Sambucus nigra. “Black Lace” Elderberry

July 29th, 2007

Sambucus Nigra. Sambucus nigra. “Black Lace” is a hot new elderberry cultivar that was available in very limited release in 2006. I first saw it in Wayside Garden’s fall catalogue last fall. When I went to order one it was already sold out.

I finally got on their waiting list late this Spring when they started offering them for sale again. But even then, I imagine I’d get a barely rooted cutting in a 3.5 inch pot or something. So imagine my joy when I went to Lowes today and saw 2 huge ones (the only ones they had, I bought them both). One was 4 feet tall, the other 3.5 feet, in large 2 gallon pots. I paid $19.95 each for them, which is a pretty good price considering the size.

So… whats all the fuss about? Well… this plant is just a great plant. It has lace like leaves, just like laceleaf Japanese maples. However, this is hardier a good one or two zones further North than such Japanese maples. Also… it gets great pink flowers on it in summer, big clusters, which really offset the black foliage. Oh yes… black foliage. Did I mention it is a true striking black? Finally there are berries, edible by humans and loved by birds (elderberry jams and wines are popular in certain locales). Oh, its very fast growing, takes pruning well, and grows in full sun or part shade. Eventually it should reach a mound 6′ x 6′ or more. I hear it can be trained into a tree form with a single standard trunk as well.

So ya, a true black leaved shrub is one thing… but this has beautiful lace leaves, berries, flowers, the whole deal. If you see one I suggest snatching it up quick, they are hard to find.

Consequently there is a related variety called Sutherland’s Gold which is bright yellow and would pair well with Black Lace for some good contrast.

32 Responses to “Sambucus nigra. “Black Lace” Elderberry”

  1. Amanda  Says:

    I was also excited about finding this plant- especially since Japanese Maples don’t grow very well in Colorado Springs, CO.

    But recently, I’ve been disappointed to see this black lace elderberry turn green over the last month or so. At first, it was just the new growth that was green, now the entire plant is green!
    Do you have any idea what might be causing this? I planted it in full sun (southern exposure)and I keep the ground moist, but not soggy.

    Any help you could give me would be much appreciated!


  2. jeannie  Says:

    Amanda – I just searched this site for the first time looking for info on sambucus black lace. Until I found your comment I was convinced the label on the plant pot had erroneously been stuck on. I bought mine at Lowes last week in a 6 in plastic pot for $1.00. Like yours – it too is green. It is about 5 in. high with 6 small branches. If you have had anyone to answer you on the green question – please let me know.
    thank you — jeannie

  3. Carmie  Says:

    Could it be because your plant is so young? I just bought one in a 3 gal pot. It is quite black. I hope it is not going to change. Although, the lacy foliage is probably beautiful in green too.

    I have heard that it can be grown as a small tree, with a single standard. But Ive also heard that they die down in northern zones, which would certainly make the single standard tree impossible.

    Good luck to both of you. Maybe someone will have an answer. Carmie

  4. Virginia Gould  Says:

    Dear Backyard: What would make the leaves of a Sambucus nigra. “Black Lace” Elderberry turn green?

  5. Virginia Gould  Says:

    Hey, to continue…

    One planted in full suna last fall has balck leaves.
    The other left inside has green leaves. Is this simply a sun issue – will green turn black once in sun or has a errant root stock taken off?

    cheers, Virginia

  6. Administrator  Says:

    yes, sun exposure can cause most plants with oddly colored leaves to green out. Sometimes too little sun will do it, sometimes too much sun, depending on the species.

    It is also possible though that one of your plants had a mutation that the grower didn’t notice which caused it to revert to plain green.

  7. Stephen  Says:

    Has anyone had a problem with the plant becoming droopy? Especially on sunny days?

  8. Kathleen  Says:

    Last year I planted a Black Lace, it held it’s color but grew very little. I thought I had lost it over the winter, but it came back this spring but is growing very slowly. It is planted in a part shade/shady spot. Do you think it just isn’t getting enough sun? Should I try moving it? Zone 4/5

  9. Administrator  Says:

    I would try it in sun, though my shadier ones are growing fine too, the ones in the sun are growing best.

  10. Terrie Kaufman  Says:

    I have had 2 Black Lace and love them. They are indeed black and they like water. In one year mine has grown over 12 feet tall and I woke up this morning thinking I would like to try something different with it. It is in front of my greenhouse window and of course letting little light through. I am going to try something this morning and not sure it will work. I am going to cut the middle out of the plant, leaving the 12 foot sides and then put something like a small table over the center with a pot on it. Have no idea this will, or will not work.


  11. Debbie  Says:

    I have 2 Black Lace and just planted them last spring. After reading all the information on them I think I should let them grow tall, which means I need to move them. It is Feb. in zone 7, would this be a good time to transplant them, and would I sacrifice the blooms if I move them?

  12. Misti  Says:

    I have a black lace. Going in to its 2nd spring. zone 6 I have realized after more reading up on the plant…Its in the wrong spot. (I love it so much that I want it to grow giant. It loves the mostly dry southern very small spot by my pool. I need to move it and I am wondering can it take wet spring kind of soggy for a few weeks?? It is the perfect southern facing only lower in the same area. Will it take the water?

  13. Babs  Says:

    I bought some of these plants to start an informal hedge. The nursery tag said the deer wouldn’t like them. Wrong! They mowed through the shrubs. Most of them had doubled in size (to about 4′) in the months before Mama and her twins found them. So this year I have them covered. Hopefully they keep growing fast, so they can get large enough in a couple years to withstand the grazers without protection. I have to finish the row this year, but not sure how much I want to fight the deer over these gorgeous plants.

  14. Bob  Says:

    I have this plant growing in Zone 8 and in full sun and it is staying black on all sides with the pinkish flowers now coming out all over. It has already grown another trunk branch of over 2 feet just during this spring. It does not seem to like part shade very much judging from a neighbors specimen.

  15. Mark  Says:

    They love full sun but moist soil, New growth is green turning black.

    If an older shoot is totally green snip it off otherwise the green will take over.

  16. Betty Trowbridge-Hagan  Says:

    Just snagged one on an end-of-season sale. It’s going to go in a part sun, part shade spot that tends to be dry (we’re in sand). I’ll amend the planting hole and water it well. Then I’ll keep my fingers crossed and hope it does well. Love the look.

  17. Russ and Judy  Says:

    We have a Sambucus nigra that we planted a year and a half ago and we would like to move it.
    When is the best time and how should we do it.
    We live in a zone six area.

  18. Administrator  Says:

    Very early spring, before it gets too leafy, when just budding generally.

  19. kathy  Says:

    Would like to know if you can take cuttings and root the black lace elderberry in water? I also have one 6 foot stem on the plant and would like to make that into a single plant; the stem is about 1-inch in diameter; Can I stick it in the ground about a foot and do you think it will root? I live in zone 5.

  20. Richard Wheeler  Says:

    I purchased my black lace elderberry about 3 years ago and immediately planted in a large centerpiece pot. It had beautiful black leaves but was only 18″ high but spread to about 2-3 feet wide. But this summer we had 63 days 100 degrees or more and after the 55th day all of the leaves died. Even though I watered it daily. But about 3 days ago the leaves are starting to come back but are green. So I hope as they mature they will begin to darken and turn black. I am planning to replant in a larger pot or in a flower bed.

  21. Carole  Says:

    Deer resistant is indeed a joke (actually I’ve found that with a lot of ‘deer’ resistant plants – our deer love daylilies). We too have a doe and twins who love nibbling the black lace. When we planted it last fall we surrounded it with fencing. This year it busted out with new growth, but we’re still keeping the fencing in tact so the deer won’t damage the bark. Once the plant has grown more tree like, hopefully the fencing can be removed, or at least used only for protection of the trunk.

    A local nursery has a black lace that is several feet tall and absolutely gorgeous. That’s our goal. We did lose one branch in a recent wind storm, but since the plant is supposed to be pinched back and pruned for shape anyway, hopefully the loss of that branch won’t be too detrimental to it’s growth.

  22. Administrator  Says:

    Mine, planted in 2007, are now as high as 12 feet tall if I don’t cut them back, but they’re just getting too big and unruly so I AM going to cut them back this year.

  23. reggina wisdom  Says:

    I just found part of my nigra dying. I snipped open the branch and it had brown winged insects inside…appeared to be dead. it had greened out this spring. any ideas.
    I’m in zone 4 and I cut back every fall to make it bushier..

  24. sonia  Says:


    Just purchased this black lace elderberry from lowes great price $25.00 was planning on planting it southern exposure bhind a white panel fence and next to a big crab apple tree. Do you think this is too shady or should I plant it in full Eastern Exposure morning sun I live in Denver Colorado

    Thank you Sonia

  25. Administrator  Says:

    mine have done fine in shadier conditions… too fine even.. I have some that, had I not pruned, they’d be 20′ by 20′

  26. Gary McDonald  Says:

    I bought 2 at Lowes in about 6 inch pots. After planting, I stepped on one and broke it off at the ground. It grew back and then my lawn service guys mowed it down. I don’t remember if that was the same or following year. They are 3 years old now and you can’t tell which one was cut down twice. Way too big for where I put them, but things grow well in my area. But I noticed they flower but don’t set fruit. So I bought 2 black beauty european elderberries in case they need a pollinator.

  27. Administrator  Says:

    Mine are way too big for the space too, these things grow like crazy once established, especially if you don’t cut them back.

  28. jeff  Says:

    I bought 5 plants about four years ago ,, they are now about 6 feet tall by 6 feet wide and are beautiful bushes .. Lots of nice blooms but no berries seem to be forming .. I don`t believe they get berries well mine don`t seem to anyway and I haven`t heard of anyone that has .. are the clones perhaps sterile?? and to answer someones question about propogation ,, they are very easy to take cuttings and root them .. I found the harder wood cuttings with some new growth rooted best.. they likey would layer well too .. Would be nice to see some fruit on someones bushes ,, until then I don`t believe this cultivar develops berries like they say in the sales pitch ….

  29. karen obermeyer  Says:

    WE have ablack lace sambusus, it’s too big for the area. Would like to remove it and replace with a small Japanese maple. The roots are so strong. How do I remove it safely?

  30. Administrator  Says:

    Mine have gotten really huge too Karen.

    You can cut it back all the way to the ground and it’ll grow smaller (you’d have to do that every year).

    If you let it get as big as a tree though, to get the roots out, you need to dig them out (or burn them out I guess).

  31. stepw11111  Says:

    I purchased several from Wayside gardens the first year of introduction. They grew to 6ft without much effort ( in an east facing sunny spot)the first season. My mastiff then took a liking to them and munched them down to a numb. Rather than throw them all away I kept one to see if it would recover. That one plant is now a 14ft tree. Wishing I had kept the others too. It takes several years for them to bear fruit, (the birds will get the fruit before you do) and it appears the more you trim the plant the taller it grows.

  32. KenC033  Says:

    I am in zone 4 and I have two Black Lace in my garden around my patio. I have had them for more than 6 years. They are in the full sun all day. They grow more than 4 ft every year so I cut some of the branches after the flowers bloom in the spring and cut the bush down to about 18″-24″ in the winter (Dec or Jan). When the new growth comes out it looks grn then as it continues to grow the growth turns black. I think it is the full sun that helps keep the leaves black.

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