When you think of fruit-bearing bushes, elderberry bushes likely aren’t the first thing you think of. But if you have a large space to fill and want a beautiful plant that doubles as a fruit producer, then you should give elderberries a closer look.
But what can you use elderberries for, and what different varieties are out there? We’ll break down everything you need to know about these versatile plants here, so keep reading to learn more.
Different Elderberry Varieties
If you’re thinking of growing elderberries in your lawn or garden, you need to know about all the different options out there. That’s why we tracked down and reviewed 14 different options for you here. No matter what you’re looking for, we have you covered.
The Adams elderberry variety is the most common type of elderberry plant in North America. They grow large fruit in late September, and they grow large white flowers. These flowers make Adams elderberry plants great ornamental options for your lawn or garden.
Keep in mind that they grow six to ten feet in height, so ensure you have a place where they will have plenty of space to grow before planting them!
2. Black Beauty
As the name suggests, the Black Beauty elderberry plant is an extremely beautiful variety that many growers choose to plant for their aesthetic appeal alone.
But not only are they aesthetically pleasing, but they also respond well to pruning, allowing you to control their area. Keep in mind that they do best in USDA zones four to seven, which matches their European lineage.
3. Black Lace
Black Beauty isn’t the only darker elderberry variety out there. Black Lace is another European variety that produces purple foliage and pink flowers. The foliage isn’t quite as dark as it is with Black Beauty, but it’s still an extremely dark variety.
The berries are aesthetically pleasing, but when you properly prepare them, they can also be delicious to eat too! Just ensure that your plants get plenty of moisture if you want them to thrive.
While Blue elderberries have a very different appearance than many other varieties, they’re the perfect choice if you live in a drier climate. Just keep in mind that while these bushes are well suited for a lot of growing conditions, they can reach up to 30 feet in height and 18 feet wide.
5. Bob Gordon
If you’re simply growing an elderberry bush for their fruit, then the Bob Gordon variety is one you need to check out. The fruit is extremely sweet, and they produce tons of fruit on each plant.
The fruit comes jam-packed with antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients, just ensure that you properly prepare them before you start snacking!
6. European Red
While most elderberry fruit is either purple or occasionally blue, the European Red produces bright red fruit. European Red elderberries are great for attracting pollinators, but you shouldn’t eat the attractive red fruit.
Not only can they be dangerous if you don’t prepare them properly, but they have an extremely bitter flavor that most people don’t enjoy.
If you’re looking for an easy to care for elderberry plant that produces edible berries, then the Johns elderberry variety is an outstanding choice. The berries reduce well into different jams, and they produce a ton of fruit.
Keep in mind that each plant can reach up to 12 feet tall though, so ensure you have plenty of space before planting one!
8. Lemon Lace
Lemon Lace is a completely different elderberry variety compared to most choices. If you’re planting Lemon Lace, plan to use it only as an ornamental plant, as the fruit can be hard to prepare and doesn’t taste very good.
However, the berries start out yellow before eventually turning bright red, making it one of the most ornamental elderberry varieties out there.
If you don’t have a ton of space but want an elderberry bush, then the Nova variety might be exactly what you’ve been looking for. While this six-foot-tall and wide plant isn’t exactly small, it is small for an elderberry bush.
Even better for you, it still produces extremely large and sweet fruit that you can eat after preparing it.
The Ranch elderberry variety is one of the easiest to grow, and it features bright white flowers that can be aesthetically pleasing. But one of its best perks is its ability to grow in poor soil, which means that you don’t have to have the best conditions to have this elderberry variety thrive!
If you live in a colder climate, then Scotia elderberries are what you need. As the name implies, they’re originally from Nova Scotia, but they can thrive in USDA zones from 3 to 9.
Scotia elderberries are known for their super sweet fruit, and they make a great addition to various jams, jellies, and other culinary inspirations.
Variegated elderberries are another European elderberry variety that you can use to really set your landscape apart. These plants have beautiful foliage, and they can reach an impressive 12 feet in height. And while they do produce edible fruit, the foliage really is their signature mark.
Wydlewood might be a bit of an odd name, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not the variety you want to grow yourself! They grow best in the Midwest, and produce tons of sweet berries that you can use in various culinary applications.
Even better for those in warmer climates, Wydlwood elderberries will continue to produce fruit until the first frost of the year comes. That means more fruit for you!
Rounding out our list of elderberry varieties is the York elderberry. This is an American-style elderberry variety that only reaches about six feet in height and width. However, while they’re a smaller elderberry bush, they really need more than one planted nearby to thrive and produce tons of berries.
Because of their unique pollination requirements, it’s best to pair a York elderberry bush with an elderberry bush of a different variety.
What Can You Use Elderberries For?
While most people know what to do with blueberries or strawberries, give them a handful of elderberries and it becomes a bit more challenging. That’s why we decided to highlight a few different options you have for your harvested berries here.
While we’re not going to walk you through any specific recipes, we’ll help you narrow down what to look for.
Whether you’re looking for something to add to your toast or if you have something a bit more exotic in mind, a jam is a great option.
While you might think that elderberry syrup is something you want to put on your pancakes, keep in mind that many elderberry syrups are for medicinal purposes. Either option you go with can be a great choice, just be sure to double-check what you’re making!
You can opt for either an elderberry vinaigrette, or you can use elderberry vinegar in a traditional recipe to help spice up your meals. Once again, just know what you want to use it for when you’re looking up a recipe!
Who doesn’t like a drink every now and then? If you’re growing your own elderberries, there’s no reason you can’t come up with an elderberry cordial to spice things up! You can either carbonate them a bit, or mix them with liquor for a phenomenal treat!
If you still have some questions about elderberries after reading through the different varieties then don’t worry, you’re not alone. That’s why we decided to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about these fruit-bearing shrubs for you here.
What Elderberry Varieties are Best?
If you’re looking for an elderberry bush with tons of outstanding fruit, then you want an Adams elderberry. Also known as the Sambucus canadensis, it’s the most popular elderberry variety in North America, and it produces large berries that you can use in culinary creations.
What Elderberry Varieties are Edible?
While black elderberries are toxic to humans, if you wait for the fruit to ripen completely you can eat them. However, if you eat unripe fruit, the leaves, or the stems of the plant, they’re extremely toxic to humans.
Elderberries are one of the rare plants where you can’t just watch what parts the wildlife eats and assume it’s safe, as deer can safely eat the different parts of the black elderberry without any problems.
Which Elderberry Varieties are Medicinal?
Once again, there’s no variety of elderberry that doesn’t have some medicinal properties. However, because unripe and improperly harvested and prepared elderberries can be toxic, it’s best to leave it in the hands of an experienced cultivator before simply removing and eating elderberries.
Which Elderberry is Best for Immune System?
Many medicinal products use black elderberry to boost your immune system, but they’re not any more beneficial than other elderberry varieties. However, it’s extremely important that you properly harvest and prepare black elderberries, as they can be toxic otherwise.
Can I Eat Raw Elderberries?
It really depends on the variety, but to be safe you should always cook and properly prepare elderberry before eating it. That’s because raw elderberries contain cyanide, which can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
With so many elderberry varieties out there it can be a little overwhelming when you’re planning out your garden. But take a deep breath and decide what you want elderberries in the first place for.
Because once you know that you can read through all the different elderberry varieties knowing exactly what you’re looking for and get the perfect plant for your garden the first time!