Less Noise, More Green: Pruning Black Lace Elderberry Bushes

Monday, May 11, 2015

Pruning Black Lace Elderberry Bushes

Pruning Black Lace Elderberries

One of the plants in my edible landscape I'm most excited about seeing mature and thrive is the Black Lace Elderberry. This variety of elderberry is a gorgeous plant with deep purple foliage and pink flowers. It is also less wild in appearance than traditional elderberry bushes which is perfect for their location next to my neighbor's drive way.

As I entered year two of this garden, I knew I had to prune these year old bushes which had grown to about six feet tall but in a spider-like fashion with long unruly branches. Pruning is always a little intimidating but the rewards can be worth the angst.


Pruning Black Lace Elderberries
After the major haircut.

For elderberries going into their second year, a hard prune is in order. They need to be cut down to about a foot in height to encourage a more bushy growth pattern. Cuts are made on an angle above a bud which is growing in the direction you want a new branch to grow. Above is a photo of the end result. This was done very early April once all the snow had melted.

Pruning Black Lace Elderberries

A couple of weeks later new growth has already appeared.

Pruning Black Lace Elderberries
This whole area has been weeded and freshly mulched since this shot was taken.

Two more weeks and we have something resembling a bush! No more spider branches but a shrub with emerging shape and plenty of foliage. Will I see blooms and fruit this year? I'll know in a month or so.  Elderflower cordial and elderberry syrup and preserves could be on the menu this summer.

I'll have to hard prune every three years to keep the bushes manageable and in the shape I want but seeing how quickly the shrubs bounced back and how healthy they are, I won't be as nervous to prune next time.

See you in the garden,


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  2. If you have room for only one edible plant, consider the elderberry. This arching eight-foot tall shrub is easy to grow, anchors the mixed border with its bold compound foliage and flowers, and provides glorious clusters of shiny, dark purple berries.

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  4. If you have an elderberry shrub in the home garden, then elderberry pruning is a necessity. Pruning of elderberries is important not only for the health aspect and overall appearance, but it’s necessary for ensuring the continual bearing of fruits.