Growing elderberry

Growing elderberry trees is surprisingly easy. Elderberries and elderflowers make delicious foods and beverages, plus research shows they’re a helpful immune-boosting medicine to fight colds, flus, and other viruses. Here’s a complete guide to growing and harvesting your own elderberries and elderflowers!


Elderberry, aka Sambucus, is a small, deciduous tree that grows in virtually every temperate region on earth. There are dozens of different species of Sambucus around the world. Some species feature red berries, some blue, some black/purple.

A beautiful 5-gallon bucket full of perfectly ripe elderberries from Tyrant Farms. Growing elderberry trees by Tyrant Farms

A beautiful 5-gallon bucket full of perfectly ripe elderberries from Tyrant Farms.

In this article, we’ll be focusing on how to grow one particular species of elderberry: Sambucas canadensis, aka “American black elderberry”.

Native range of North American Sambucus nigra subspecies. Image courtesy Elbert L. Little, Jr., of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service.

Native ranges of various elderberry species in North America, which grow from Ag Zone 5-8. Sambucus canadensis range shown in green. Image courtesy Elbert L. Little, Jr., of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service.

Sambucus canadensis plants feature dark purple-black berries and produce excellent quality fruit. They also have extraordinarily high concentrations of health-boosting compounds such as anthocyanin (which gives the berries their purple/black color).

We grow Sambucus canadensis varieties, and recommend you do as well — if you live in the ranges on the map above where they grow natively. Otherwise, seek out varieties specific to your growing region.

For easier reading, we’ll simply refer to Sambucus canadensis as “elderberries” for the remainder of this article.

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Growing elderberry trees in an edible urban landscape works perfectly. The two large plants at the very back of our edible landscape are elderberry trees that have just gone from flowering to fruit set in early summer.

Growing elderberry trees in an edible urban landscape works perfectly. The two large plants at the very back of our edible landscape are elderberry trees that are starting to flower. The white flowering plant in front is yarrow, not elderberries.

Where does the name elderberry come from?

The name “elderberry” comes from the Anglo Saxon word “æld,” which sounds like “old” but actually translates to “fire.” Centuries ago, the hollow, straight stems of elderberry branches were used to blow air into a hot fireplace, fueling the flame.

Given that the center of a cut and dried elderberry branch has a light styrofoam-like texture that would make an ideal fire-starting material, our bet is this feature also factored into the plant’s old Anglo Saxon name as well.

GROWING ELDERBERRY TREES: A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE

Read the full article at TyrantFarms