Is Sambucus edible? Yes and no. Elderberry fruit is edible so long as the berries are cooked first, and indeed Elderberry jam, syrup and wine are all delicious reasons to grow Sambucus.

Elderberry leaves can be green, purple or variegated which adds to their interest, and Sambucus are really easy to care for too, so long as they're given enough room - they do get really big in Portland!

All parts of the plant except the berries are toxic to humans though, so leaves, woody stems and roots are off limits! Berries that are eaten raw can cause upset stomach and nausea so be sure to prepare them properly.

Sambucus canadensis

Sambucus canadensis: American Elder or Elderberry

The American Elderberry drips with black berries in summer. Berries are commonly used to make wine, liqueurs and pies. Two different varieties must be planted to provide pollination for fruit production. Portland Nursery carries 'Nova' and 'York'. Leaves are medium green, flowers are creamy white.

Grows 5-12' tall and wider. Can be pruned and kept on the smaller side. Prune in March.

Hardy Z2 – some selections hardy to Z4.

Sambucus nigra

Sambucus nigra: European or Common Elderberry

This species offers a really wide range of leaf colors and makes a great addition to the garden. The purple and green leaf forms are fast-growing and form a pretty fountain shape. They're self-sufficient and easy to grow with few problems. Variegated (2-toned leaf) forms are a bit slower-growing with a bushier shape. They can burning in hot afternoon sun so the ideal site for variegated Sambucus is partly shaded.

Sambucus nigra 'Black Beauty'

Sambucus nigra 'Black Beauty'

Dark purple leaves sometimes tinged green in cool weather, pink buds and pink to white flowers, black fruit.

Grows 8-12' x 8-12' in five years, and larger given time. Full to part sun, hardy Z4.

Sambucus nigra 'Black Lace'

Sambucus nigra 'Black Lace'

'Black Lace' is easily our most popular elderberry, and with good reason. It's strappy dark purple leaves really add drama, and they resemble the leaves of Japanese lace-leaf maples. Big clusters of pink flowers stand out against the dark leaves and are followed by black fruit. The most common concern is that 'Black Lace' does a little too well, and gets too big. Literature says they grow to 8-12 feet, but we've seen them at more like 20 feet! Which really is more like a small tree. So give it plenty of room and everyone involved will be happy.

Full to part sun, hardy Z4.

Sambucus nigra 'Madonna'

Sambucus nigra 'Madonna'

Bright gold, white and green leaves, black fruit. Grows slower than other forms and has a bushier shape.

Grows 6-8' x 6-8' – part to full shade.

Sambucus nigra 'Variegata'

Sambucus nigra 'Variegata'

Cream and green leaves, frothy cream flowers and black fruit.

Grows 8-12' x 8-12', part to full shade. Hardy Z4.