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All About the Beautiful Adams Elderberry

With beautiful flowers and tasty, versatile berries, the Adams Elderberry is a perfect addition to any garden!

If you want to learn more about how to plant and care for your own at home and how to prep and eat your berry harvest, you’re in the right place. Keep reading for the lowdown on the Adams Elderberry!

Looking to buy an Adams elderberry bush? Check availability.

elderberry similar to adams elderberry

Characteristics of the Adams Elderberry

elderberry jam


The Adams Elderberry is a shrub with dark green, pointed leaves with serrated edges. The plant is covered with small, white flowers in spring and early summer.

Around August, the blooms produce a small fruit that’s so dark blue-purple they almost look black. They resemble acai berries or blueberries in shape but are a bit smaller.

Using and Eating Adams Elderberries

When eating your elderberries, it’s important to do your research and know what you need to do to ensure your safety.

All varieties of elderberries contain cyanogenic glycosides (cyanide), usually in the leaves, stems, roots, or seeds. This toxin can be in unripe berries as well.

The fruit of some varieties of elderberries are even toxic and should not be eaten raw. The ones that can be eaten raw have a bland, slightly bitter taste compared to the flavor of cooked elderberries, which are sweet, tart, and almost floral.

For best practice, always cook or process your elderberries before eating to be safe since heat or chemical reactions will release the toxins.

After cooking them down, you can use your elderberries to make all kinds of tasty treats! Wine, tea, jam, jelly, pie, and syrup are all popular ways to use and enjoy your Adams Elderberries.

Health Benefits of the Adams Elderberry

Elderberries have been used to treat various ailments for centuries. They contain high levels of antioxidants, which can delay or prevent cell damage and keep your body healthy.

Some swear by elderberries for their ability to fight off colds or the flu. Occasionally, you might find elderberry extract in lozenges, cough syrup, or other treatments for upper respiratory illnesses.

Elderberries are also a good source of dietary fiber! One cup of elderberries contains roughly ten grams of fiber.

Adams Elderberry vs. Other Varieties

There are ten major species of elderberry or Sambucus. Of these ten, the Adams Elderberry is one of the most common types grown in North America.

Compared to other varieties, it is most similar to what you can find growing in the wild.

Growing Adams Elderberries at Home


Planting Instructions

Luckily, elderberries are hearty, tolerant plants that are generally easy to grow.

They prefer partial to full sun, at least six hours of direct sunlight, and well-drained, slightly acidic soil.

They have shallow roots but grow to more than eight feet up and across, so make sure you give your plants plenty of space to breathe, roughly five feet apart from one another.

To fertilize your Adams Elderberry, you can use an all-purpose fertilizer like this organic blend from Hoss Tools. But, for best results, do so early in the spring before the flowers bloom and again in the fall once you’ve picked all the berries.

Elderberries like humidity and consistently moist soil but don’t respond well to heavy rain or standing water.

Bushes and shrubs love to be pruned! Doing so will maximize your harvest, encourage new growth, and help keep your plants generally healthy. Dead and rotting leaves can attract pests that may not usually bother your elderberry plant.

After berry season is over, prune back the stems that have been picked clean to make way for new ones. Elderberries will reach their peak ripeness at the very end of summer.

Pests and Diseases

Elderberry plants are tough and resistant to most diseases, pests, and insects under normal conditions.

However, elderberries do have one foe: the Elderberry Borer Beetle. Don’t be fooled by its pretty, jewel-toned colors!

The Elderberry Borer Beetle earned its name from the larvae, which burrow into, feed off, and live inside the elderberry roots, eating them from the inside out. The adult beetles are much less destructive than their offspring, but they, too, feed off the elderberries.

They’re native to Eastern North America, so you’re in luck if you’re outside that region. But if you find yourself on the east coast, careful pruning is the only way to treat your plant.

Elderberry plants that have become home to the larvae appear bumpy and almost splintered, with wilting tips and holes where the beetles have come in and out of the plant.

As soon as you spot these symptoms, trim, trim, trim! Ensure you’ve removed all the affected areas, and keep a close eye on your plant.


Elderberries are typically grown in clusters. That isn’t just an aesthetic choice – it’s necessary for your plant to reach its full potential!

It’s possible that some varieties of elderberries are self-pollinating, but in all cases, it’s best to have at least two elderberry plants that have overlapping blooming periods.

For the Adams Elderberry, it pairs well with the Johns Elderberry, and not just because of the name. The Adams and Johns Elderberries are both of the American elderberry variety and are similar in size, climate preference, and blooming and harvest period.

After planting your elderberries, you’re on your way to having a butterfly garden!

Alongside other plants like sweet peas, zinnias, and milkweed, elderberries do a great job of attracting butterflies and providing them sustenance. In turn, butterflies are effective pollinators for the plants.

Plant a few of these varieties close together, and you’ll have yourself a butterfly garden in no time!

Tip: the plants that attract butterflies also tend to attract bees and hummingbirds, so your garden will be colorful and buzzing with life.

Where to Buy Adams Elderberry Plants

elderberry on a table

It’s pretty easy to find Adams Elderberry plants online, often sold in pairs with a Johns Elderberry. However, your search might look more generic when looking for seeds.

Start Your Butterfly Garden With the Adams Elderberry

Now that you know how to eat your elderberry crop safely and what other plants you need to pick up to kickstart your butterfly garden, it’s time to get growing!

Curious to know more about elderberries? Then visit the Elderberries page on our website for more blog posts and helpful guides!