How to Grow Black Lace Elderberry

Closeup of flower head of Black Lace elderberry.

Scott D. Haddow/Getty Images

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Black Lace elderberry bushes offer great ornamental value to the landscape. The value of this European elderberry cultivar begins with the namesake leaves, which are, indeed, lacy (deeply dissected) and almost black (a very dark purple). But the plant also produces pretty, light-pink, fragrant (lemon-scented) flowers, which come in flat-topped clusters. These flowers become richly black, glossy berries by autumn.

The berries are edible and are high in vitamin C. But, if you want to harvest elderberries for the production of foods and drinks, the American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) is better than the European type (Sambucus nigra). Because of their interesting leaves, the European type is superior as a foliage plant for the landscape.

The plant is suitable for use in woodland gardens, in rain gardens, and to attract birds and butterflies to the yard. Another great use for Black Lace elderberry is to plant it next to a shrub with brightly-colored leaves to create a contrast.

  Botanical Name   Sambucus nigra 'Eva'; "Black Lace" is the name used in trade
  Common Name  Black Lace elderberry
  Plant Type  Deciduous, multi-stemmed shrub
  Mature Size  6 to 8 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide
  Sun Exposure  Full sun to partial shade
 Soil Type  Evenly moist, humusy, with adequate drainage
 Soil pH  Slightly acidic to neutral
 Bloom Time  June to July
  Flower Color  Light pink
  Hardiness Zones  4 to 7, USA
  Native Area  Europe
  Toxicity Toxic to dogs and cats; berries must be cooked for human consumption

Black Lace Elderberry Care

Technically, Black Lace elderberry is self-pollinating. But if you wish to have as many berries as possible, plant another cultivar near your Black Lace elderberry for increased pollination.

At the southern end of its range, it can be planted in spring or fall. But, at the northern end of its range, plant it in spring to give it time to get established before the next winter arrives. Mulching is also important in the South, to retain moisture in the soil, and, in the North, to offer winter protection.

Proper care for Black Lace elderberry begins with site selection. Pick a spot for it where it will enjoy good drainage and (in the North) full sun. Going forward, beyond keeping it fertilized and watered, your main chore will be keeping it pruned.

Light

In the North, while Black Lace elderberry will tolerate partial shade, it will produce more flowers and more attractive foliage color if you grow it in full sun. At the southern end of its range, however, it can profit from having afternoon shade.

Soil

The Black Lace elderberry bush tolerates clay soil types better than many shrubs do, but it will perform better over time if planted in soil that drains well.

Water

Keep the soil of Black Lace elderberry evenly moist. Since, in the wild, elderberry shrubs sometimes grow near wetlands, it comes as no surprise that cultivars can tolerate wet soil better than many plants can.

Fertilizer

Feed Black Lace elderberry with a balanced fertilizer once in spring and once in summer.

Are Black Lace Elderberries Toxic?

While elderberries are edible, it is important to note that this categorization comes with some stipulations. First of all, the berries of elderberry are non-toxic only after they are cooked. Secondly, all other parts of the plant (leaves, stems, roots) are toxic, to pets as well as humans.

Pruning

To prune your Black Lace elderberry, keep in mind that the plant blooms and fruits on new growth. This means that the correct time to prune is late winter or early spring. Pruning this shrub will keep it vigorous, attractive, and check its spread.

As the woody stems of the plant get older, they become weaker and less attractive. Removing these older stems will direct more energy into the newer, more attractive stems.

Black Lace elderberry can spread via suckers. Prune out the suckers when you find them if you want to keep the plant from spreading.

But, if you do not mind having the plant spread, you have the option of allowing the suckers to grow so that you can create an informal hedge with your Black Lace elderberry.

Common Pests/Diseases

Black Lace elderberry can be attacked by aphids, borers, and spider mites. To address these infestations, spray the plant with Neem oil.

The diseases to which Black Lace elderberry is susceptible (canker, leaf spot, and powdery mildew) are best addressed through prevention. Ensure there is proper spacing to promote good air circulation, irrigate at soil level, and take care when mulching that it is kept six inches away from the main stems of the bush.