Chances are, if you’ve walked down the remedy aisle at a grocery store or market, you’ve seen or heard of elderberries. The blue elderberry is among the most popular home-growing varieties of these hearty berries.
Read on to learn how to grow and use these remarkable, health-boosting berries right from a container or in your own backyard!
Looking to buy blue elderberry? Check availability.
Characteristics of Blue Elderberries
Like many varieties of elderberry, the blue elderberry–also known as the Mexican elderberry or Tapiro–is characterized by the light purple or blue berries it produces. These berries begin with a white or yellow flowering and produce blue fruit that darkens a bit closer to the fall.
Blue Elderberries are a hardy variety that does well in many different environments. They are primarily grown in Zones 6 to 10 and flourish quickly to about four feet in height. This makes them ideal for growing in a container.
Another fun fact–these elderberries are among the most crucial food sources for birds in California, where many commercially used blue elderberries are grown!
Blue Elderberry Specific
Using and Eating Them
Blue elderberries can be enjoyed in numerous ways. One of the most popular is to cook them down into a sauce or syrup. This syrup can then be taken prophylactically, or in the event of an illness, as a powerful boost to the immune system.
Folks hoping to boost the immune systems of younger kiddos may also enjoy turning these elderberries into homemade gummies. Little ones and even some older kiddos and adults with an aversion to a syrup consistency may find this is a preferable way to consume their elderberries.
You can also enjoy the health benefits of blue elderberries by eating them raw or consuming them like you would any other berry. However, because of potential health risks due to the levels of lectin and cyanide present in the raw berries, it is recommended to consume cooked elderberries to eliminate these risks.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to enjoy these prepared elderberries. Blue elderberries can be made into juices, jams, or compotes. They can be mixed into yogurt or used as a topping or ice cream component or for pie filling.
Some folks have even developed a taste for elderberry wine or tea! Though elderberries have a potent taste that can be off-putting to some, if you enjoy an assertive, decadent berry flavor, there are so many ways to make the most of a blue elderberry harvest.
The health benefits of blue elderberries are, by and large, among their most well-known and highly coveted attributes.
Like all elderberry varieties, blue elderberries have very high antioxidant properties. In particular, elderberries have a sizeable dose of anthocyanins and the antioxidant flavonols quercetin, kaempferol, and isorhamnetin. These antioxidants help fight free radicals in the body, which can cause inflammation throughout your system.
Inflammation, if left unchecked, can have all sorts of nasty effects, including a suppressed immune system, heavy and painful menstrual cycles, eczema and other skin conditions, headaches, bloating, mood disorders, and more.
Elderberries offer a powerful dose of antioxidants to help combat this inflammation. Regular prophylactic use can help you feel better throughout your whole system by addressing inflammation even before symptoms arise.
Another great quality of these elderberries is their high vitamin content, such as vitamin C. This, coupled with the presence of antioxidants, helps give your immune system a tremendous boost. In fact, many people find that consuming elderberry, or increasing their intake, at the first signs of an illness can help reduce symptoms and duration significantly!
Growing At Home
Blue Elderberries make a fantastic elderberry for home growing. They are a hardy species with extreme cold tolerance down to as low as 5 degrees Fahrenheit. They are also fast growing and can thrive in various circumstances…even if they are under distress.
Preparing and Planting
Blue elderberry trees or shrubs can be grown in large containers as well as directly sown into the soil. The great news is this elderberry variety does fantastically in all sorts of soil types and also thrives in various states of sun exposure!
Typically, you will want to select a spot for your elderberry tree with full to partial sun exposure–approximately six hours of sunlight per day. Make sure to choose an area where they can have room to spread out, keeping several feet between them.
If you are growing blue elderberries in a container, you will need one that is at least 24 inches wide and 20 inches deep. Make sure it has plenty of drainage–at least five drain holes–as these plants do love well-draining soil.
Once you have selected an area to grow your elderberry tree, you can either plant from seed or transplant a young stem cutting, a sucker from another elderberry tree, or a nursery seedling. These are all viable options for growing blue elderberry trees. It can take a couple of years for elderberry seeds to germinate, so a plant might be your best option.
For more information about growing elderberries, check out our beginner’s guide.
Caring and Maintaining
Once you have planted your seed or transplant, it’s all about the care. Your elderberry tree will require a lot of water, about an inch a week, to thrive. You may want to water more frequently if the topsoil is drying.
Because this tree will also grow very quickly, you’ll want to do some regular pruning once they hit about the third year of growth. Do this in the late winter or early spring by removing any canes that are damaged or so long they touch the ground. It’s also best to prune older canes first, as the canes from the second year tend to produce the best.
If you’re unsure which pair of pruning shears to buy, we have a guide with the Best Pruning Shears for Home Gardeners.
Beginning in the second year of growth, you will also want to fertilize your elderberry tree with a 10-10-10 balance fertilizer in early spring. You can also supplement the soil with nitrogen to help keep them healthy. In the wintertime, you can mulch your elderberry plant to protect the roots from the cold.
Sometimes within one to two years, but certainly by the third, your elderberry shrub should begin producing copious clusters of delicious berries you can enjoy!
Where To Buy Blue Elderberry Plants
Blue Elderberry plants can be difficult to source. However, you can find them online and have them delivered to your home.
Wrapping up the Blue Elderberry
Excited to grow and make use of your own blue elderberry harvest at home? Before you get started, be sure to check out our Elderberry page. This is a great resource to learn about all things elderberries, including their uses, plant care, and more.