Black tower elderberry is the perfect plant for your outdoor living space. It grows super fast and produces sweet-smelling flowers and healthy edible berries.
Its deep purple leaves will add to the pleasing esthetics of your garden. Find out how to grow this all-in-one plant in this quality, comprehensive guide.
- What Is Blacktower Elderberry Plant?
- Black Tower Elderberry Care
What Is Blacktower Elderberry Plant?
Black tower elderberry, is a shrub with a very fast growth habit. Its deep purple foliage and aromatic, light pink flowers are famous. During spring, it produces red-black berries that are edible. All the essential black tower elderberry medicinal uses are related to these berries.
Black Tower Elderberry Care
This plant needs partial or direct bright sunlight all day long. All you have to do is keep on reading as we have covered it all for you; from the light requirements, all the way to the propagation.
– Light Requirements
This plant needs direct full bright sunshine to grow and produce leaves. It will tolerate and carry on growing in partial shade as well. However, it will not develop the gorgeous dark-colored foliage it is known for in partial sunlight.
When growing this plant in full sun, water it more often. This is because, under these circumstances, the soil dries out much faster. Choose a suitable spot when planting this plant outdoors in a garden or a yard. Sunlight is more critical during the first few years when the plant establishes itself in the soil.
Our advice would be that you don’t plant your baby elderberry under the shade of a more enormous tree or plant. This tree will only block the light from your growing plant. Similarly, a northern-facing wall also receives only indirect light. If you want a thriving plant, the ideal spot would be a southern-facing spot in the garden.
– Water Requirements
Elderberry is a plant that needs constant watering as it cannot tolerate drought. On average, it needs about one inch of water every week. This means you will have to give it water every week during summer. Nonetheless, you can skip watering if your area receives one inch more rainfall that week.
During wintertime, the soil dries much slower, so watering will have to be more space. It is always better to check if the soil has dried first. The roots of the elderberry plant are present near the topsoil. Therefore, you only have to insert your finger in the topsoil up to the knuckle to feel if it is dry.
Don’t like putting your finger in the dirt? Use a wooden skewer or a pencil instead. If you own a moisture meter, your life becomes much more manageable. All you have to do is insert its sensor in the top two inches of the soil, which will tell you exactly how dry or moist the soil is.
The choice of water is of equal consequence. The elderberry plant is quite tolerant of ordinary tap water from municipal storage. However, if you want to grow this plant to its maximum potential, you must use distilled water. Distilled water is safe because it is free from all salts and minerals.
When watering, use a relatively large volume of water every time. Don’t dump the whole water on the soil all at once. Instead, take your time pouring it so it properly absorbs throughout the soil. Early morning watering yields better results than late evening or night watering.
– Soil Requirements
This plant will grow in extensive types of soils pretty happily. It prefers a slightly acidic, loamy type of soil with much organic matter.
Keep its pH around 5.5 to 6.6. You can add compost, worm casting, or mulch to it. These ingredients also help with improving the nutritional value of the soil.
– Temperature Requirements
This shrub is not specific when it comes to its temperature needs. It will grow anywhere within US hardiness zone four to nine.
Try to initially grow this plant in a pot if you live outside these zones. This way, you can move it indoors during the frosty winters.
Then once it starts getting big, you will have to acclimate it to the outer cold environment slowly. Still, during winters, you will have to cover the whole plant to protect it.
– Humidity Requirements
This is a plant that does not have any specific humidity needs. Regular humidity around 35 to 45 percent suits it just right. It does, however, enjoy the moisture from average rainfall. The good news is that you don’t have to keep an eye on this plant’s humidity or do much about it.
If you live someplace particularly hot, dry, or windy, then you need to keep an eye on this plant. Look at the leaves to see if they are dry, turning brown, or curled at the edges. In that case, lightly mist the plant from a small-sized nozzle and a respectable distance. This is more important for plants that are still growing than for fully grown plants.
You can also put a humidity tray next to the plant to improve moisture levels around it. This is better than misting because of the lesser risk of developing mildew infections. All you have to do is fill a shallow tray with water. This water will evaporate for the day and contribute to improved humidity.
– Fertilizing Requirements
To get top-quality black tower elderberry fruit, you need to fertilize it at least three to four times per year. Early spring fertilizing is a must to get a good yield of fruit. To start with, you need to enrich the soil with an organic fertilizer when planting. Use compost, vermicompost, or any other natural feed for this.
This plant needs more nitrogen to grow and develop foliage during the growth stage. So a nitrogen-rich fertilizer with an NPC ratio of 10:5:5 would be more suitable. It would be best to dilute it to half its strength before using it each time. This is a must-use hack to prevent fertilizer burns.
After its initial growth period, the plant needs a steady stream of all the essential nutrients. A well-balanced fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 10:10:10 would come in handy. Again, this, too, needs to be diluted to make it safer.
Overfeeding this plant is very easy and not very healthy. One sign of an overfed plant is that it will have extremely lush-looking foliage but fail to produce flowers. Occasionally, an overfed plant might develop yellow-colored fertilizer burns on the leaves. That is why you must always dilute your fertilizer and only use fertilizer from early spring till late summer.
Black tower elderberry pruning is needed to keep this plant in shape. It is also required for the stems to keep growing new leaves and fruits. Before pruning, you must put your cutting instruments in 70 percent isopropyl alcohol for 15 minutes. Then wash it off with water.
For the first three years of its life, you don’t need to prune this plant a lot. Just remove any wilted, discolored, and problematic leaves. Unlike most other plants, elderberry should be pruned in the winter when it is undergoing a period of dormancy.
Afterward, you need to trim three to four inches off any more than three years old stem. Stems that have stopped growing should be cut back to their base altogether. You will see how quickly your plant will start growing back again. If there are a lot of leaves on a stem, you need to prune some off to open up air circulation.
Growing black tower elderberry through propagation is such a good idea. Carry out this endeavor in the spring. This is when this plant is producing new, soft stems that can be used to carry out stem cutting propagation.
Take your cutting from the edges of the stem rather than the center. You need a nine to 12 inches long piece that is approximately as thick as a pencil. While cutting, make an incision at an angle of 45 degrees.
Old flowers, flower buds, or leaves on this cutting should be removed. Leave only one pair of leaves at the very top remaining. If you leave these remaining on the cutting, they will redirect the stem’s energy towards themselves.
Any stem piece above the upper leaves is also better to cut off. Put your cutting or cuttings in clean water until the time comes to plant them. Don’t leave them there for a prolonged time, though.
The piece’s bottom end, the part cut from the parent stem, should be prepped for rooting. You need smaller-sized shears for this step. Make a vertical cut from the bottom to the first leaf node. Split open the cut parts in two halves carefully.
Mix a well-draining but loamy soil mixture to grow this cutting in. You should start with a very small pot initially because a large one will lead to water retention and rot. Dig a six-inch deep hole in the exact center of the pot. Carefully plant your prepared cutting in the hole within the soil.
In this section, we will discuss some common black tower elderberry problems. These include fungal mildew infection and pests like mealybugs, aphids, and snails. Find some of the best natural methods to eliminate these problems.
– Powdery Mildew
If you see tiny white spots on your elderberry leaves, your plant is under attack by fungal mildew infection. These spots grow in size and merge. Before you know it, your whole plant appears covered by a layer of white powdery fungus. Persistent moisture on the leaves and stems is responsible for mildew. This could be due to high humidity, poor air circulation, or when the plant is bathed each time it is watered.
Mildew will not immediately kill your elderberry plant. However, the leaves covered by white fungus will have difficulty carrying out photosynthesis. They will turn yellow and fall off one by one. The whole plant will start looking sick and dying.
Mildew can be easily treated using only a naturalistic approach. Neem oil is a magical anti-fungal medicine you need to buy. Put a few drops on a cotton roll and wipe the leaves. You will see that the white mold easily comes from using this method.
Secondly, make a neem oil anti-fungal foliar spray. The recipe includes one tablespoon of neem oil in one gallon of water. Put this spray in a clean spray bottle. Once a week, spray the plant mildly using this spray. Of course, you can simply use a chemical anti-fungal agent too. It works just fine as well. If natural methods are available, why go for harsh chemicals?
Does your plant looks weak and wilted with small yellow spots on the leaves? Are quarter of an inch round white bugs seen lurking under the leaves? All of these are some classic symptoms of a mealybug infestation. No one looks after plants that haven’t dealt with these pests. They are seep-feeders as they like to puncture the surface of the plant. Soon, all of your plant’s food will be consumed by them.
To treat a mealybug infestation, you must remove them one by one. If doing this by hand seems hard or gross, use a water jet to get rid of them through pressure. After this, a weekly application of neem oil under the leaves will also ensure that their eggs and larvae are killed off.
Aphids, just like mealybugs, are also sap-sucking plant parasites. Several factors make them more dangerous than mealybugs. They are a known carrier of several serious plant viral infections.
They also release a sticky substance called honeydew which is their digestive juice. This substance attracts fungus and mold to the plant. The worst part is that you cannot see them as they are too tiny and camouflage well.
The symptoms of an aphid infestation are more or less the same as mealybugs. Your elderberry plant will experience leaf chlorosis, wilting, and develop black fungal mold. Growth of the stems and new leaves is seriously impaired.
Because aphids aren’t easily seen, it’s hard to pick them off by hand. What we suggest instead is that you wash the plant thoroughly. Place it under running water from a hose and use a toothbrush to scrub the whole plant gently.
Give it some time to dry out. Then, make a neem oil foliar spray and spray it all over this gigantic plant. Spray under the leaves, as most bugs hide and lay their eggs. If you feel the natural approach isn’t working for your plant, switch to an insecticide. Use commercial insecticides according to the manufacturer’s instructions on the back of the label.
– Snails and Slugs
Plants grown outdoors have an additional problem in the form of snails and slugs. These pests move up the stems and chew on the leaves of the elderberry plant.
Not only do they destroy the whole esthetic of your plant, but their food-making ability is also severely impaired. You can easily spot snails and slugs if the plant has been afflicted. They also leave a characteristic slimy trail behind wherever they go.
There are many ways to eliminate snails and slugs from an elderberry plant naturally. Fill half a container with beer. Close its mouth with plastic wrap and make a hole in the center. These slimy pests will be easily trapped in this container.
Spread crushed eggshells and coffee beans on the soil around the plant. This mixture abrades the exoskeleton of snails and slugs. They will stay well away from your plant from now on. As a preventative measure from the start, you should buy plant-resistant species.
– Does the Right Tool Matter for Propagation?
Yes, choosing the suitable instruments for taking elderberry cutting, makes a huge change. Ordinary pruning shears or secateurs can easily cut the softwood stems of this plant. Make sure your cutting blades are well-sharpened. Dull blades will just end up crushing the soft stems.
Take some out to properly clean your tools just before use. We put ours in a solution of bleach for about fifteen minutes. This kills the most common plant pathogens that are usually transmitted via tools. After taking the tool out of this solution, wash thoroughly with water.
You can also just spray bleach or a disinfectant solution on the tools. It is important to wash with water afterward. The bleach can cause chemical burns to the plant otherwise.
– Does The New Sprout Need Humidity?
Yes, your cutting needs a humid greenhouse environment to take roots and grow. For this purpose, a plastic bag is the most effective DIY approach. Loosely wrap a large-sized bag around the entire pot. This bag will hold the moisture in and increase humidity.
The remaining leaves on the cutting should not come in contact with the bag. This continual exposure to moisture will produce fungal infections in the leaves. Consequently, your propagation will end up failing big time. You can put a tall pole or stake within the pot to hold the bag away from the leaves.
Make two or three pin-sized holes in the plastic bag for ventilation. Every few days, take the pot out of the bag to water it if it has dried. Take your baby plant to a bright place where it gets plenty of light. This can either be a bright window or under artificial grow lights. The soil must be constantly moist for the first two weeks until roots form and establish themselves.
Gently tug on the cutting to get a feel of whether roots have formed or not. When new leaves start sprouting, you can take the plant out and transplant it into a unique pot, and get rid of the plastic bag as well.
The cut end with the rotted hormone that needs to go into the soil. Don’t push it too hard, or the split part will get damaged or chip off. Pour just enough water so that the soil becomes moist without turning runny.
Pack the soil around the cutting to give it support. If it seems to be having difficulty staying upright, you need to provide it with some support. Even a pencil placed right next to it would help.
– Is Applying Rooting Hormone Benefitial?
No, application of rooting hormone is an optional step. It would, however, really improve the chances of success of your propagation. Rooting hormone is available in three primary forms; gel, powdered, and liquid forms.
For elderberry propagation, the powdered form will work suitably. First, moisten the lower split end of your cutting by dipping it in water. Then dip this end in powdered rooting hormone.
Rooting hormone facilitates the growth of new cells from the softwood cutting. It also has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Your cutting will be protected from disease and pest attacks. Do your research and buy from a well-reviewed and trusted manufacturer.
We bet all this information must be a bit hard to digest. Below we are going to write the key take-home points:
- This shrub must absorb plenty of direct sunshine all day.
- You must water its soil about one inch every week without delay; keep a routine for watering.
- Temperatures anywhere within US hardiness zone four to nine are suitable.
- The best way to propagate elderberry is through softwood cuttings in early spring.
A Sambucus nigra ‘Eiffel’ plant is pretty easy to care for, considering its size. With little effort, you will experience its exuberant foliage, bloom, and delicious fruit. What else could a home plant owner ask for in a plant?
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