Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

Elderberry Whine - An Overview of Sambucus

Few of us think of elderberry as a beautiful landscape ornamental. Could it be that we're so use to seeing this plant, we fail to see its beauty?

When you think of elderberry most likely you conjure up thoughts of  homemade wine, or perhaps the image of a large, billowing white flowered shrub growing in the road ditch. Few of us think of elderberry as a beautiful landscape ornamental. Could it be that we're so use to seeing this plant, we fail to see its beauty?  Like a bright yellow field of goldenrod we appreciate its beauty but we would never think of growing this common weed in our garden. Last July when driving south on I-65 to Nashville the roadside was littered with thousands of elderberry plants in full bloom.  I was amazed by the big bold flowers and the diversity of plant and flower shapes.  Some blooms were small while some were big. Others were round like jumbo snowballs and still others were flat and resembled the flowers of  Queen Ann's lace. It was a spectacular sight and a great example of natural diversity!  Does anyone else driving this highway see what I see, I wondered?  Like many of our best native landscape plants it seems the plant has to travel to Europe before we can appreciate its beauty and usefulness as a landscape plant. 

When traveling in the Netherlands my eye was instantly attracted to an American elderberry planted in front of a small apartment building, I had to admit this is a fine landscape plant. Is the American gardener ready to accept elderberry as a landscape plant? I think so! In the last few years I have seen elderberry featured in Fine Gardening,  Horticulture magazine and several other consumer publications.  When I give slide shows to master gardeners, continuing education students, and even horticulture students, elderberry never fails to invoke oohs & ahs from the audience. Home gardeners will certainly appreciate elderberry's toughness, ease of growth and adaptability to both wet and moderate soils. The huge interest in attracting song birds makes elderberry an even more attractive plant to Americans.

 BLACK BEAUTY This plant has outstanding glossy black leaves and is the first elder with pink flowers. Black Beauty is perhaps a plant best reserved for cooler climates. It has found a very strong following in the Pacific Northwest. In Southern  climates leaf spotting can be a problem if the plants are not given adequate moisture. Also, this is a plant that takes a few years to reach its peak in the garden. Plenty of pinching when the plant is young will help to build a more bushy, upright plant.


 BLACK LACE is in my opinion the best ornamental elder thus far.  It is an exciting new plant that comes by way of the breeding program at East Malling Research Station in England. This beauty has velvet-black leaves that are finely cut and lacy. At first glance you might mistake this plant for an exotic form of Japanese maple, but it's not and the big pink flowers prove it. It holds its color well, even in the heat of the South. Black Lace is a remarkable plant in every respect, and it is the plant that has changed everyone's opinion of elderberry as an ornamental. It's unique color, texture and flower color combine to create an outstanding garden plant. Black Lace stands above all selections of ornamental elderberry and will find a home in most every garden.


Patent Info:  Black Beauty Sambucus nigra 'Gerda' PP: 12305 Can. Can.: 2663;  Black Lace Sambucus nigra 'Eva' PP: 15575 Can. Can.: 2633;


Back to Top

Find plants you love and create idea boards for all your projects.

To create an idea board, sign in or create an account.