Common Elderberry Trees
Sambucus nigraHedge Plants
- Native. V. tough plant, grows anywhere.
- Good for rough country hedging.
- Flowers & berries are edible.
- Max. Height: 6m
- Bareroot Delivery Only: Nov-Mar.
Sambucus nigra: Bareroot Elderflower Hedging
Delivered by Mail Order Direct from our Nursery with a Year Guarantee
The Common Elderflower or Elderberry tree, Sambucus nigra, is a large native shrub or small tree with graceful, fern-like leaves. It produces deliciously scented white flowers and purple berries, which are both edible. It can be used as a rough, rugged country hedging plant and will grow almost anywhere.
Left alone, Elderflower makes a verdant tree about 6 metres high: for more ornamental value, have a look at our Golden Elder or the lovely cultivar Black Lace.
Delivery season: Bareroot plants are delivered during late autumn and winter, approximately November-March inclusive.
- Height: 6m
- Soil: Grows anywhere, shade tolerant
- Use: Rough native hedging, wildlife cover.
- Single Row: 2/m
- Edible, fragrant flowers and fruit
It is indestructible and will grow practically anywhere in the UK, including piles of construction rubbish, and very sandy coastal soils. In full shade, it will become sparse and produce few flowers, but otherwise be fine. Few shrubs are easier to grow. I once hacked an old elder to smithereens to remove it, and dumped the pieces into an area of the garden that was left to grow wild with plenty of nettles and brambles: two years later, there was an Elder thicket there, already higher than the weeds.
Spacing an Elderflower hedge: Being such a bulky beast, a 50cm spacing is fine.
This plant makes a nice solid hedge by itself, but it is aggressive and is not recommended for a mixed hedge. It will never form a tidy, formal hedge and looks best when it is allowed to get a bit overgrown.
Elderflower in your Garden
Elder is included in some mixed hedging packs although isn't really suitable for planting in the middle of a native hedge because it will aggressively grow into the plants beside it. You can control this with hard pruning, but to save you the effort we recommend using it only at the end of a hedge, on a strip by itself, or planting it away from the hedge and letting it grow as a large shrub or small tree. Letting it grow freely will also give you a lot more flower heads and then berries. A farm near us has about 100m of solid elder hedge that they cut back in alternating 2-3 metre sections every year, so that there is always a good crop of flowers on the sections that were not trimmed.
The leaves are poisonous to most domestic animals.
Did You Know?
Our own Elderflower cordial recipe makes a fabulous soft drink, and easy to prepare. With a bit more work, you can also make Elderflower syrup and Elderflower champagne. It is widely used in alcoholic drinks across Europe, such as types of Hungarian brandy and Swedish snaps. You can also try battering the flowers and quickly frying them for a cheap but exotic snack.
It is usually the case with widespread native plants that are also useful to humans to have a lot of common names from various regions, which include: acte, arn, boon, bur, boor and pipe tree.
It will grow well in pretty much any soil, from shallow chalk to heavy clay. About the only place it won't grow is in pure sand, but otherwise it is fine to plant near the sea. It tolerates urban pollution, waterlogging, drought and frost pockets. On the cattle farm next to our nursery, on top of a windy hill, there are several large, healthy Elderflower trees that are growing in the piled up rubble from a cow shed that was demolished about 20 years ago.
It is shade tolerant, but it needs plenty of sun if you want it to make good crops of flowers and berries.
Prepare your site before planting:
Native hedge plants like Elderflower are very tough. The only essential preparation is to kill the weeds in a strip a metre wide along the planting site: improving the soil should not be necessary. If your soil is exceptionally poor and dry, then digging in some well rotted manure and/or compost is worthwhile.
Watch our video on how to plant a country hedge for full details. The instruction to cut the plants in half after planting only applies to thorny native hedging and plants in the conservation hedge mix: this isn't necessary for Elderflower. Also, 50cm spacing is fine for this hefty fellow.
Hedge Planting Accessories:
Prepare your site for planting by killing the weeds and grass with Neudorff WeedFree Plus.
You can buy a hedge planting pack with sheets of mulch fabric and pegs to hold it down.
If you are planting in an area with rabbit and/or deer, you will need to use a plastic spiral guard for each plant, supported by a bamboo cane.
If your soil quality is poor, we recommend using mycorrhizal "friendly fungi" on the roots of new trees and shrubs.
After you have planted your Elderflower hedge, the most important thing to do is water it in dry weather. You will also need to weed around the plants. Watering should be thorough, so the ground is soaked. Let the soil almost dry out before watering again. Watering & weeding will be necessary for at least a year after planting.
Trimming Elder hedge plants:
From the winter after planting onwards, your young hedge should be trimmed lightly once every winter, until it is mature. When it is fully grown, you can clip it at anytime. If necessary, you can prune your plants very hard in winter. You cannot hurt an established Elder, so feel free to hack it back with medieval weapons or run it over with your tractor. It will be back.
Special notes on caring for Elderflower hedges:
Elderflower is a seriously tough hedge plant that shouldn't need special attention once it has established. If you didn't use a mulch fabric, it is beneficial to mulch around the base of the hedge each year.
Hygiene & Diseases:
Dead, damaged or diseased wood can be pruned off as soon as it appears.
Disinfect your pruning tools between every cut if there is any sign of disease.
Burn or dispose of any diseased material, do not compost it.