These herbaceous perennials and deciduous shrubs are native to woodlands and thickets of widespread temperate and subtropical regions. They are suitable for mixed or shrub borders or for naturalizing in wild areas; cultivars with colored foliage are effective as specimens. Sambucus may be pruned minimally to maintain a healthy framework, but it benefits from hard pruning to restict its size. Cultivars grown for their foliage may be cut back annually to within 2 or 3 buds from a permanent framework. S. canadensis is native to North America.
Noteworthy CharacteristicsThe group of shrubs includes many choice specimens with respect to foliage texture (finely cut) or color (golden, variegated, or deep purple). They produce flat domes of small ivory flowers, which are followed by red, black, or white fruits. The fruits have culinary attributes when cooked, but can cause illness if eaten raw.
CareGrow in moderately fertile, moist but well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade.
PropagationSow seed in a cold frame in the fall. Take softwood cuttings in early summer and hardwood cuttings in winter.
ProblemsPowdery mildew, canker, dieback, rust, fungal leaf spots, borers, virus diseases.