13 Elderberry Varieties (Different Varieties of Elderberry)

A cluster of fresh elderberries hanging from a branch.

Elderberry plants are typically overlooked in gardens, but these berries are a powerful punch. Elderberries are known for their therapeutic benefits as well as their delectable taste. Elderberries are a versatile and beneficial addition to your garden, whether you want to plant them for their decorative attributes, as a nectar source for pollinating insects, or for the delicious fruit.

Elderberry (Sambucus) is a big, adaptable shrub or bush that grows wild along roadsides and in wooded regions throughout the United States. Foragers, wildlife, and bees benefit from the shade and protection that elderberries provide, as well as the wonderful berries that they provide. Because they grow wild, you can rest confident that they require little to no attention. Consider which elderberry kinds you wish to grow before planting elderberry bushes on your land. Each variety has its own advantages and disadvantages, so choose the one that best suits your needs.

Health Benefits of Elderberries

Although there is no one-size-fits-all cure for illness, advocates of elderberry claim that the fruit is one of nature’s most adaptable cures.

Around the world, there are around 30 different types of elder plants and trees. The most directly linked to your health and healing is the European form (also known as Sambucus nigra). The elder tree has been around since 400 BC, and Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine,” referred to it as his “medicine chest.”

The elderberry is now regarded as one of the world’s most therapeutic plants in folk medicine. Elderberry berries and blooms are high in antioxidants and vitamins, which may help to enhance your immune system. They may be able to reduce inflammation, reduce stress, and protect your heart. Elderberry is said to help prevent and relieve cold and flu symptoms, according to some specialists.

It’s also been used to treat:

  • Constipation
  • Joint and muscular discomfort
  • Headaches
  • Infections that impair your breathing
  • Fever
  • Epilepsy
  • Kidney problems
  • Minor skin disorders
  • Stress

Types of Elderberries

There are two primary types of elderberries. It’s critical to understand each of these varieties in order to select the best one to grow in your garden.

  • Sambucus Canadensis (American Elderberry)
  • Sambucus Nigra (European Elderberry)

Sambucus Canadensis – American Elderberry

American elderberries, focused shot.

The American black elderberry, often known as the common elderberry, is a species of elderberry native to Central and North America. This type can be found in most continental states’ fields and meadows.

This multi-stemmed, wide-spreading deciduous shrub is hardy in USDA zones three to eight and grows between ten and twelve feet tall. When it comes to fruit production, this variety produces more fruit of superior quality.

Sambucus Nigra – European Elderberry

European elderberry growing in a garden.

Elderberries grown in Europe are slightly taller than those grown in the United States, reaching up to 20 feet tall. USDA zones four through eight are suitable for them. The majority of people plant European elderberries because they have attractive foliage. They do produce berries, and the harvest will be higher if you put a second bush close.

Plant two distinct elderberry kinds within 60 feet of one another for the highest fruit harvest. Bushes start bearing fruit in their second or third year of development. Although certain elderberry cultivars are self-fertile, productivity is improved when two or more bushes are planted.

Varieties of Elderberry

This list has varieties for everyone, whether you desire elderberries for pies and jellies or just for their beauty.

Adams

Adams #1 and Adams #2 are two of the most well-known elderberry varietals. Both yield enormous clusters of fruit that ripen in early September and continue to produce for several weeks.

Adams is the most common elderberry cultivar farmed in North America, and it looks similar to wild elderberries. Because of their distinctive white blossoms and enormous clusters of deep and dark purple fruits, these are simple to spot. It’s not only easy to spot for fruit production, but it’s also a lovely decorative plant. Adams grow to a height of six to ten feet and thrive in USDA zones three to nine.

Black Beauty

This European elderberry cultivar is attractive, as the name suggests, and was chosen for its ornamental appeal. Purple leaves and pink, lemon-scented blooms are produced by the plants. These can grow up to eight feet tall and wide, so be sure you have enough room for them. In USDA zones four to seven, Black Beauty thrives, loving moist growth conditions.

These plants, unlike others, react nicely to trimming. If you want healthy berry production, you’ll need two bushes for effective cross-pollination. These berries produce delectable wines.

Black Lace

Another lovely European variety with deeply serrated purple foliage is this one. Pink flowers bloom on these shrubs that grow up to eight feet tall. The hue is said to be comparable to that of Japanese maple.

These plants are simple to prune to the appropriate height for your landscape. Black Lace provides more versatile berries than other European kinds. The shrub is not only beautiful to look at, but it also provides tasty berries.

Many gardeners believe that this type requires more moisture than others, so choose Black Lace if you live in an area that receives a lot of rain. If you live in zones four to seven, try growing this elderberry variety.

Blue

Blue is a wonderful elderberry cultivar to grow in parts of the western United States, Mexico, or the West Coast. It bears enormous, powdery-blue berries that can be mistaken for blueberries.

The berries are not only noticeable but are also noted for their deliciousness. This cultivar is also distinct from the others in that it prefers to develop from seeds rather than cuttings. It thrives in warm climates and can be grown in USDA zones three through ten. The bushes can grow to be ten to thirty feet tall and 18 feet broad when fully mature.

European Red

European Red is an imported European elderberry variety known as ‘European Red’ because it yields cherry-red fruits in the fall instead of the usual purple. These plants have light green foliage with a feathery appearance, making them ideal for landscape designs. These plants are notable for attracting various pollinators, including butterflies, due to their enormous, attractive flowers.

In USDA growth zones three to eight, European Red can reach a height of 20 feet when grown in perfect conditions. If you wish to consume elderberries, avoid this kind. Many experts advise against eating red elderberries since their flavor is intense and bitter, and they contain an excessive amount of seeds.

Bob Gordon

Bob Gordon elderberry trees offer some of the best taste and sweetest fruits of any elderberry type. According to research, these plants produce the most berries, and the berry clusters hang down, making it difficult for birds to eat them. These berries, like cherries, have a high quantity of antioxidants.

The plants produce many large fruits, as large as 14-inch elderberries, perfect for pies, jams, syrup, and wine. Bob Gordon ripens a little later than some of the other varieties on the list, so if you live too far north, planting these might not be a good idea because the berries need a lot of sunlight to ripen. They thrive in zones four through nine.

Johns

Johns is a prolific American elderberry shrub that produces early in the season. These berries are said to be ideal for creating jelly, and the plants are huge. With ten-foot canes, each will stand up to 12 feet tall and wide.

These plants are low-maintenance and don’t require much in the way of spraying. In the spring, large clusters of white flowers grow all over the shrub, and the green foliage has a lovely shine that makes it ornamental as well. Those white blossoms turn into deep purple, almost black berries by late summer. Johns is a wonderful elderberry type to cultivate if you live in zones three to nine.

Ranch

This is strong, heavy-yielding elderberry that thrives in a variety of environments, including poor soils. Ranch elderberry is the way to go if your soil is poor and non-fertile. It’s the quickest to grow robust, erect stems from cuttings and the bushes establish quickly. Ranch elderberries, believe it or not, were discovered at an ancient, abandoned homestead; they’re said to date back to the 1800s, and they rapidly became a favorite.

The plants are vigorous and short-lived, reaching a height of five to six feet. Fruit clusters appear on the plant from the middle to the top. These elderberry bushes will ripen slightly earlier than the others, but they will still fall into the late-ripening category. As a result, it is not suitable for northern gardeners. It’s recommended for gardeners in zones four through nine.

Nova

This is a self-fruiting elderberry variety from the United States that yields huge, tasty fruits. Unlike some of the other varieties, Nova is a smaller creature, standing only six feet tall and wide.

The shrub blooms with lovely flowers in the spring, and delectable berries have taken their place by August. Wine, pies, and jelly can all be made from Nova berries. When the blooms are dipped in batter and cooked into fritters in the spring, they are delicious.

While this plant is self-fruiting and does not require another bush nearby, ‘Nova’ will thrive and yield a big harvest if another American elderberry is close. It does not have to be the same type of food. This attractive, resilient cultivar, sometimes known as Lemony Lace, produces fluffy, light-green colored leaves and scarlet fruits in the fall.

The shrub has bunches of white blossoms before the crimson fruits arrive. Lemon Lace is a hardy ornamental plant resistant to deer, frost, and wind. It thrives in full sunlight, although it can also thrive in partial shade in southern states where the afternoon sun is strong. This is a smaller variety, growing just three to five feet in height and width. If you live in USDA zones three to seven, you can plant it. It’s worth noting that ‘Lemon Lace’ also produces crimson fruits, which specialists advise against eating.

Scotia

The name Scotia comes from Nova Scotia, which makes it an excellent choice for Canadian gardeners. These are commercially farmed across Canada. This type produces berries that are extremely sweet, making them ideal for sweets and jams. In fact, this elderberry variety has the highest sugar content of all the elderberry kinds, making it ideal for culinary recipes.

On the shrubs that overproduce, it yields some of the tiniest fruit. Because Scotia is a smaller bush than other varieties, it’s a better choice if you don’t have much space in your yard. The bush ripens early, usually towards the end of July or the beginning of August. They thrive in zones three through nine.

York

York is an American elderberry cultivar that yields the largest berries of all varieties, and it pollinates well with ‘Nova’. This tiny shrub matures in late August and grows to be roughly six feet tall and wide. York is a hardy type that grows well in zones three to nine and is recognized for its cold tolerance and ability to withstand harsh frosts.

Variegated

As the name suggests, ‘Variegated’ is a European elderberry variety with stunning green and white leaf. These shrubs can grow up to 12 feet tall, making them a true show stopper in your garden. This cultivar is planted more for its lovely leaves than its berries, but it does produce berries. The crops are expected to be much smaller.

Hedgerows or property markers can be made from ‘Variegated’ elderberries. They can obscure away unattractive sights while still producing tasty berries due to their size. Fruit yield nearly doubles when a second ‘Variegated’ bush is planted nearby. USDA zones four through nine are suitable for this cultivar.

Wydlewood

The “Wydlewood” kind of elderberries is available to those in the Midwest. Jack Millican designed it in Oklahoma in the 1990s. ‘Wydlewood’ is noted for producing high-quality harvests and sweet, tasty berries. Don’t worry if you have a bad year because the fruit set is reliable.

These shrubs are indeterminate, which means they will continue to produce blooms and berries until the frost kills them, which usually happens in late fall or early winter. Flowers are still blooming in some regions in December. Because ‘Wydlewood’ is a late-ripening type, its ideal for cultivating these berries exclusively in USDA zones four through nine.

The greatest time to see these plants is in the fall when the leaves begin to change color. Before disappearing for the winter, the leaves turn a vivid red color. Consider planting it near an ‘Adams’ variety if you want to increase its production.

Which elderberry species or cultivars have you grown before? Do you prefer to shop for plants based on their foliage, flowers, or berries?

If you’re new to gardening, a well-established bush in a pot is a good place to start. Keep in mind that every breed thrives in damp environments and fits in well with butterfly ecosystems. With the advantages that these kinds offer, you can’t go wrong!

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