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American ElderSambucus canadensis

  • American Elder shrub - Sambucus Canadensis
This fast-growing shrub is known for its large clusters of yellowish-white, star-shaped flowers. Grown as a border, it provides an incredible summer floral display.

But its lovely flowers aren’t the American elder’s only claim to fame. The dark purple elderberries are used to make jellies, pies, juice, and wine and also to draw in a variety of different bird species. To ensure a good crop, plant more than one shrub.

Hardiness Zones

The american elder can be expected to grow in Hardiness Zones 4–9. View Map

Tree Type

This is a flowering shrub, typically planted for its profusion of flowers.

Mature Size

The American elder grows to a height of 5–12' and a spread of 5–12' at maturity.

Growth Speed Fast Growth Rate

This shrub grows at a fast rate, with height increases of more than 24" per year.

Sun Preference

Full sun and partial shade are best for this shrub, meaning it prefers a minimum of 4 hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

Soil Preference

The American elder grows in acidic, loamy, moist, rich, sandy, silty loam, well-drained, wet and clay soils. It can tolerate some drought conditions.


This shrub:
  • Grows in a rounded shape.
  • Should be pruned regularly to maintain its multi-stemmed form.
  • Blooms in the summer, producing small, star-shaped yellowish-white flowers in clusters 6–10" wide.
  • Yields edible dark purple berries August–September--good for jellies, pies, juice and wine. For best fruiting, plant multiple shrubs.
  • Features pinnately compound dark green leaves with 5–11 (typically 7) leaflets, each 2–6" long.
  • Can be pruned into a single-stemmed small tree.

Wildlife Value

The edible berries provide food for dozens of bird species and other wildlife.


It was introduced in 1761.