York Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis ‘York’)

York Elderberry

  • Important Variety of American Elderberry Bushes
  • Profusion of Large Clusters of White Flowers
  • Beautiful Landscape Shrub
  • Flowering Privacy Screen
  • Attractive Fruiting Display of Super Fruit Purplish-Black Berries
  • Red Foliage in Colder Autumn Climates
  • It Is Easy to Grow Elderberry Plants
  • Self-Fruitful, But Larger Harvest with Cross Pollination Partners Including Nova, Adams, Johns

For a wonderful flowering and fruiting display in the landscape, the versatile York Elderberry, (Sambucus canadensis York’) is hard to beat. Feed the birds, or cook the large, purplish-black berries down for your family. It grows into a beautiful, informal hedge that requires very little care.

York is an American native variety, unlike the European Elderberries, Sambucus nigra. York has been an important variety and staple medicine of Native American Indians, early explorers and settlers, now gracing today’s modern landscapes.

Elderberries have been a highly regarded plant and food source. Include them in your edible landscape, or feed songbirds and butterflies in your garden. Pretty springtime flowers and early fall fruiting displays add wonderful visual interest to the landscape.

In early summer, York Elderberry will produce the most amazingly huge, broad clusters of lemon-scented, white flowers. Distinctively ornamental pinnate, finely serrated foliage adds to the decorative display.

The floral clusters cover the plant at regular intervals from the top to the bottom of the shrub. Overall, it’s an outstanding appearance, but look closer.

Five tall yellow stamens extend well above each tiny, umbrella-shaped bloom. These bright stamens sparkle in the sunlight! Each of the pretty blooms will develop into a gorgeous, richly-colored berry.

Berries ripen best in full sun. You may achieve up to 30 pounds of fruit from a single plant once it’s established. York Elderberry produces the largest fruit size and finest quality of any of the Elderberries.

These deep, dark-colored berries are very special. York is recognized by the USDA Database for Flavonoid Content of Selected Foods as a super fruit because of its high concentration of vitamin C.

Pick the entire cluster of fruit when fully ripe. You’ll strip the berries to remove them from the bright stems. Cook them down to bring out the sweet flavor. You may not even need to add sugar!

In the wild, York is typically found naturalized along streambeds, in moist woodland settings, in thickets and along roadsides throughout the eastern part of North America. You’ll be surprised to find out how versatile this native plant cultivar can be in modern landscapes.

How to Use York Elderberry in the Landscape

Use York Elderberry as a specimen shrub in a perennial garden in full sun. Give it the space it needs to develop into its full height and width. A single plant planted at the corner of a shed or building easily softens the look and grounds the building to the landscape. Plant in full sun for the best results.

York Elderberry is also a great shrub to use as a useful border planting. It can grow into a lovely screen or hedgerow. To create a solid screen, plant 5 feet apart on center. You’ll measure from the center of one to the center of the next. You’ll be so pleased to see how fast they fill in.

If you have a large landscape, try naturalizing them at the edge of a woodland, or surrounding a pond, for privacy or as a windbreak. Add to a Rain Garden to help filter rainwater runoff from roofs and streets before it hits the storm sewer.

Use this native treasure to support local ecology and waterways and as a dual-purpose ornamental landscaping plant. You’ll be rewarded with dancing butterflies and the motion and sound of happy songbirds. What a treat!

Elderberries are high in Vitamin C and are used in many dishes including jams, preserves, pies and syrups. It is also famous for making juice blends and the wonderful Elderberry Wine.

You’ve probably seen Sambucus at the drug store sold as a cough remedy. Try your hand at your own medicinal tonics and elixirs, carefully following published recipes from reputable sources.

Tips for Care

York Elderberry is a cane-producing shrub a bit like Blackberries and Raspberries. Prune in late winter to cut the thickest, 3-year-old canes back to the ground. Cut back all 2-year canes by half and remove all weak and dead canes.

When used as an ornamental, cut the plant back to the desired shape after the plant leafs out in spring. This delayed will somewhat limit fruit production for that season.

York is self-fruitful but will set a bigger crop when planted with another Elderberry variety such as the Black Lace® Elderberry or Golden Elderberry. York is also one of the best pollinators for all other Sambucus canadensis varieties.

They grow best in well-drained soils that are high in organic matter. Mulch heavily in warmer, drier climates to ensure that the shallow roots are kept cool and moist. Fertilize in the spring and mid-summer with an acid fertilizer, such as Dr. Earth’s Acid Lovers Premium and Organic Fertilizer.

York Elderberry will provide you with years of beauty and bounty and requires little care from you, if naturalized. It will only require typical garden care when grown for fruit.

Its hardy and adaptable nature, coupled with its lovely flowers and delicious fruit, make it one of the most important of all the Elderberry varieties and a perfect plant for your landscape.

York Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis ‘York’) Details

Common name York Elderberry
Botanical name Sambucus canadensis 'York'
Hardiness zone 3-9
Growth rate Fast
Harvest time Late Summer
Height 10 - 12 ft.
Width 8 - 12 ft.
Sunlight Full Sun, Partial Shade
Moisture Medium
Soil condition Widely Adaptable
Pollinator-friendly Yes
Flower color White
Leaf color Deciduous