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Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs


Other Common Names Include: Common Elderberry

Latin Name:  Sambucus canadensis

Plant Family: Adoxaceae

Close Relatives: other Sambucus species

Uses and Markets: Culinary (pies, soups wines, jellies, jams, juices), medicinal (used as a diaphoretic, laxative and a diuretic), industrial (source of dye)

Stand of elderberry at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Southern Crop Protection Research Station near Delhi, Ontario.  2005Single elderberry bush.  York variety Cluster of small elderberries from the Kent variety.Cluster of large elderberries from the York variety.
Production Life Cycle in Ontario


Hardiness Zone


Special Notes

Native to Ontario.

Propagation method

Typically from hardwood cuttings. Dormant wood cuttings containing 2-3 sets of opposite buds from vigorous one -year old canes are best.  Fall cuttings from one-year-old canes can be wrapped in plastic to reduce moisture loss and stored in a cool dark place until spring.

Greenhouse Seeding/Propagation Dates

Cuttings typically rooted directly into the field.

Field Seeding Date:


Field Transplanting Dates

Early spring.  Cuttings are buried to just below the top pair of buds.

In-row spacing

1 m

Between row spacing

4-5 m

Optimal Soil temperature at planting



No current Ontario fertility recommendations exist. Research and recommendations from outside Ontario do not necessarily apply to Ontario growing conditions.  Research from Pennsylvania indicates 57g ammonium nitrate per year of the plant’s age up to a maximum of 453 g/plant is sufficient for maximum berry yield.  Click here for phosphorus and potassium application guidelines and for more information on specialty crop fertility.

Soil type

Well-drained soils.  Sandy to loamy soils.

Soil pH


Special requirements for growth habit

Well drained, open fields with good air movement will reduce disease and potential damage from frost, insects and birds. Cross-pollination increases fruit production. After the second year, prune annually in early spring to remove old, dead, broken and weak canes. Two year old canes produce the most fruit.  Mowing a mature planting may reduce labour costs and encourage growth of new canes, but the loss of 2 year old canes will reduce production in the following season.

Optimal Temperature Range

Temperate climate.

Temperature sensitivity

Frost tolerant.

Irrigation requirements

Trickle irrigate during the first year to insure proper development. Elderberry is relatively drought tolerant but occasional irrigation may be necessary in light soil or during dry summer (25 mm/week from bloom to harvest).

Days to harvest

Berries ripen in late August/early September.  Fruit production begins the year after planting, with full production after 3-4 years.

Specialized equipment:


Harvest Scheduling

Multiple harvests from mid-August to mid-September. Flowers are picked in mid-June.

Hand harvest or machine harvest

Hand harvest

Quality parameters/grades

No established grades. Quality is determined by the market.

Additional Harvest Notes

Avoid picking wet or overripe berries.  If not juiced immediately, berries are often frozen and then juiced at a later date.

Post harvest
Special handling/curing

Cool quickly and refrigerate (or freeze), after harvest to avoid spoilage.

Storage Conditions

Relative humidity (RH): 95%

Temperature: -0-5 to 0°C

Air Exchange: N/A

Duration: 1 week (fresh berries)

Specific pests observed on this crop in Ontario (observations based on limited experience with this crop)

Insects and Invertebrates: Elder shoot borer (larva – stem/canes,  adult - leaves), sap beetles, eriophyid mites, two spotted spider mites, aphids, potato flea beetles, grape mealy bugs, thrips, San Jose scale, currant borer, rose chafer, spotted wing drosophila

Diseases: Tomato ringspot virus, fungal stem and twig cankers (Cytosporas, Nectria, Sphaeropsis), powdery mildew, leaf spotting fungi, thread blight, root rots, Verticillum, nematodes

Other: Birds

Other Potential Pests: The following pests have not been observed on this crop in Ontario. However, they are either significant concerns for closely related plants in Ontario, or are reported on this crop in other production areas. This is not a comprehensive list of all potential pests. Not all of these pests will necessarily survive Ontario’s climate, but could potentially survive in a protected environment (e.g. greenhouse, storage facility).

Insects and Invertebrates: Aphids, leafrollers, spanworms, weevils, sawfly larvae

Diseases: Anthracnose, bacterial blights, Botrytis, Phomopsis

*Indicates pests commonly mentioned as causing significant damage or economic loss to this crop in other regions.


To date the following pests have been the most significant in Ontario:.birds, spotted wing drosophila  Birds are the major pest affecting elderberries. They eat the fruits, and can be a serious problem in small plantings. Control measures include noise cannons, distress calls and prompt harvesting of ripe fruit, but the most effective means is netting. Elderberry is also a known host of spotted wing drosophila, a new pest of many crops in Ontario.  For more information on spotted wing drosophila, refer to the OMAFRA website.  For more information on other pests of elderberry refer to OMAFRA factsheet  95-005 Elderberries for Home Gardens.

 This crop is in Crop Group 13-07:  Berry and Small Fruit Crop Group and subgroups 13-07B: Bushberry subgroup  and 13-07C : Large shrub/ tree berry subgroup.  For more information on Crop Groups, refer to the Pest section.  Always refer to product labels, and follow all directions specified on the label, before applying any pest control product.  For more information, consult an OMAF and MRA specialist. For pest control products registered on this crop refer to OMAFRA Publication 360, Guide to Fruit Production.

Elderberry bush suffering from Verticillium wilt
Additional Notes

Adams, Kent, Nova, Scotia, Victoria, and York are common commercial varieties

Ontario Research Projects Used to Create This Profile
  1. Geier, R.  Observations from on-farm elderberry production in southern Ontario.  (unpublished)
  1. Byers, P.  2005. Elderberry Research and Production in Missouri. New York Berry News, Vol 4 No 11.
  2. Charlebois, D. 2007. Elderberry as a Medicinal Plant. ASHS Press, Alexandria, VA.
  3. Craig, D.L.  1978.  Elderberry Culture in Eastern Canada.  Agriculture Canada publication 1280. ISBN:0-662-01866-4.
  4. McKay, S. A. 2010. Currant, Gooseberry, Elderberry, and Aronia- Production, Products and Marketability. Michigan Greenhouse Growers EXPO.
  5. Currant, Gooseberry and Elderberry, p. 306-310. In: Cross, K.C., Wang, C.Y. and Saltviet, M. (eds.). The Commercial Storage of Fruits, Vegetables, and Florist and Nursery Stocks. USDA Agriculture Handbook Number 66. ``Currant, Gooseberry and Elderberry``.
  6. Schooley, K.. 1998. Elderberries for Home Gardens.
  7. Way, R.D.  1967.  Elderberry Growing in New York State.  Cornell Extension Bulletin 1177.  New York State College of Agriculture, Geneva, NY.