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Growing Elderberries

Have you heard of elderberries? Well, it is one of the few plants that can be found on almost every continent on the earth. It has a litany of medicinal properties. The berries and flowers are amazing. Not to mention it is a superfood! It is said that Hippocrates raved about all of the health benefits of this plant. Are you interested in growing it now?

Since elderberries are grown all over the world in varying climates, it is safe to assume that it is relatively easy to grow.  If you are planning on growing is a shrub, realize that it can get up to 12 feet tall and almost nearly as wide. A multi-stemmed, fast-growing, hardy and versatile plant that is often overlooked by home gardeners. Interesting fact; the stem is hollow and has been used to make musical instruments by many indigenous cultures.

More Facts About Elderberries

Elderberries belong to the Sambucas species in the Adoxaceae family.

One thing that makes this plant amazing is the wide range of soils it can be grown in. Elderberries prefer well-drained sites with full sun but are even able to produce in shaded areas. They are also able to grow in regions that are prone to flooding. Travel around the Midwest, and you will see these plants growing along riverbanks thriving.

Like most fruiting trees or shrubs, it takes time to receive the berries. You will have to wait between 2-5 years before receiving your reward.  When the plant has had enough time to mature, elderberries produce clusters of white flowers that the pollinators love in late spring, and the dark-colored berries are present by the late summer. These flower clusters are produced on new growth. Why is this important? If the shrub is getting too unruly and you need to cut it back in the winter when the new growth springs up that season, you will still have the opportunity for flowers and fruit.

Attempting to eat these berries fresh off the tree could make you instantly regret growing this plant. They are bitter. Similar to a fruit called a quince, once they are cooked, that bitterness immediately goes away. Elderberries are high in vitamin C, dietary fiber, phenolic acids, and anthocyanins. Elderberries also contain antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory agents. They have a long history of being used to treat common colds and the flu.

While the berries are nutritious, be careful with other parts of the plant. It has been said that the leaves, stems, and roots are poisonous. They contain a form of cyanide.

How To Propagate Elderberries

You can propagate this plant the same way as tomatoes. Cut new growth and place in a cup of water for weeks until you see roots or cut and propagate in soil.  I have seen even seen people successfully take a cutting from a branch and stick that branch directly into the ground!

Few pests bother elderberries. For the most part, your number one pests will be birds. If you want to keep your harvest to yourself, think about investing in some form of bird netting. Beneficial insects love this plant. By adding this plant to your landscape, you have the potential to increase your good bug population so that they can, in turn, reduce your pest population. That’s why I am going to take a lot of cuts and clone this plant. I think every garden I am affiliated with needs to be growing this crop.

Companion Plants

Elderberries do not like their roots disturbed once planted. So look at planting them underneath taller trees or planting shorter native perennials underneath. I like to plant herbs that can tolerate shade and will form a ground cover. Think thyme and oregano.

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