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Elderberry International Herb of the Year

Hardy, edible and the 2013 International Herb of the Year make elderberry a great plant for any size landscape or even container gardens.

Elderberries flower and fruit best in full sun, but will tolerate shade. They prefer moist soil but also tolerate drought, making them great choices for rain gardens.

The American Elder (Sambucus canadensis) grows 5 to 12 feet tall and produces white flowers mid-summer on new growth. The flowers are used for perfumes and food. You and the birds will enjoy the fruit that appears in late summer. Though self-fruitful you will have a larger crop with several plants.

Cultivars of the European Elder (Sambucus nigra) provide additional ornamental value to the landscape. Black Lace has dark purple dissected leaves and grows 6-8’ tall. With a bit of pruning it can be a good substitute for Japanese maple in areas where that plant struggles.

A bit more information: The European Red Elder (Sambucus racemosa) grows 8 to 12 feet tall and has yellowish white flowers in May and red or scarlet fruit in June/July. One if its’ cultivars, Sutherland Gold, has gold, finely cut leaflets that fade with heat. The Scarlet Elder (Sambucus pubens) is similar to European Red and is supposedly inedible for humans though the birds love the fruit.

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