Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:40 pm
Elderberry is a real eye-catcher with its bright red berries and also provides food for many bird species. We show you how to plant and care for this wild shrub in your garden.
Elderberry, also known as red elderberry, belongs to the honeysuckle family. The shrub is distinguished from its close relative, black elderberry, primarily by its scarlet berries, which grow in August and are an important food source for many native birds. From May to June, the bunch elderberry also attracts not only all eyes with its white flowering splendor, but also many insects in search of pollen. So there are numerous ecological and decorative reasons that make the red elderberry a good addition to your garden.
Planting elderberry in your own garden
In the wild, elderberry grows mainly in clearings and along forest edges. But the easy-to-care-for wild shrub will quickly feel at home in your garden, too, if you just follow a few tips:
- Location: Elderberry thrives best in the garden in a partially shaded spot. There you can plant it either alone or as a flowering hedge. On the other hand, bunch elder does not tolerate full sun very well.
- Soil: Humus-rich, fresh, moist soil is ideal for grape elderberry, which is originally accustomed to nutrient-rich forest soils. It is also important that the soil is well-drained and not compacted.
- Planting time: a frost-free day in spring or fall is best for planting the grape elderberry in the ground as a young plant.
Planting grape elderberry properly: It’s best to buy grape elderberry as an annual or biennial seedling at a well-stocked garden supply store. When planting, proceed as follows:
- Place the still potted elderberry with the root ball in a bucket of water until no more air bubbles rise.
- Elderberry loves nutrient-rich soil. Therefore, first work some compost and horn shavings into the soil at the site.
- Then dig a planting hole that should be at least twice as wide as the root ball of the young plant.
- Now place the grape elder in the planting hole and refill it with the excavated soil.
- Press the top layer of soil firmly and water the red elderberry generously.
Proper care for the grape elderberry
Once you have planted the elderberry in the right location, the most time-consuming part is already done. To ensure that your bird-friendly garden benefits from the colorful woody plant for as long as possible, you should still follow a few care instructions:
- Watering: Always keep the soil around your grape elder slightly moist and check between watering whether the top layer of soil has already dried out. In this way you avoid waterlogging. Also, make sure that you always water the shrub from below so that the leaves don’t get wet.
- Fertilize: From March to September, you should help the elderberry grow with additional nutrients every two weeks. Guano, compost and other organic fertilizers are best for this. Additionally, you can mulch the elderberry with compost or nettle leaves. Note, however, that the mulch layer should not be higher than five centimeters. It could otherwise attract mice, which will eat the roots of the shrub.
- Pruning: To keep elderberry growing evenly, you should cut it back once a year between March and November on a frost-free day. Cut back all branches from the previous year by no more than one-third and remove dead and stunted shoots. Elder branches bear flowers and fruit only once. Therefore, you should cut the bent shoots directly at the base after harvesting. Also, always wear gloves and eye protection when pruning elderberries.
- Diseases and pests: Aphids can grow on the leaves of the grape elder. To get rid of them, you should spray the shrub with some nettle broth. This will also strengthen the red elder’s defenses.