Sambucus nigra f. laciniata

cutleaf black elder

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

Outstanding Qualities

While black elder itself is a somewhat coarse shrub, this form has delicate, ferny foliage, creating a refined look. A robust, deciduous shrub, cutleaf black elder creates a dramatic effect in the landscape in just a few years. Its deep green, finely divided leaves attractively frame the fragrant, white, Queen-Ann's-lace-like flowers in late spring. Once the flowers fade, dark purple-black fruit perch on top of the branches in flat-domed clusters. The fruit is not only an ornamental asset but is also edible (once cooked) and a favorite of birds. Adaptable and tough this shrub has survived the test of time, as it has been in cultivation at least since 1650. The foliage of this shrub may irritate the skin of some individuals. It is a useful addition to a perennials border for added textural structure.

Quick Facts

Plant Type: shrub

Foliage Type: deciduous

Plant Height: 15 ft. 0 in. (4.57 meters)

Plant Width/Spread: 12 ft. 0 in. (3.66 meters)

Plant Height-Mature: 18 ft. 0 in. (5.49 meters)

Plant Width-Mature: 15 ft. 0 in. (4.57 meters)

Hardiness: USDA Zones 6 to 8

Flower Color: white

Sun/Light Exposure: full sun is best; tolerates shade, but fewer flowers produced

Water Requirements: regular to occasional watering

Seasonal Interest: lacy green foliage & early summer flowers

Colors & Combos

Great Color Contrasts: silver, gold, chartreuse

Great Color Partners: purple, pink, burgundy

Culture Notes
This elderberry grows best in rich well-drained or moist soil, but will adapt to sandy sites or clay and tolerate short periods of standing water. The best and most vigorous growth will occur with regular watering and fertilizing, although it will tolerate more occasional watering during dry weather. It can be grown in full sun to dappled shade. Flowering is best with more sun. A light pruning in winter to remove dead and broken branches and older twiggy stems will keep it looking tidy in the garden. Vigorous growing plants can be cut to the ground every year or two to encourage robust whips of growth that will have the boldest foliage.