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Black Tower Elderberry: Ultimate Care Guide & Common Issues

Black Tower Elderberry is an upright, fast-growing shrub adorning pink blooms and dark green to burgundy leaves resistant to most temperature dynamics. Still, it has a soft spot for sunlight and water.

Generally, Black Tower Elderberry needs 6-8 hours of full sunlight daily, 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 will cover everything that can help grow the plant in your 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 black-colored berries.

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
Botanical NameSambucus nigra 'EIFFEL 1'
Other NameEuropean Elder
FamilyAdoxaceae
OriginIndigenous to Europe, Africa, and a few Southwest Asian regions
Hardy ZonesUSDA Zones 4 to 9
Plant TypeDeciduous Flowering Shrub
FoliageBlackish Purple
Bloom TimeEarly Summer
Flower Size6-9"
Flower ColorPink
Average Height6-8 feet
Average Spread3-4 feet
Growth RateFast grower
Grows upright
UsageAttracts butterflies, attracts birds, can be used as a hedge or screen.
ToxicityThe fruits can be toxic to pets and humans if ingested raw

Black Tower Elderberry: Ultimate Care Guide & Common Issues

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

However, the care you show won’t go unnoticed, and I assure you that your efforts will be worth it at the end of the day.

The main factors that you need to take care of are:

1. Bright Sunlight and Proper Location

Unlike non-flowering and non-fruiting plants, adequate sunlight is necessary for flowers and fruits.

Thus, you would ideally want to keep fruiting plants in places that receive the maximum sunlight. The same goes for Black Tower Elderberry as well.

You must have realized that this plant can’t be grown indoors.

You might keep it indoors in the early years when the plant is small. But doing so can result in stunted growth as this plant is meant to be grown outdoors.

Provide full sunlight for at least 8 hours daily to Black Tower Elderberry, but it does well in partial sunlight too.

Black Tower Elderberry growing outdoors in full sunlight
Black Tower Elderberry growing outdoors in full sunlight (Source: UC ANR)

However, if you want the foliage to be a deep shade of purple, then full sunlight is the way to go.

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

But more sunlight also means more water, which is where our next factor comes in.

Check out this article on the effect of light on plant growth: What Light Color is Best for the Plant’s Growth?

2. Watering Requirements

The more sunlight a plant gets, the higher its transpiration rate and the more water it will need.

Black Tower Elderberry doesn’t tolerate drought at all, so you will have to routinely water it.

Allowing the soil to dry out between waterings is also a good practice. However, try not to let the soil dry out as it can stunt plant growth.

As a general rule, water the Black Tower Elderberry thoroughly every week to ensure proper growth and good plant health.

It prefers to grow in moist conditions and does well in wet soil. However, try not to keep the soil soggy for a long time to encourage root rot.

watering Plant
Watering Plant (Photo: Unsplash)

Black Tower Elderberry roots are found close to the surface. If the topsoil dries off, the roots will also dry.

Thus, you will have to provide a good amount of water to ensure that the topsoil doesn’t dry off quickly.

Underwatering means facing issues like curling and drooping leaves, wilting and crispy leaves which will eventually degrade your plant’s health.

Provide at least 2 inches of water every weekduring the dry season. Otherwise, an inch of water every week will do for Black Tower Elderberry.

If the leaf tips start browning or the stem turns soggy, it is a sign of overwatering and must be remedied immediately.

Letting it stay dry for a few weeks can do the trick, and you can start watering normally again.

Compost and mulch applications will go a great way toward retaining soil moisture, but the bushes may require extra moisture during dry seasons, and when the fruit is ripening and watering may be necessary.

While smaller seedlings can be hand-watered, drip tape can be better for bigger plantings.

In addition, the winter season means dormancy for the plant, so you won’t have to water as frequently as during the growing season.

3. Well-draining Soil with Organic Matter

Black Tower Elderberry can grow in a wide range of soil as long as it drains well and has proper aeration capacity.

Black Tower Elderberry prefers moist, loamy, and acidic soil rich in organic matter and humus content.

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

Proper soil mix for shrubs
Proper soil mix for shrubs (Source: Unsplash)

Black Tower Elderberry prefers the soil pH on the slightly acidic side, so keeping the pH value around 5-6.5 shall do.

They can also occasionally tolerate dry or soggy soil, but it would be best not to expose them to these conditions for a prolonged period.

Before planting, it is recommended to add a 2-3 inch layer of organic matter like woodchips, compost, or vermicompost, which will help to retain the soil moisture.

4. Humidity Requirement

Because this plant can do well in an outdoor environment, it is not very selective regarding humidity factors.

It loves the occasional moist conditions provided by rain, but other than that, it won’t be necessary to keep specific humidity conditions like most other plants.

It will do best in cool and moist climatic conditions to balance the transpiration level.

Misting plant leaves
Misting plant leaves (Source: Pexels)

If you live in a very dry and aroid climatic condition, the following tips can help you maintain adequate humidity levels.

  • Although it is irrelevant when the plant is fully grown, you can ideally maintain the humidity at the early blooming stage by misting the plant daily.
  • Keeping the plant away from places with too much wind movement is also suggested as it can easily disperse the humidity.
  • Placing a tray filled with cool water near the plant will also help maintain a humid environment.

Check out this article on cool spray bottles for misting your plant: 8 Best Plant Spray Bottles for Watering Plants

5. Ideal Temperature Conditions

Like its soil requirements, it can grow normally in a wide range of temperature conditions.

Black Tower Elderberry grows at the hardiness zones from 4 to 9; it is safe to say that this plant won’t require a specific temperature range to grow properly.

If you live in an area out of this hardiness zone, then it is better to keep your plant indoors in the early stage. You can slowly acclimate it outdoors once it starts growing big.

USDA Hardiness zone diagram
USDA Hardiness zone diagram (Source: Wikimedia)

Black Tower Elderberry does best in cool and moist climatic conditions to flower and fruit properly.

If the temperature is on the higher side, you might consider growing it in a greenhouse where you can adjust the environment accordingly.

You should also avoid an extremely low temperature to prevent temperature stress.

However, considering that this plant can grow at a temperature as low as -40°C,  you can say that it is frost resistant.

Response of plants to temperature
Response of plants to temperature (Source: Springer)

Tips for Maintaining Ideal Temperature

  • If the temperature is too high, you might consider placing it in a shaded place below a canopy or a big tree to relieve the heat.
  • Watering deeply and mulching can also help save the plant from extreme heat levels.
  • Using shade clothes is a temporary option, but it can protect the plant early from the blistering heat.

6. Dormancy Period

Even though Black Tower Elderberry can grow at a very low temperature, some care still needs to be provided during the winter.

You should weed the area around the plant regularly for the first one or two years. After the third year, it won’t be as much necessary.

It would be best to perform the weeding with a hand as using tools can damage its shallow roots.

Water Black Tower Elderberry deeply once a week, at least for 3-4 inches during the winter times.

Late winter is when pruning should be done as the bush is dormant. You will lose flowers and leaves during the winter, but there is no need to worry.

It will return once again with the upcoming spring season.

Also watch,

7. Fertilization Requirement

A flowering and fruiting plant means that it needs more food compared to other plants to bloom properly.

Feed Black Tower Elderberry with balanced liquid fertilizer three to four times a year during its growing season. The best time to fertilize this plant is to stimulate high fruit production in the early spring season.

Black Tower Elderberry shrubs flourish in organically rich, wet, and well-draining soil. To guarantee that your young plant flourishes, add compost or well-rotted manure into the soil when planting.

In the early stages of growth, Black Tower Elderberry likes fertilizer with high Nitrogen content.

After a few years of growth, balanced fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 10-10-10 is ideal.

It will provide all the necessary elements required for fruit production, maintain its strength, and encourage rapid growth.

For older plants, 1-2 cups of fertilizer will do. However, if you notice vigorous growth, try to reduce the fertilizer amount.

It is easy to overfeed a plant which you should avoid at all costs.

Hand of a man putting fertilizer to a plant
Feeding the plant (Source: Stocklib)

Another thing to keep in mind is to avoid fertilizing in the winter and fall since these are dormant times. Fertilizing during these times won’t do any good and may only harm the plant.

The Anderson PGF Balanced 10-10-10 Fertilizer is an excellent choice to provide all the required elements for your Black Tower Elderberry. 

Anderson PGF Balanced 10-10-10 Fertilizer
Anderson PGF Balanced 10-10-10 Fertilizer (Source: Amazon)

Organic alternatives like compost, wood chips, and vermicompost should not be relied upon fully as they won’t provide the adequate amount of nutrients required for a fruiting plant like this.

8. Growth Rate

Black Tower Elderberry can grow up to a height of nearly 6-8 feet and can have a spread of 3-4 feet.

It is an excellent choice to grow in hedgerows or provide shade for lawns. In its native region, it can reach up to 20 feet in height.

It has dark green serrated oval leaves, around 10 inches in length. Each leaf consists of 5-8 leaflets.

The leaves are light green in their baby stage and start to darken as it grows older. When mature, the leaves are burgundy with a slight blackish tint.

Black Tower Elderberry
Black Tower Elderberry (Source: Future Forests)

Fruit and Edibility

Black Tower Elderberry is mainly grown for its edible bluish-black fruit to make wine, jams, syrup, and other delicacies.

The fruit is high in vitamins A and C and phosphorus, potassium, and iron.

It possesses antiviral qualities, which make it particularly useful in reducing the severity and duration of colds and flu.

S. nigra berries have been shown to enhance the production of infection-fighting cytokines.

Its fruit also strengthens the immune system, so it is widely coveted to make health-related products.

However, the fruit is not safe for human and pets consumption when raw.

Black-Elderberry
Black Elderberry Fruit (Source: 123RF)

In most cases, eating raw elderberry fruits can cause an upset stomach which is why you should avoid it.

When processed, you can use the fruits for medicinal and culinary purposes.

Birds and small wild animals also consume their fruits, so you will be doing a good thing by feeding them.

Flowering Habit

Black Tower Elderberry flowers bloom from the late spring to early summer, and they are also quite edible when processed.

It produces flowers in large clusters, which are stunning pink in color.

Sambucus_Nigra_Flower
Black Tower Elderberry Flower (Source: Pexels)

You can also mix these flowers with the fruits to make any delicacy.

The flowers grow atop branches that emerge from tiny buds and have a pleasant aromatic smell.

9. Potting and Repotting

Potting and repotting are only relevant when the plant is at its early growth stage.

Black Tower Elderberry can grow to a massive height; it’s better to plant it on the ground rather than in a pot.

However, some people grow it in large patio pots at least 16-20 inches in diameter.

Ideally, you want a pot with enough drainage holes to prevent the soil from getting soggy. Both Plastic and Terra Cotta Pots are good choices for this plant.

Black Tower Elderberry Planted in a big pot
Black Tower Elderberry Planted in a pot (Source: American Meadows)

Repot the Black Tower Elderberry during the winter when the plant is in its dormant stage.

It should be carried out only when the plant is at least in the third year of its growth. A 2-3 years is ideal for repotting your Black Tower Elderberry.

Not only does repotting help to rejuvenate the plant, but it will also help to encourage rapid growth.

Repotting can also help solve yellowing leaves or pest infestation problems and keep your plant healthy.

Steps to Repot Black Tower Elderberry

  • Gently take out your plant from the old pot.
  • Try not to disturb the soil structure and do your best to keep it intact.
  • Remove yellow, wilting, and dead leaves.
  • Take a large container at least 2 feet wide and 24 inches deep with 4-5 drainage holes.
  • Fill the base of the new pot with potting mix. Do not add pebbles and rocks at the bottom. The soil needs to hold a good amount of water, and the holes on the bottom will help drain excess water.
  • Fill half of the pot with a new potting soil mix.
  • Place the plant in the middle of the pot and fill up the sides with soil.
  • Continue the process till the soil is about 1-2 inches lower than the rim.
  • Firmly press the soil to cancel out air pockets.
  • Water the newly planted plant thoroughly and place it in a well-lit location.

Also, watch the video,

10. Pruning Black Tower Elderberry

For a plant like Black Tower Elderberry, pruning makes it look presentable and is also a necessity.

Pruning is an important aspect to help the plant produce fruits and ensure satisfying growth.

The best time for pruning your Black Tower Elderberry is either late winter or early spring, as the plant produces fruit and flowers in new growth.

Black Tower Elderberry is a plant that falls under the group of plants that ‘sleeps, creeps, and then leaps.’

It means that it will take at least two years to establish itself properly before having vigorous growth.

These two years are essential for its growth, so it should be left undisturbed during this time.

After that, it needs yearly pruning to maintain its attractive and healthy look.

Techniques to Prune the Plant
Techniques to Prune the shrub (Source: www.uky.edu)

Steps for Pruning your Black Tower Elderberry

  • The first step of pruning is to sterilize your equipment properly.
  • Locate any dead, dying, or broken plant parts.
  • In the case of leaves and flowers, you can dead-head them by pinching them off with your fingers.
  • For the canes, cut off with pruning shears in one quick motion.
  • Aim for those older than three years once all the dead, weak, and broken canes are cut off.
  • When pruning, snip the long canes on the diagonal cut.
  • You can also prune any old and weak stems as they won’t produce any fruit.

Pruning your plant also makes it hardy against winter and prevents energy loss.

It will also encourage the growth of new fruits and flowers and make the plant look healthy.

Note:  Black Tower Elderberry may be propagated by hardwood cuttings, so if you want more plants, prune healthy canes in early spring before bud break.

Check this video out for more ideas,

Propagating Black Tower Elderberry

Black Tower Elderberry can be propagated in different ways, including seeds, softwood cutting, and hardwood cutting.

Most people go for the cutting method since growing from seeds can take a long time and is quite complex compared to propagating from wood cuttings.

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

Cross-pollination is highly likely if more than two Black Tower Elderberries are in the same spot, yielding less success.

But if you would like to go through with seed propagation anyways, then the following process will help you out.

1. Propagating Via Seeds

Some seeds need special treatment to activate germination to sprout properly.

Black Tower Elderberry seeds won’t affect germination without following a stratification process.

Stratification is the process of mimicking the natural conditions for a seed to break its dormancy and germinate.

Seed stratification
Seed stratification (Source: University of Florida)

Follow the steps below for stratifying your Black Tower Elderberry Seeds:

  • Place a handful of Black Tower Elderberry seeds in a bucket.
  • Crush the berries to separate the outer coating from the inner seeds.
  • Soak the pulp in water for about a day and pour it through a sieve to obtain the seeds.
  • After that, place it in a cool and dry place for about a week for the best results.
  • The stratification process is complete, and you can sow the seeds now.
  • It would be best to place the seeds at a depth of one-fourth inch in a pot.
  • Cover an inch with a thick layer of mulch.
  • Place the pot in a bright, well-lit location and maintain moisture in the soil.
  • After 4-5 weeks, you will notice the seedling appear. Water the plant regularly.
Sprouting seed
Sprouting seed (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

If you want to propagate the seeds without stratifying first, it can take years to germinate.

Thus, you would want to stratify the seeds properly for the best results in a short time.

2. Propagating Via Cuttings

Propagating via cuttings is also the one with a higher success rate since it doesn’t require any complicated process.

You can use both hardwood and softwood cuttings for propagation through this method.

Hardwood cuttings are the cuttings taken from a fully mature plant. On the other hand, softwood cuttings are from a relatively younger plant.

Both hardwood and softwood cutting methods are similar in process.

The only difference is that hardwood cuttings are typically taken in winter or fall when the plant is dormant, whereas softwood cuttings are taken during the summer and spring.

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

Step 1:  Prepare the Stem Cutting

  • Sterilize your working equipment with rubbing alcohol.
  • Identify a healthy branch that is straight and consists of nodes.
  • Make the cutting in a slope at one side, which shall be the rooting end.
  • Leave at least 3-6 inches, include at least two nodes, and cut the other end.
  • You should make a flat cut at the other side, the leafing end.
  • You can remove the leaves from the cutting or leave one at most.
  • Soak the cutting in fresh, clean water or distilled water.
  • Place it in a cool and dark place for at least 12 hours.
  • After the soaking is complete, it is time to plant your cuttings.

Step 2: Plant the Cutting

  • Remove the cuttings and place them in a clean paper towel to dry.
  • Apply a small amount of rooting hormone on the rooting end.
  • Fill a pot with the potting soil and make a hole in the potting mix with your finger.
  • You can place up to 3 cuttings in a single pot.
  • Be sure to expose the upper node towards the flat end out from the soil.
  • Place the pot in a shaded, cool, and moist place.
  • You can also cover the pot with a plastic coating to maintain ideal conditions for rooting.
  • After 10-12 weeks, your plant will be ready to be transferred to a new pot.
Rooting-softwood-cutting
Rooting-softwood-cutting (Source: Researchgate)

Once transferred into a new pot, the plant will require at least 6 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 something to worry about if you lack vigorous growth.

Common Problems in Black Tower Elderberry

Despite all your care and efforts, there is still a chance that you may face some problems while growing Black Tower Elderberry.

You need to be extra cautious of some common pests and diseases while taking care of this plant.

Below is a list of some of the problems that you may face:

1. Common Pests

Mealybugs, aphids, and scale are the most prevalent pests that Black Tower Elderberry may encounter.

Mealybugs

They are tiny oval pests with a wax-covered back that has a cotton-like appearance. They are one-fourth of an inch and hard to identify in the early stages, but they will be visible later as a white powdery covering.

Mealybug-Pxhere
Mealybug infesting the plant (Source: Pxhere)

They suck out the essential nutrients from the sap of the plant. It mostly favors new growth and is mostly found in warm climatic conditions.

It usually results in the yellowing of the plant leaves and can also cause the premature dropping of fruits and flowers.

Scales

A small, oval bug with a shell-like covering, scales are a common issue in houseplants. They attack the plant in groups and can cause heavy damage if not treated soon.

Scales secrete honeydew, which encourages the growth of a black fungus called sooty mold. This mold prevents the photosynthesis process, which stunts the plant’s growth.

Scale insects
Scale Pest (Source: Wikimedia)

Yellowing of leaves, drooping and dropping leaves, and browning leaves are symptoms of scale infestation.

Scales are mostly found around the underside of the plant leaves or in the joints where they suck the nutritious plant nectar.

If this pest is not controlled soon, this easily results in the death of the plant, so you should take immediate action.

Aphids

Aphids are tiny, soft-bodied insects that are hard to see with our naked eyes. They also destroy the plant by sucking off sap from their needle-like protruding mouth.

This pest can multiply very quickly, so it is essential to take action as soon as possible.

Aphid mostly feeds in large numbers, so it is easy to identify aphid infestation.

This pest also produces a sugary liquid called honeydew which can cause black sooty mold.

aphid-pixabay
Aphid (Source: Pixabay)

Another way to identify the presence of aphids is if the plants start to attract ants searching for honeydew.

Aphid infestation results in misshapen flowers and fruits, curling leaves, and also forms gall in roots.

They are mostly found on the underside of the plant leaves, so don’t forget to check there.

Treatment Measures for Pest Infestation

  • You can apply Neem Oil to the infected plant parts to fend off these pests.
  • Spraying them with insecticidal soap can also help.
  • The best treatment is to dab the pests with cotton balls dipped in alcohol to kill these pests.
  • In minor infestations, you can blast off the pests with water.
  • If the infestation is heavy, it is best to dispose of the plant safely.
  • You can use bleach-free dishwashing soap (7ml per ltr) as a homemade remedy.
  • Spraying with a mixture of two tablespoons of oil, two tablespoons of baby shampoo, and one cup of alcohol for one liter of water will also help control the infestation.
  • Wipe the plant with a mixture of two tablespoons of baking soda in a liter of water if the fungus is also present.
  • Dusting the plant with flour is also said to repel the pests.
  • Spraying the plant with garlic is also an excellent homemade remedy to treat aphid infestation.
neem oil and plants
Neem oil for plants (Source: Amazon)

Preventive Measures

  • While watering, try not to let the leaves wet as it is an open invitation for pests.
  • Mulching is a simple yet effective process that can help to prevent pest infestation by suppressing weeds.
  • Maintaining your plant’s good health through proper practices like pruning and repotting is also an excellent way to prevent pest infestation.
  • Using good quality soil that is nutritious and healthy will strengthen the plants’ immune system and help repel pests and insects.
  • Planting complementary plants like olives, garlic, and basils with a pungent smell can also help repel off pests.

Learn to identify insect eggs on leaves and treat pest infestation: How to Identify Insect Eggs on Leaves and Treat Pest Infestation?

2. Common Diseases

Root rot and Powdery mildew are some common diseases in Black Tower Elderberry.

Powdery Mildew

Powdery Mildew is one of the most common and recognizable diseases affecting your Black Tower Elderberry.

It occurs as a powdery growth in the plant parts, including the leaves, buds, flowers, and even the fruits.

They are mostly known to occur when the plant is placed in too humid conditions with little to no aeration. You will notice it as small spores that cover the plant completely quickly.

The wind can also carry off these spores, so grouping plants can make them very vulnerable to infection.

The common symptom of Powdery Mildew is that the plant leaves start turning yellow, and the plant starts to wither out.

They are also common in the early stages of the plant. Severe infestation of this disease will result in the plant being distorted and stunted, and it won’t grow properly.

Powdery-Mildew-Wikimedia
Powdery Mildew disease (Source: Wikimedia)
Treatment of Powdery Mildew
  • Spraying the plant with a solution by mixing one tablespoon of baking soda with one liter of water will effectively treat powdery Mildew.
  • You can use standard fungicides with little to no side effects for treating this disease.
  • A mixture of one part milk to nine parts water is also said to treat powdery Mildew.

Leaf Spot Disease

As the name suggests, leaf spot disease is identified as small spots appearing on the leaf’s surface.

It mainly occurs in ornamental trees and shrubs and can be a common problem for your Black Tower Elderberry.

Although it won’t damage the plant, it can weaken it by interfering with the photosynthesis process.

Moreover, if left untreated, it can result in complete leaf loss in the following years. It can also make the plant susceptible to other pests and diseases.

The common cause of leaf spot disease is fungi, but sometimes it can also be caused by bacteria and viruses.

Leaf-Spot-Wikimedia
Leaf Spot (Source: Wikimedia)
Treatment of Leaf Spot Disease
  • Bordeaux mixture is an effective fungicide against leaf spot disease.
  • Pruning off and destroying the affected leaves will also help prevent the disease’s spread.
  • To treat this disease, you can spray one tablespoon of baking soda mixed with one-liter water.

Prevention of Diseases

  • Overcrowding your plants is a surefire way to encourage disease spread. This practice should be avoided.
  • Always maintain a proper watering and fertilizing schedule to prevent your plant from stressing out, as it makes the plant highly susceptible to disease.
  • Provide the plant with enough sunlight and air circulation to maintain good health.
  • Over mulching is a classic case of disease infestation that should be avoided.
  • Always create a well-balanced soil with good texture, aeration, and nutrition content.
  • Sanitize your equipment while performing any plant care practice.
Healthy Black Tower Elderberry
Healthy Black Tower Elderberry (Source: Amazon)

Conclusion

Black Tower Elderberry is a beautiful, extraordinary and marvelous plant with unique looks and a lot to offer.

A plant with black foliage, edible fruits, little pink flowers, and big enough to shield you from the outside peering eyes, what more can you ask for.

If you are a fan of black color, tasty fruits, landscape, and ornamental plants, this plant is the perfect fit.

If cared for properly, then you won’t ever be disappointed.

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