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Black Tower Elderberry – Best Care Tips!

Black Tower Elderberry is an upright, fast-growing shrub adorning pink blooms and burgundy leaves resistant to most temperature dynamics but is sensitive to sunlight and water.

Generally, Black Tower Elderberry needs 6-8 hours of daily sunlight, watering once a week from spring to fall, well-draining, moist, and humus-rich soil, temperatures between -30-50°F, humidity around 30-60%, early spring fertilization, repotting every 2-3 years and trimming care once a year in late winter.

Black Tower Elderberry needs more maintenance as very little is known about their care requirements. But this article covers everything that can help grow the plant in your own backyard!

Overview of Black Tower Elderberry

The Black Tower Elderberry is a deciduous shrub known for its pinkish blooms, deep green to purplish burgundy leaves, and purple-black berries.

Image represents Black Tower Elderberry plant
Elderberries are deciduous shrubs that attain a certain height and shed their leaves in winter to save energy and for more vigorous growth in the following season.

Although the plant is a shrub, it spires to the height of a small tree, often confusing most plantsmen about its scape placement.

Some more interesting features of the plant are given in the table below.

Common NameBlack Tower Elderberry, European Elder, Black Elder, Elder, and Elderberry Tree
Scientific NameSambucus nigra
Status and EcologyLife Span: Perennial Deciduous

Habit: Shrub or Shrubby Tree

Native Range: Europe, South-Western Asia, and Northern Africa

USDA Zones: 4 to 11
Growth RateModerately Fast
Height and Spread6-30 Feet × 3-4 Feet
Growing SeasonsEarly Spring to Late Summer
LeafShape: Sickle-Shaped with Serrated Margins

Type: Pinnately Compound (Each Leaf with Many Leaflets)

Size: 10 Inches Long

Color: Dark Green to Purplish-Burgundy

Texture: Shiny and Coarse
Flowering PeriodEarly to Late Summer
FlowerInflorescence: Corymbose

Color: Pale Pink to Bright Pink

Shape: Cluster of Dome-Shaped Flowers

Fragrance: Musky Sweet
ToxicityHighly Toxic to Pets and Humans
SpecialtyPurple-Black Fall Berries

Dark Green or Purplish-Burgundy Colored Leaves

Medicinally and Ornamentally Important

Presence of Cyanide or Related Compound in the Parts

Black Tower Elderberry: Ultimate Care Guide

As this plant is high-maintenance and a bit finicky, it will need your utmost care and attention to grow properly.

Among the different needs, light and temperature, humidity and watering, soil and fertilizer, pruning, and repotting care is vital for Black Tower Elderberries.

The plant can only grow to full stature outdoors as it needs constant sunlight.

Only baby Elderberries can be potted, but you must transplant them outdoors as they mature.

Image illustrates basic care tips for Black Tower Elderberry
Elderberries have different requirements than other tropical houseplants and can thrive in wide temperature ranges.

The difference in care may result from their temperate and deciduous habit.

Their habit allows them to tolerate colder climates that might freeze other houseplants.

However, pests and topical diseases frequently attack these plants, hindering their growth.

So, the plant needs occasional upkeeps to protect it from harm’s way.

1. Light and Temperature

Intense sunlight can increase the temperature, while less light can lower it.

For Black Tower Elderberries, full sunlight is necessary for strong foliage, flower, and fruit production in the growing seasons.

However, the plant steadily stretches within a wide range of temperatures and can easily grow in USDA Zones from 4-11.

Black Tower Elderberry needs 6-8 hours of direct sunlight and temperatures between -30°F and 50°F.
Image represents a potted Elderberry plant under the sun
Elderberries need a full incidence of sunlight for vigorous production of their distinctly-colored leaves.

Considering this plant is native to regions with strong sunlight, it won’t be much affected by the harsh rays of the direct sun.

Also, the plant can thrive in partial shade or sunlight but for different time durations.

But excess or less light or temperature intensities can hamper the verdure and overall growth of the plant.

Signs of Excessive Light and Temperature

  • Dry and droopy leaves
  • Change in leaf color from usual to brown
  • Crispy leaf tips and margins
  • Brownish-black spots on the leaves

Signs of Low Light and Temperature

  • Floppy leaves
  • Off-color foliage (stays green all the time)
  • Leaflet fallouts

How to Provide Adequate Light and Temperature?

  • Place young Elderberry plants near a south-facing window at all times.
  • Offer shade by hanging curtains or drapes on windows.
  • If you are concerned about cold, relocate the plant away from the north-facing windows.
  • Use frost blankets for outdoor plants to deter frost injuries.

2. Watering and Humidity

Black Tower Elderberries don’t like drought and love moist soil, but overwatering is also fatal for the plant.

The proper way to offer water is to wait for the soil to dry between the watering sessions.

Offer Black Tower Elder Berry one inch of water per week from spring to fall for a good set of leaves, flowers, and fruits. Maintain humidity between 30-60%, just like for regular houseplants.

However, the plant becomes dormant in winter and requires little watering. Overwatering during such periods can lead to soggy soil affecting the roots.

Additionally, the more sunlight Elderberry gets, the higher its transpiration rate and the more water it will need. So, always be watchful for the signs.

Symptoms of Overwatering

  • Mushy and fishy-smelling soil
  • Wet and floppy leaves
  • Yellow and wilted foliage
  • Black and pulpy roots

Symptoms of Underwatering

  • Gradual yellowing and browning leaves
  • Curling of leaflets
  • Shallow roots visible on the soil surface in young plants
  • Crispy leaflet tips and margins

How to Provide Adequate Water and Humidity?

  • Use compost or mulch to cover the roots to retain moisture.
  • Avoid watering after heavy rain.
  • For potted plants, water the soil till it oozes out from the drainage holes.
  • Uproot the plant, check for root rot, and change the soil to cut off the rot spread.
  • To maintain humidity, group potted Elderberries with other houseplants in a well-lit bathroom.
  • Bottom water potted baby Elderberries on a tray filled with 1-2 inches of water for 15-20 minutes.
  • Mist the leaves of the plant in the strong summer heat to cool them down.

3. Soil and Fertilizer

Most plants have a particular preference for soil pH and soil type to grow well. However, Elderberry is not finicky for soil conditions and grows quickly in different soil conditions.

Black Tower Elderberry grows in well-draining soil with proper aeration and a pH of 5.5-6.5. But, consider amending the soil with balanced liquid fertilizer in early spring annually.

Over time, the soil may lose all its nutrients due to continuous watering and repotting. So, it’s vital to offer new soil that can replenish the daily nutrient needs of the plant.

Furthermore, you should never fertilize the plant other than during the growing season, or there is a high chance of overfertilization.

Signs of Overfertilization

  • Deposition of fertilizer salts on the topsoil
  • The margins and tips of the leaves appear burnt or crisp
  • Root damage and difficulties in uptaking nutrients

Signs of Underfertilization

  • Changes in leaf color
  • Less frequent and smaller blooms and fruits
  • Small-sized leaves and fruits
  • Lack of proper root growth

How to Overcome Fertilization Issues?

  • Flush the soil 4-5 times with distilled water to leach out the excessive fertilizer salts.
  • Use half-diluted fertilizers while feeding the plant.
  • Unclog the drainage holes of small Elderberry plants once a week to ensure good drainage.
  • While repotting, place a layer of gravel or pebbles at the pot’s base before adding any soil.
  • Fertilize the plant before watering it to leach the nutrients deeper into the soil layers.

4. Sporadic Repotting

Since Black Tower Elderberry grows to a staggering height, it should be planted in the ground.

In the juvenile stage, the plant can grow in shallow pots about 24 inches wide and deep containers with 4-5 bottom drainage holes.

But repot the plant every 2-3 years until it’s ready for transplanting in the ground.

Additionally, you must repot the plant in late winter, just before the spring, giving it time to adjust to the new environment and rejuvenate again.

Some signs that the plant may need a new pot are as follows.

  • Stunted growth
  • Shedding of foliage
  • Yellowing of the leaves
  • Poking of roots from the drainage holes

Thus, follow these steps to repot your Black Tower Elderberry.

  • Gently remove your plant from the old pot without disturbing the root ball and keeping it intact.
  • Remove yellow, wilting, and dead leaves.
  • Take a new container, fill it with pebbles or gravel, and add a thick layer of fresh potting soil.
  • Place the plant in the middle of the pot and fill up the sides with soil about an inch below the brim.
  • Firmly press the soil to free it from air pockets.
  • Water the plant thoroughly and place it in a well-lit location.

5. Annual Pruning

Pruning the Elderberries is crucial to upkeep its seasonal foliage flush and invoke the plant to grow new leaves.

Additionally, pruning is an energy-saving process for the plant to flower and fruit in the later seasons.

Prune Black Tower Elderberries in late winter or early spring when the plant is dormant by removing all the unnecessary foliage and spent flowers using sterilized shears.
Image represents the process of pruning Elderberries
Winter is the perfect time to cut down Elderberries to the ground and wake them to grow new foliage and fruits next spring.

Elderberries are deciduous, meaning they shed their leaves at the onset of winter, so the pruning process seems easy.

However, the plant is still prone to pests (mealybugs, aphids, borers, spider mites and scales) and diseases (cankers, powdery mildews, leaf spots, etc.).

Keeping the diseased parts can increase the incidence of diseases and pests in nearby plants or even kill the whole plant.

So, to properly trim the plant, you can follow these easy steps.

  • Locate the dead or diseased parts and snip them off with sterilized shears.
  • Pinch out the dead flowers using your fingers.
  • Cut the old or broken fruiting canes from the trunk first and remove the ones older than 3 years.
  • If you are taking cuttings for propagation, make a 45° cut in green and healthy canes.
  • Dab pests with q-tips laced with neem oil or spray at the infection for diseases.
  • Burn the cut debris to prevent the extent of diseases and pests.

Black Tower Elderberry takes at least 2 years to properly establish itself in a new environment beginning from first propagation or germination. So, it’s ideal to forgo repotting or pruning for the first 2 years!

Black Tower Elderberry: All About the Growth Rate

Black Tower Elderberry is a plant with a quick growth rate that can grow about 6-8 feet in height and 3-4 feet wide.

However, in some cases, the plant can attain a towering height of 20-3o feet.

Like most temperate species, the plant sheds its leaves in winter to cope with water loss from the dry winter air and secure some energy for the spring.

The plant grows rapidly from early spring to mid-summer. At that time, it also starts producing flower buds that open during the late summer.

Image represents the flowers of Black Tower Elderberry
Black Tower Elderberry produces fragrant, pink flowers in clusters, and each cluster is shaped like an umbrella.

Flowers of the plant are arranged like the top of an umbrella, and technically this kind of arrangement of flowers is called corymbose or corymb.

To better understand, think of the top of broccoli or cauliflower, but the flowers are pale pink or rosy pink, with a musky fragrance that lures pollinators like bees and butterflies.

After pollination, the flowers are replaced by purplish-black berries, appearing in clusters with 1-2 seeds.

Toxicity of Black Tower Elderberry

The ripe and purplish-black fruits of Elderberries are edible and have been used to make confectionaries and other food products.

But the unripe berries, leaves, stems, flowers and roots house poisonous cyanogenic glycosides.

According to research, the extracts of flowers and berries pose low toxicity to the cell lines.

Additionally, even ripe berries can be toxic to pets.

Your pets may exhibit symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, but toxins might be too low to pose a life-ending threat.

Nevertheless, pets must be kept from the plant and its parts at all times.

If your pets happen to eat the plant parts and start showing toxicity symptoms, call any of the numbers to register a case of emergency.

Propagating Black Tower Elderberry

Black Tower Elderberry can be propagated with seeds and softwood cuttings.

Most people choose the cutting method since growing from seeds can take a long time and is complex.

Furthermore, propagating Black Tower Elderberry through seeds is only possible if the seed is of a non-hybrid type.

1. Propagating Via Seeds

Elderberry seeds need special cold treatment to activate germination, called stratification. You can collect the berries in the fall.

To stratify, separate the seeds from the pulp by crushing the berries in a bucket of water, leaving the seeds in the mix for 24 hours and then straining the pulpy mix.

Image represents the fruits of Black Tower Elderberry
The fruits or berries of Elderberries contain seeds that can be propagated in soil, but it takes a tediously long time.

Straining shall separate the seeds that later need air drying by wrapping them with tissue paper for a week.

Then you can cold stratify the seeds by placing them in a zip-lock bag and keeping them inside the fridge for 60-90 days at 39-41°F.

After the stratification, follow the steps below to sow Black Tower Elderberry Seeds.

  • Take a seed starting tray with a dome, add the potting mix, and then sow the seed separately.
  • Place the seeds at a depth of one-fourth inch.
  • Cover the seeds with the dome to secure humidity and warmth.
  • Place the tray in a bright, well-lit location and maintain soil moisture regularly until germination.
  • After the seedlings grow new leaves in 1-2 years, transplant them in a large suitable-sized pot.

If you want to propagate the seeds without stratifying first, they can take 2-5 years to germinate.

Thus, you would want to stratify the seeds properly for quicker germination.

2. Propagating Via Cuttings

Propagating via cuttings is also the one with a higher success rate.

You can use softwood cuttings taken in early spring for propagation, as they bear ready-to-grow buds. 

Hardwood cuttings are also probable for propagation, but they usually take time to sprout.

Hardwood cuttings are typically taken in fall or winter when the plant is dormant, whereas softwood cuttings are taken in early spring.

Follow the steps below to propagate your Black Tower Elderberry through stem cuttings.

Step 1:  Prepare the Stem Cuttings

  • Identify a healthy branch that is straight, green, and consists of leaf nodes.
  • Make a 45° cut which shall be the rooting end.
  • Leave at least 3-6 inches, include at least two nodes, and cut the other end.
  • Remove the leaves from the lower two-thirds of the cuttings and leave one at the top
  • Soak the cuttings in distilled water for 12-24 hours.
  • After the soaking is complete, it is time to plant your cuttings.
Image represents process of propagation using softwood cuttings
Softwood cuttings need indirect light until they sprout healthy leaves at the top and show rapid growth due to developing a new set of roots.

Step 2: Planting the Cuttings

  • Remove the cuttings and place them in a clean paper towel to dry.
  • Apply a small amount of rooting hormone to the cut end.
  • Fill a sizeable 4 inches wide pot with the soil and poke a hole in the soil with your finger.
  • If you have multiple cuttings, take a separate pot for each.
  • Place the cutting in the hole, cover it with some soil and locate the pot in bright indirect sunlight.
  • You can also cover the pot with a plastic bag or zip-lock to maintain ideal conditions for rooting.
  • After 6 weeks, your plant will grow new roots and be ready to be transferred to a new pot.

Once transferred into a new pot, the plant will require at least 6-8 hours of daily sunlight and regular watering.

It is a slow grower and can take up to a year to root fully. Thus, it is not worth worrying about if the cuttings lack vigorous growth.

You can also watch the following video to get an idea about propagating Elderberry cuttings in water.

FAQs About Black Tower Elderberries

Do Black Tower Elderberries Comeback Every Year?

Elderberries are perennials that produce new canes or stems yearly, even after pruning.

Are Black Tower Elderberries Invasive?

Without pruning and control, the plant can spread outside its comfort zone and invade new regions.

Should You Cut Back Black Tower Elderberry?

You can cut Elderberries to the ground, but this should be done in winter when the plant is dormant with all the above-ground parts dead.

From Editorial Team

Plant the Cuttings at Equal Distances in the Soil!
After the cuttings sprout good roots, uproot them and plant them about 6-10 feet away from each other in the soil. This allows the plant to spread freely without any resistance from neighboring Elderberries.

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