Elderberry Plant Companions – Tips On Planting With Elderberries

By: Teo Spengler

Elderberry (Sambucus spp.) are large shrubs with showy white flowers and small berries, both edible. Gardeners love elderberries because they attract pollinators, like butterflies and bees, and provide food for wildlife. What to plant with elderberries? Read on for some tips about elderberry companion planting.

Planting with Elderberries

Some gardeners make fritters from elderberry flowers and eat the fruit, raw or cooked. Others leave the berries for the birds and just use the hardy shrubs in a hedgerow. But whether or not you eat the blossoms or fruit of these shrubs, you can make your garden more attractive by selecting appropriate elderberry plant companions.

The shrubs thrive in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 10, so you’ll have many options. And the many varieties of elderberry provide flexibility as well.

Elderberries can grow to 12 feet tall (3.6 m.) and are often vase shaped. The shrubs prefer rich, rocky soil, and, in the wild, grow in valleys, woods and clearings. Whatever you choose for companions with them will need to have similar growing requirements.

What to Plant with Elderberry

The shrubs thrive in full sun, full shade, or anything in between. This makes them great companion shrubs for shorter, shade-loving plants and also for taller trees. If you already have tall trees in your yard, you can plant shade-loving elderberry under them.

If you are starting from scratch, you’ll have to decide what to plant with elderberry. White pine trees or quaking aspen are good elderberry companion plants, if you want something taller than the shrubs. For a plant about the same size, consider winterberry.

Remember that elderberries do not like their roots disturbed once they are established. Therefore, it’s a good idea to install elderberry companion plants at the same time you plant the shrubs.

Other good ideas for elderberry companion planting include edging your vegetable garden with the shrubs or mixing them with other berry shrubs, like currants and gooseberries. Just planting ornamental varieties as a border for the perennial flower garden can be very attractive.

If you plant varieties with black foliage, choose flowering plants with bright blossoms as elderberry companion plants. Phlox and bee balm work well when you are planting with elderberries in this way.

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Read more about Elderberries

132 Juglone Tolerant Plants That Can Grow Near Black Walnut Trees

If your property includes a black walnut tree, you’re likely familiar with black walnut toxicity and the difficulty of keeping plants near your black walnut tree alive. However, you may not be aware that some plants are not as susceptible to black walnut toxicity as others and can successfully be grown near or even right underneath a black walnut tree.

We’ve compiled a list of the plants you can count on to flourish underneath black walnut trees, along with some details about each plant. But first, let’s take a look at why it’s so difficult for most plants to prosper when they grow too near to a black walnut tree.

Black Walnut Toxicity: Why do plants struggle near black walnut trees?

Every part of a black walnut tree contains a chemical called juglone, which is what makes it so difficult for other plant life to thrive near a black walnut tree. The juglone is at its highest concentrations in the black walnut tree’s buds, root system, and in the shells of the black walnuts themselves. Juglone is toxic to many plants because it inhibits their respiration, reducing the level of the energy that enables them to gather nutrients and ingest water.

As rain falls over the black walnut tree and down through the layers of soil and rock to join the groundwater underneath, it carries bits of juglone with it into the soil. However, juglone is not very water soluble, so it tends to stay in the soil surrounding a black walnut tree, which is why there seems to be a poor growth zone that extends out from the tree itself. (The soil holds the most juglone within the black walnut tree’s canopy dripline because of the root system as well as decaying leaves and walnut shells that fall there.)

Juglone in the soil is one reason why even chopping down a black walnut tree on your property will not put an end to the difficulty of growing plants where the tree once stood. Another reason is that the tree stump’s decaying roots will continue to release more juglone into the soil underground for many years after the tree has been cut down.

Plants that are suffering from juglone poisoning show the following symptoms: discolored leaves that turn yellow or brown, leaf shape distortion, overall decline of the plant’s health, stunted growth or failure to grow, and wilting foliage. When plants extremely sensitive to juglone are exposed to it, they can get sick and die within just a few days or weeks.

Plants with less extreme sensitivity could survive for a year and exhibit a much more gradual decline. That’s why if your property has a black walnut tree, it’s vital for you to know the juglone sensitivity of the plants you cultivate and any plants you’re considering adding to your collection. Unfortunately, once juglone damage occurs, there is no way to treat or reverse it.

With plants that are sensitive to the juglone black walnut trees produce, experts recommend they be placed outside of the tree’s dripline, or at minimum, at a distance of 50 feet from the black walnut tree. The highest concentration of juglone will be within the dripline, but the tree’s roots (and the juglone’s effects) can stretch to a distance that equals the tree’s height.

Despite these drawbacks, there are plenty of plants for gardeners to choose from that are tolerant of juglone or immune to its effects. We’ve listed those plants for you in the next section so you’ll be aware of all your options when you want to choose a plant to grow underneath or close to your black walnut tree.

49 Flowers for Planting Under a Black Walnut Tree

False Goat’s Beard (Astilbe)

Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis)

Common Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

Common Cinquefoil (Potentilla canadensis)

Common Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis)

Common Mallow (Malva neglecta )

Common Marigold / Pot Marigold / Scotch Marigold (Calendula officinalis)

Common Sneezeweed (Helenium)

Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron anuus)

Dutchman’s Pipe Vine (Aristolochia)

Honeysuckle (Lonicera) —Certain varieties only

Leather Flower (Clematis) [https://www.gardeningchannel.com/how-to-grow-propagate-clematis/]

Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum)

Obedience / Obedient Plant / False Dragonhead (Physostegia virginiana)

Ox-Eye Daisy / Dog Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare)

Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica)

Shrubby St. John’s Wort (Hypericum prolificum)

Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)

Tall Thimbleweed (Anemone virginiana)

Uniform Bellflower (Campanula carpatica ‘Uniform’)

Virginia Springbeauty (Claytonia virginica)

26 Ornamental Plants That Will Succeed Under a Black Walnut Tree

Blue Fescue Grass (Festuca glauca)

Cat Grass/Cock’s Foot/Orchard Grass (Dactylis glomerata)

Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)

Lamb’s Ear/Wooly Hedgenettle (Stachys byzantina)

Mayapple (Podophyllum Peltatum)

Oriental Bittersweet/Asian Bittersweet/Chinese Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus)

Pussy Willow / Glaucous Willow (Salix discolor)

Pussytoes / Catsfoot / Everlasting / Ladies’ Tobacco (Antennaria plantaginifolia)

Solomon’s Seal, Variegated (Polygonatum odoratum var. pluriflorum)

Spiked Speedwell / Veronica (Veronica spicata)

Timothy Grass (Phleum pratense)

White Clover (Trifolium repens)

18 Fruit and Vegetable Plants That Will Flourish Under a Black Walnut Tree

Beans, including Lima Beans, Snap Beans, and Soybeans

Carrots (Daucus carota subsp. sativus)

Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis)

Common Grape Vine/Wild Grape (Vitis vinifera)

Leeks (Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum)

39 Shrubs and Trees to Grow Near a Black Walnut Tree

American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)

American Elm Tree (Ulmus americana)

Black Gum Tree/Sour Gum Tree/Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica)

Canadian Hemlock Tree/Eastern Hemlock Tree (Tsuga canadensis)

Eastern Redbud Tree (Cercis canadensis)

Forsythia Shrubs [https://www.gardeningchannel.com/how-to-grow-forsythia/]

Hawthorn Tree (Crataegus) [https://www.gardeningchannel.com/how-to-grow-hawthorn-trees/]

Maple Tree (Acer)—Certain varieties only (including sugar maple, Japanese maple, and red maple)

Mohican Viburnum (Viburnum lantana ‘Mohican’)

Ohio Buckeye (Aesculus glabra)

Red Cedar Tree / Eastern Red Cedar Tree / Virginian Juniper Tree (Juniperus virginiana)

Rose of Sharon / Common Hibiscus (Hibiscus syriacus)

Smooth Hydrangea / Wild Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens)

Southern Catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides)

Spindle Tree / Burning-Bush / Strawberry-Bush / Wahoo / Wintercreeper (Euonymus)

Witch-Hazel Shrub (Hamamelis virginiana)

Yamabuki/Japanese Marigold Bush (Kerria)

A Few More Things You Should Know About Gardening Around a Black Walnut Tree …

Don’t compost any part of the black walnut tree. Don’t use any materials from the black walnut tree in compost, or you risk poisoning the soil where you spread the compost instead of enriching it. The juglone that makes a black walnut tree and the soil where one has grown so toxic to most other plants will still be present in compost. This embargo on black walnut tree debris goes for the tree’s foliage (its leaves), bark, branches, twigs, walnuts, walnut shells, and the soil anywhere close to the tree.

Clean up after your black walnut tree to protect the rest of your garden. If you see black walnut seedlings pop up in a neighboring garden bed or peek out over the lawn, be sure to pull the baby black walnut trees up and discard them. Use a broom or rake to clean your property of all the whole walnuts, walnut shells, and leaves that your walnut tree drops about once a week, and dispose of what you find in the trash.

Even if you haven’t noticed any black walnut debris as you go about your days, do a walk about once a week, covering just the vicinity of your black walnut trees if the entire property will take too long to inspect weekly. It doesn’t take long for juglones to do serious damage to highly sensitive plants.Parts of the tree may have been carried to faraway parts of the yard by birds, squirrels, and other wildlife or knocked loose by a blustery wind or sudden storm, so you may not even know they’re on the ground until you look for them.

If your garden needs some extra help, try raised beds and rich soil amendments. Choosing plants that tolerate juglone well is a giant step toward improving the overall health of your garden. But sometimes you just really want to nurture a plant that’s sensitive to juglone, or you’ve been experiencing trouble growing plants even outside the black walnut tree’s dripline. There are actions you can take to improve the soil your plants grow in and decrease the juglone it contains. Constructing raised beds will let you grow your plants without the tree’s root system sneaking in from underneath. It also helps to keep the ground near the black walnut tree well aerated, and use microbe-enhancing soil amendments like composted leaves or well-rotted manure.

American Elderberry Care

American elderberry shrubs are prolific in the wild, so it's no surprise that when planted in a garden, they're easy to maintain and tolerate a wide variety of growing conditions. Once established, elderberry shrubs will be with you for the long haul.

American elderberry shrubs are 10 to 15 feet tall and wide, growing into a rounded shape. They're an excellent addition to a wildlife garden since birds love to eat the fruit. Its flowers will also attract butterflies. If you have a stream or pond on your property, elderberries can provide erosion control when planted on the banks.

Although they will usually thrive even when neglected, if you're growing elderberry shrubs for fruit, you can maximize your harvest by following the guidelines outlined below.


Elderberry shrubs need full sun exposure to partial shade.

The American elderberry is a good choice if you have a location that tends to be moist or wet. That said, the site should also drain well to discourage root rot. Elderberry shrubs are able to handle a pH range from acidic to alkaline, but do best in slightly acidic soil.


Elderberries need a lot of water, but as long as the roots have had a chance to anchor themselves, the shrub can handle periods of drought. The soil around an elderberry shrub should be moist, but not waterlogged.

Temperature and Humidity

American elderberry shrubs' easygoing nature extends to temperature and humidity as well. While elderberries thrive in zones 3–11, they're deciduous through zone 8, and evergreen in zones 9–11, where there is no frost.


Before planting American elderberry shrubs, turn the soil with compost. Then, fertilize annually with additional compost in the springtime.

Berry Companion Plants

Companion Plants by group: Herbs, Flowers, Trees, Vegetables, Berries, Fruit and Mushrooms

Berries are not just nutritious and beautiful but also an excellent companion plant.

For example low blueberry bushes around trees, strawberries as a ground cover and gooseberries as a pollinator. Raspberries should be planted with caution, many plants wont like having them around due to their spreading nature.

Companion Planting is an integral part of permaculture and a holistic approach to gardening where you plant different crops in proximity for maximising the use of space, providing nutrients, shade or support, increasing crop productivity, attracting beneficial insects, pest control / repelling pests, pollination or providing a space for beneficial creatures. The concept is an ongoing process of living and learning with nature and increasing biodiversity to support a sustainable Eco system. Below is a quick reference guide for companion planting with berries:

The Benefits of Growing Elderberries

While everyone knows about blueberries, strawberries, and other more common types of berries, elderberry trees and bushes are relatively unfamiliar to the common person. The somewhat strange clusters of berries are often considered to be “food for the birds” and most people pass up on the opportunity to cultivate this unique tree crop that has dozens of uses. From a homemade immune system boosting syrup, to port-like wine, to a reliable source of quick-growing biomass, elderberry trees offer several advantages to the permaculture farmer and homesteader.

What is Elderberry?

Known as the “sambucus” species, there are dozens of different types of elderberry trees and shrubs. All of them, however, are distinguishable by their large, eye-catching white flowers that turn into clusters of small but abundant berries. While most elderberry bushes have fruit clusters that are a dark purple or indigo color, there are also elderberry trees that come with red berries.

The elderberry tree is native to the North American continent from Canada all the way to Colombia and thus obviously tolerates a wide range of growing conditions and climates. Trees usually take 2 to 4 years to begin bearing, though under optimum conditions you can get your first harvest only a year after planting.

One of the Easiest Plants to Propagate

One of the biggest expenses of setting up a homestead is purchasing the trees, shrubs, and other types of plants you want to plant out your farm. A visit to your local nursery to purchase a variety of fruit trees will most likely leave you with a several hundred dollar tab. Propagating your own trees and shrubs is a great way to cut costs during the initial process of establishing your vision for the land.

Elderberry trees and shrubs are extremely easy to propagate, both from seed and from cuttings. To propagate by seed, simply hang a cluster of picked elderberry fruits upside down in a sunny location to dry out. Once dried, shake the seeds loose from the dehydrated fruit pulp and place in a bag in the refrigerator for 8 to 12 weeks to cold stratify before attempting to germinate.

A far easier propagation strategy is through taking cuttings of half-ripe wood. Cut pieces about 2 feet in length, trim the leaves and cut back the bark to reveal the cambium layer beneath. Ferment a little bit of willow leaves and bark cuttings in water and place the elderberry cuttings in the willow water for 1-2 days. Willow leaves and bark have rooting hormones that will help to stimulate quick rooting. You can then either directly plant these cuttings into the ground (if early enough in the season) or plant in a nursery setting.

A Source of Abundant Biomass

Elderberry trees and shrubs are one of the quickest growing tree species to be found. After planting, it is possible to get upwards of 4 to 8 feet of growth in the first year alone! Furthermore, these trees respond well to aggressive pruning meaning that you can choose to either let them grow into tall trees that could become the canopy or sub-canopy layer of a food forest, or prune them to stay as small trees and shrubs.

The abundant biomass created by the quick growth of the tree makes the elderberry a great candidate for “chop and drop” mulch. Growing elderberry shrubs on contour will allow you to harvest excessive amounts of biomass “mulch” through your pruning that can then either be added to the compost pile or piled up for on contour hugelkultur beds or erosion barriers.

Furthermore, the abundant and large flowers on the elderberry tree are great for attracting pollinators. Planting several elderberry shrubs scattered throughout an orchard is a great way to help achieve maximum pollination. Since elderberry trees flower through much of the growing season, the bees in your orchard will benefit from having an abundant and constant source of food.

Health Benefits of Elderberries

While the unripe berries of this tree are known to contain rather large amounts of a precursor to cyanide, once ripe, you´d be hard pressed to find a more nutrient dense food source. Elderberries are extremely high in Vitamin C (much higher than oranges, for example), and simply boiling the berries down into a thick syrup is a great way to maintain a yearlong supply of an immune-system-boosting syrup. A couple tablespoons of this syrup each morning will keep your body strong and resilient throughout the year.

Elderberries are scientifically proven to be high in tannins, potassium, mucilage, phenols, and flavonoids. They are also a great source of folic acid and vitamins A and C, as mentioned above. If you want to make more than just cough syrup from your elderberry harvest, these berries can also be made into jams and jellies or fermented into a port-like wine. If you have too many berries to use, the flowers can be harvested when in full bloom and fried into delicious flower fritters.

Elderberry companions.

posted 2 months ago
  • 2

  • Hello all! Im not exactly sure where to put this question.
    I am putting in 20 elderberry bushes this spring. I am trying to find companion plants that serve as medicinal herbs. I am especially interested in growing rose hips. We have started a small online herbal goods business, mainly selling herbal teas with medicinal mushrooms we grow. We are no expanding into elderberry extracts. I don't want to just go out and conventionally plant 200ft of elderberry. Instead, we are planning on trying to implement permaculture tecniques to this project. I am having a hard time finding medical plants that would make good companions for the elderberry in order to create some diversity. I am planning on using the understory to grow some nettle, lemon balm, mint, etc. Anyone have any good ideas?

    posted 2 months ago
    • 1

  • I found this info. If you are starting from scratch, you’ll have to decide what to plant with elderberry. White pine trees or quaking aspen are good elderberry companion plants, if you want something taller than the shrubs. For a plant about the same size, consider winterberry. Remember that elderberries do not like their roots disturbed once they are established. Therefore, it’s a good idea to install elderberry companion plants at the same time you plant the shrubs.

    Other good ideas for elderberry companion planting include edging your vegetable garden with the shrubs or mixing them with other berry shrubs, like currants and gooseberries. Phlox and bee balm work well when you are planting with elderberries in this way.

    Read more at Gardening Know How: Elderberry Plant Companions – Tips On Planting With Elderberries

    5. European Red

    This imported beauty has amazing cherry-red fruits in the fall, and light green, feathery foliage makes it a beautiful yard accent.

    Owners of the plant are usually stunned by how birds and pollinators are attracted to the large, showy flowers. Butterflies are almost always nearby!

    Propagate in the spring for a full-grown, eye-catching bush within two to three years. It has the potential to reach up to 20 feet tall in growing zones 3-8. Please note that some experts caution against eating varieties with red berries, and many favor black varieties since red ones tend to be pungent and bitter, with many seeds.

    You can expect this variety to reach a mature height of 10-20 feet.

    Purchase seeds to start this plant from Amazon.

    The Apothecary Garden: Elderberry, The Wise Elder of Plants

    It is snowing outside, the winter solstice and cold moon passed. The light is returning now, oh so slowly at first. There are many plants that can help us move joyfully through the dark winter time, supported by a vibrant immune system that wards off cold and flu alike.

    Black elder (Sambucus nigra) is a wonderful ally in your herbal winter apothecary and a beautiful plant in your garden, blessing you with potent medicine and abundant wildlife that is attracted by her blossoms and fruit.

    The Elder in your Garden

    You will need a big open sunny spot in your garden that is well irrigated and mulched with a thick layer of wood chips – elder likes wet feet. So much that the Elder Mother grows wild most abundantly in wetlands and along creeks where the big shrub helps to dry the soil after flooding. Peppermint and spearmint are nice companion plants, covering and shading the soil in between and providing aromatic cooling mint teas in the summer.

    The fragrant umbels of tiny cream colored elder blossoms in early summer attract many butterflies and make a wonderful lemonade. Simply add a few flower heads to a home made lemonade with fresh lemon and honey or maple syrup. A tea from dried elderflower can help relieve a fever by opening the pores of the skin and inducing sweating.

    Gathering elderberries in the fall can be a race with birds who enjoy the fruit just as much as we do. Daily harvests are best while the berries ripen over the course of a few weeks.

    Elder Medicine

    No matter if you are so fortunate to gather fresh berries from your garden or the wild, or if you buy dried berries, elderberries are one of the best winter remedies to enjoy.

    Elder, like other dark colored fruit such as blackberries and blueberries, has a lot of anti-oxidants, protecting the body from free radicals, reducing inflammation and freeing the immune system to prevent the invasion of bacteria and viruses. Elderberries have strong anti-viral properties and contain ample vitamin C. The elder plant holds wisdom for the elder body in particular, keeping the immune system strong and responsive and toning the cardiovascular system, while detoxifying and building the blood. Elder is an antispasmodic, relaxes smooth muscles and relieves coughing fits and stomach cramps.

    You can make your own elderberry tincture in the fall and and reap its benefits all winter long. I like to tincture elderberries in 40% brandy, it tastes delicious and has the right amount of alcohol to keep it stable.

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