as the improvsed cultivars, but they have smaller flower and berry clusters and the berries themselves are also much smaller and less plump. Berry clusters tend to stay more upright because they aren't quite as heavy as the improved cultivars, which makes them a bit easier for many bird species to eat. A great choice for anyone interested in planting elderberries primarily for birds and other wildflife. Plants should be quite vigorous, growing 8-12 ft tall.
'York' Elderberry - Sambucus canadensis 'York'
The York cultivar originated at the New York Agricultural Experimental Station. This is a hybrid between cultivars Ezyoff and Adams No. 2. It was released in 1964. This cultivar has large cyme loaded with white flowers. Fruit ripens in mid- to late August. Fruit is medium to large, purple to almost black, glossy, soft, juicy and sweet. It has a vigorous, upright and somewhat spreading growth habit. Grows 6-10 feet high and 6-8 feet wide.
'Wyldewood' Elderberry - Sambucus canadensis 'Wyldewood'
This is a variety of Elderberry that is found growing wild in Brush Hills, Oklahoma. The harvest season is two and three weeks later than other major cultivars. Wyldewood has high vigor. When the plants are grown in warmer climates or have a longer growing season, the plants can be mowed to the ground after dormancy as a method of pruning. The new primocane stems will yield fruits in the following year. Plants are productive with large cymes of fruit.