Friday, March 27, 2020

What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 12: elderberry

In December we purchased 30 live stake elderberry plants and put them in along the areas of the farm where we get a lot of rainwater run-off during storms. This was one of the recommendations made by a consult I got from our local native plant nursery. Elderberry was something I’ve wanted to put in on the farm for years, and this was a great, and inexpensive, way to do it.

The live stakes were bare sticks bundled together. We tapped them in the ground with a mallet. There they stood all winter long, an experiment in faith. The idea being that they quickly grow vast root systems, securing and stabilizing the soil around them in the process.

We weren’t able to get them as deeply into the ground as I wanted, but we did our best.

This is what they look like today:

These bushes will be wonderful for wildlife, pollinators, and us, and they will also thrive in the areas we put them. They love getting lots of water at various times and can easily tolerate drought in between.

Plant Details

Sambucus canadensis

Common Elderberry

Scientific Name:

Sambucus canadensis



Species Epithet:


Common Name:

Common Elderberry

Plant Type


Life Cycle


Plant Family

Caprifoliaceae (Honeysuckle Family)


NC Native


6-12 ft.

Bloom Color(s):



Sun - 6 or more hours of sun per day, Part Shade - 2 to 6 hours of sun per day

Soil Moisture:


Bloom Time:

April, May, June, July

Growing Area:

Mountains, Piedmont, Sandhills, Coastal Plain

Habitat Description:

Streambanks, thickets, marshes, moist forests, disturbed areas. Common throughout NC.

Leaf Arrangement:


Leaf Retention:


Leaf Type:

Leaves veined, not needle-like or scale-like

Leaf Form:


Life Cycle:


Wildlife Value:

Important for Wildlife

Landscape Value:

Suitable for home landscapes


Plants can be vigorous growers and may need more management to control. Attract butterflies and birds.
Blooming Plants 
They are very attractive shrubs.
along the highway and railroad right-of-way, Black Mountain
© MB Baumeister


Grey Horse Matters said...

It’s amazing they took root and lived by just sticking the stalks in the ground. They should make a pretty grouping.

billie said...

They were cut in points at one end to make it easier to pound them in, and you could see the live tissue inside the stakes, but it was definitely amazing to see them leaf out this spring. We kept the bundles in a bucket of water like flowers until we put them in, as recommended. It’s a great option for areas on slopes that get random flooding due to rainfall. You can also plant them on ditch banks by putting the stakes horizontally into the bank!