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Red Elderberry

Will Ship Spring 2024

Plant Type: Dormant, bare-root

Zones:  3-9

Soil Type:  Clay, Loamy & Sandy Soils

Site Selection: Full Sun, Partial Sun

Mature Height & Width:  15-20' Height and 10-15' Spread

Growth Rate:  Moderate - 12-24" per year once established

Moisture Requirements: Average to wet soils

Plant Characteristics

Red Elderberry

Sambucus pubens

The Red Elderberry is a large shrub, a taller version of the Elderberry family. This shrub displays a broad arching form and has leaves that are saw toothed around the edges. As the Red Elderberry wakes up in early spring, it produces small, creamy white flowers in conical shaped clusters. Large groupings of red, fleshy berries then appear in summer. Many types of wildlife enjoy this selection. Does require another variety of Elderberry in the area for best pollination. Consider our American Elderberry as a pollinator.

The Red Elderberry is also known as the Scarlet Elder, Red-berried Elder Bunchberry Elder and the Red Elder.

Important Note:  Plant parts and raw, unripened berries are toxic to humans and animals and are especially harmful to children. Only the red, ripened berries should be picked and eaten or processed into other foods.

The Red Elderberry is a great plant that grows a little larger than the American Elderberry.  While not drought tolerant, this bush will grow in soils with average moisture. Plant this shrub in full sun for best results although it will tolerate part shade conditions. While you will likely get crops of berries when multiples of these shrubs are planted, a much higher berry yield will occur if you plant another cultivar such as the American Elderberry, which we also carry.

Common uses for the Red Elderberry include:

  • Ripened berries used for wine, jam and pie
  • Naturalizing large, open spaces
  • Erosion control and slope stabilization
  • Privacy screens
  • Good choice for lower story of a windbreak
  • Great wildlife value

The Red Elderberry produces flower clusters which are attractive to bees and butterflies.  Game birds, squirrels, other rodents, and several kinds of browsers also feed on the fruit or foliage of elderberry.  Bears love to eat the elderberry fruits while deer, elk, and moose browse on the stems and foliage.

The elderberries are important sources of summer food for many kinds of songbirds. For example, the Western Bluebird, Indigo Bunting, Common House Finch, Red-shafted Flicker, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Black-headed Grosbeak, Scrub Jay, Stellar Jay, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Mockingbird, Red-Breasted Nuthatch, Bullock’s Oriole, Hooded Oriole, Song Sparrow, White-Crowned Sparrow, Western Tanager, California Thrasher, Russet-Backed Thrush, Brown Towhee, Audubon Warbler, Cedar Waxwing, Lewis and Nuttall's Woodpecker, Wren-Tit, grouse, pheasant, and pigeons all eat elderberries.

Product Questions

Are your Red and American Elderberries cultivars or natives?
Question by: Gisela Shonnard on Apr 20, 2022, 4:50 PM
They are plain cultivars. Native I cannot tell you, since it depends what state you are in if it is native in your state or not. Most states in the US are native for the America elderberry with the exception of some west coast states.
Answer by: Chief River Nursery on May 9, 2022, 11:38 AM
I’ve read that the red elderberries are poisonous, even if ripe. Is this true?
Question by: Sally on Mar 1, 2023, 11:46 AM
Important Note: Plant parts and raw, unripened berries are toxic to humans and animals and are especially harmful to children. Only the red, ripened berries should be picked and eaten or processed into other foods.

The leaves and stems of some, if not all, members of this genus are poisonous. The fruit of many species (although no records have been seen for this species) has been known to cause stomach upsets to some people. Any toxin the fruit might contain is liable to be of very low toxicity and is destroyed when the fruit is cooked[65, 76]. NC State University have noted Cyanogenic glycoside and alkaloids can cause low toxity if eaten.
Answer by: Chief River Nursery on Mar 1, 2023, 11:53 AM