Elderberries will tolerate almost any soil conditions, succeeding in both damp poorly drained and shallow chalk soils. They do well in full sun or partial shade. The plants are very hardy and flower in May after the threat of frost has passed. The flowers make delicious cordial, and both flowers and berries make wonderful home-made wine. Some also have most attractive gold or purple foliage.
Plant your bush as soon as possible after receipt, allowing enough space for it to spread to 3-4m (10-13ft). Should weather conditions be adverse (i.e. if the ground is frozen or too wet to plant), then it may be left in its pot in a sheltered spot or if bare rooted should be temporarily heeled in until conditions improve. Dig a hole or shallow trench and cover the roots loosely with sufficient soil or compost to ensure that no roots are exposed to the air.
Improve the soil structure by thorough digging before planting and if possible mix well rotted manure or compost into the top soil.
Soak the roots in water for 1-2 hours. Dig a hole comfortably large enough to take the rootball, remove the pot and plant, ensuring the top of the rootball is level with the surrounding soil or up to 1cm (½in) deeper. Apply rootgrow™ mycorrhizal fungi
directly to the roots before planting - this will help the plant to establish quickly. Firm the soil around the rootball and water-in thoroughly.
Keep the soil around the bush moist throughout the first growing season. In later years only water during prolonged dry spells, drenching thoroughly no more than once a week. A bush grown on in a container will need more regular watering and should never be allowed to dry out.
Weeding & Mulching
Keep the area around the bush free of weeds, particularly during the first year. An annual mulch of well rotted compost will greatly improve moisture retention and soil structure, and help suppress unwanted weeds.
Elderberries naturally form large multi-stemmed bushes which can grow to a maximum height of about 5m (16ft). To encourage vigorous new growth and help establishment cut all stems back to 30cm (1ft) above ground at planting time.
Varieties with attractive foliage look best when growing vigorously so should be cut hard back every year or every other year in winter. The flowers are produced on both the current and the previous season’s shoots, so they will still flower and fruit, even in the year following severe pruning.
Most garden soils contain sufficient nutrients for healthy growth although applying a balanced top dressing (such as Fruit Feed
) in spring can be beneficial especially on light, free-draining, sandy soils, or to provide additional nutrients needed for the vigorous growth that follows severe pruning.
Pests & Diseases
Elderberries are generally trouble-free.