Planting elderberry: when & how?


I studied agricultural sciences and have always preferred spending my free time outdoors. Apart for my enthusiasm for gardening and agriculture, I love taking photos and rarely leave home without my camera. Whether it is landscapes, blossoms or wildlife, I can usually find a perfect shot that captures the beauty of nature.

Favourite fruit: strawberries, blueberries, plums
Favourite vegetables: radishes, tomatoes, pumpkin

What is the best time to plant elderberry? What do you have to bear in mind when growing elderflower in pots? Find everything you need to know about planting elderberry trees here.

Elder bush with white flowers
Elderberry can be grown as a standard tree, but usually grows as a shrub [Photo: malik965/]

Elder (Sambucus) is a robust and undemanding shrub that you can plant in pots and in the garden. But is elderberry a shrub or a tree? In nature, elderberries usually grow as a shrub with dense branching close to the ground.

However, you can easily prune young elderberry plants into a single-trunked and crowned tree. When fashioned into a tree, elderberry takes up less space, which is ideal for pots and small gardens, and is in fact how farmers cultivate elders in commercial orchards.

Here, we consider how to plant elderberries and where they thrive. Read our article devoted to elder to find out more about planting, caring for and propagating elderberry plants, as well as about the different elderberry species and varieties.

When to plant elderberry

It is best to plant your elder bush or elder tree in autumn (September/October) or at the beginning of spring (March/April). At these times, the plant will grow and develop best.

Tip: Before you plant your elderberry, be sure to remove its branches. This will prevent the plant from losing too much water through its leaves.

Best place to plant elderberry

Elderberry plants are very undemanding. They feel at home in sunny and partially shaded locations and thrive in almost any soil. However, elder does grow best in well-draining, moist and slightly chalky soil with a high humus content.

Planting an elderberry tree in the garden

To plant your elderberry, dig a hole in your garden that is about twice the size of your plant’s root ball. Loosen the soil in the hole, and enrich it with compost, horn shavings, bone meal or some other fertiliser. Our Plantura All Purpose Plant Food is a great choice, because it provides elderberry with essential nutrients for healthy growth.

All Purpose Plant Food, 1.5kg
All Purpose Plant Food, 1.5kg
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  • Perfect for a variety of plants in the garden & on the balcony
  • Promotes healthy plant growth & an active soil life
  • Long-lasting fertiliser that is free from animal products - child & pet friendly

Place your root ball in the hole, fill it with soil and press down. After you have planted the elderberry, water it well. If you want to plant several elderberry bushes at the same time, for example, to create an elderberry hedge, keep 1.5 to 2 metres between each plant.

Growing elderberry in pots

To grow elderflowers in pots, use smaller varieties, such as the yellow-leaved ′Golden Tower′, a black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) that reaches 1.5 to 2.5 metres tall. Or, form your elder into a single-trunked tree, which will work well on a patio or balcony. Peat-free potting soil, such as our Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost, supports elder trees very well.

With the right care and suitable pruning, elder plants grow more beautiful each year. They bear creamy white elderflowers in June and juicy elderberries from September, making them a valuable food source for insects and birds alike.

Bird feeding on red elderberries
Having an elderberry bush in your garden provides a valuable food source for birds [Photo: Bachkova Natalia /]

Want to learn more about harvesting and using elderflowers and elderberries? Discover helpful tips and ideas in our article on picking elderflowers and elderberries.