American Elderberry - Sambucus canadensis -

American Elderberry - Sambucus canadensis

Elderberry is native to North America and is gaining in popularity in Canada. It is the only northern fruit that can grow in damp soils. The plant grows very fast and is easy to cultivate.


6-12 Inchessold-out$12.00$0.00
1-3 Feetsold-out$16.00$0.00
3-5 Feetsold-out$35.00$0.00

The Shrub

This native fast-growing shrub produces fruit from its second year onwards. Elderberry grows well in damp soil and is therefore an ideal candidate for riverbank naturalisation. It is very adaptable and can grow in a range of environments; it can grow in damp or dry soil and it can also grow in clay. Elderberry is resistant to atmospheric pollution. For a large scale plantation 1500 plants per hectare or 600 plants per acre can be grown. Elderberry makes magnificent white flower clusters in July. An elderberry planted alone will produce fruit, but not as much as if a second elderberry plant was located alongside for cross-pollination. Ideally, elderberry will be planted in full sun, but can tolerate partly shaded conditions.

Elderberry is the best fruit tree for riverbank naturalisation due to its tolerance to damp soil but also because of its roots which spread horizontally. This protects soil against erosion. Elderberry can be used to make a hedge. If you wish to do so plant them at around 1m (3 or 4 feet).

The Fruit

Elderberry is rich in antioxidants due to its high content of polyphenols. It also contains a higher concentration of vitamin C than the orange. The berries can be used to make jellies, jams, syrup, juice, fruit bars, and are popular as a dehydrated fruit. It is preferable to eat them cooked, rather than raw. You could expect to harvest up to 10kg of berries per shrub.

The Uses

Commercially there is a huge demand for elderberry as a natural colorant. More than 500 metric tonnes are needed every year.

The flowers can be cooked in a batter. They can be used to make syrup and vinegar, or to perfume jams. When dried they can be used in herbal tea.

The leaves and the inner bark can be used as an insect repellent. A black dye can be prepared from the bark. Whistles and flutes can be made with the stem.


Elderberry is well known in Denmark, Poland and Switzerland. In Canada the American elderberry are newly emerging as a popular fruit.

The Indigenous populations of North America used elderberry as a medicinal plant. They used various parts of the plant for different treatments such as a laxative, diuretic, expectorant, purgative and a stimulant amongst others. 

Height at maturity3 metres (10 feet)
Spacing2 metres (6 feet)
Hardiness zone3
SoilAdaptable, dry to humid.
Sun / shadeFull sun or partial shade
Average fruit weight
Fruit colorDark purple to black
Years to bear fruit2
PollinationSelf-fertile, but better yields with cross pollination
Latin nameSambucus nigra spp. canadensis
Average diameter of fruit0.5 cm
Also known as