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All About the Ranch Elderberry

Not all elderberry shrubs are alike; some produce amazing berries & leaves you can use in the kitchen, while others are just for aesthetic purposes with inedible berries. But, with the Ranch elderberry, you can get the best of both worlds!

These elderberry shrubs are drought-tolerant, hardy plants that have pretty white flowers and edible, sweet berries! They provide beauty to your yard and a delicious berry harvest for your recipes!

Keep reading to learn more about these elderberries and how you can grow and care for them in your yard.

Looking to buy Ranch elderberry shrubs? Check availability.

A healthy bunch of Ranch elderberries.

History of the Ranch Elderberry

This elderberry variety was an accidental discovery and we don’t know much about how the cultivar came to be. Someone found the shrub inside an old broken-down homestead in the 1800s, which is where its name comes from.

Characteristics of the Ranch Elderberry

The Ranch elderberry is quite drought-tolerant and can handle poor soil conditions and drastic weather changes. You’ll also find that it’s resistant to many diseases and pests.

This shrub is determinate, meaning it only flowers and produces berries once in the growing season rather than continuously. You’ll find clusters of white flowers starting to grow in the springtime, which lead to delicious ripe berries in August.

Elderberry bush that is flowering.

Elderberry Qualities

The elderberries themselves are tiny and round with a dark purple coloring to them. They also have a beautiful glossy sheen to them when fully ripe.

Elderberry Size

When summertime rolls around, these elderberries are about 1/4 – 1/2 inch in diameter when ripe. But, while they are small, they grow in large bunches that are typically larger than your hand. Each stem contains small separate clusters that form into one large bunch.

Growing and Caring for Your Ranch Elderberry Plants

This elderberry variety is low-maintenance, requiring very little upkeep on your part. If you grow Ranch elderberries, use the following parameters as a guide to keeping the shrubs happy and healthy.

Planting Zones

This elderberry does well in USDA hardiness zones 3-9. These zones cover most of the United States, as the plant can handle almost any weather.

Growing Season

Ranch elderberry shrubs are deciduous, so they lose their leaves over the winter. Their growing season picks up again in the spring, around April. Leaves will start to grow back first, and then by May and June, you should have clusters of white flowers. The flowers will then turn into berries by August.

Size and Spacing

These elderberry shrubs typically grow five to six feet wide and tall. They’re rather compact plants compared to other elderberry varieties. However, they still need a minimum of five feet of space between each shrub. Growing elderberries in pots can be an easy way to keep the shrubs separated far enough.


While elderberry plants are self-fruitful, for maximum fruit set, you’ll want your plant to cross-pollinate with another elderberry. So, you should ideally have at least two different elderberry shrubs in your yard.


Part of caring for your elderberry shrub means it needs full sun. This is about 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day.


While this elderberry variety can handle different soil conditions, it still has a preference. They tend to like slightly acidic soil, which is about 5.5 to 6.5 on a pH scale tester.


You should water your Ranch elderberry shrubs with about an inch of water per week. Try to keep the soil moist to the touch. However, they can handle drought spells if needed.


Elderberry shrubs don’t usually need fertilizing, as they can usually take care of themselves. If your soil is extremely nutrient-deficient, you can use a slow-release fertilizer in the spring and in the fall.

Ranch elderberry bush with ripe elderberries.


At the end of the growing season, after you harvest the berries, you can begin pruning the shrub. Simply cut off any dead, broken, and diseased branches. This allows the shrub to focus on its healthy limbs in the springtime.

Possible Diseases

This elderberry variety doesn’t have too many issues with diseases. But, here are a few things you could potentially come across:

  • Cankers – when fungi or bacteria attack an open wound on your shrub, causing an oozing bump.
  • Leaf spots – when fungi or bacteria attack the shrub’s foliage, ultimately causing decaying brown spots.

You cannot treat cankers, besides cutting off the diseased part. As for leaf spots, you can remove the diseased parts and try to save the shrub with fungicides.

Possible Pests

You might notice local insects and birds nibbling on the leaves and berries of your shrub. But, you can cover the shrub with netting to deter birds and use natural pesticides, like neem oil, for bugs.

When to Harvest Ranch Elderberries

Ranch elderberry shrubs are perennials, so they’ll come back each year. You can pick the berries when they are completely dark purple all the way around. This is typically around August through September.

Keep in mind that it will take two to three years after planting before your elderberry shrub will produce berries.

Eating Ranch Elderberries

Once your shrub begins producing berries, you can enjoy them either raw, cooked, or baked into delicious desserts. The options are endless with these tiny berries.

What Do They Taste Like?

The berries tend to be sweet and tart. But they lean more towards the sweet side, making them great for baked goods and jams. They become sweeter when you cook and bake them.

Cooking and Baking With the Ranch Elderberry

One of the best ways to cook elderberries is to cook them down to create jams, jellies, and syrups. Elderberries are also great substitutes for blueberries in baked goods like cakes, muffins, pies, scones, and more!

Ranch Elderberry Recipe Ideas

Here are some delicious recipes to try at home with this elderberry variety:

Elderberries simmering in a pot.

Health Benefits of the Ranch Elderberry

Elderberries have plenty of health benefits due to their high percentages of vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. With this combination of healthy nutrients, elderberries can do the following:

  • Aid in cold and flu recovery
  • Reduce oxidative stress
  • Improve heart health
  • Reduce the risk of cancer

Where to Buy Ranch Elderberry Shrubs

Ranch elderberries growing on an elderberry bush

Are you ready to add Ranch elderberry shrubs to your yard? Check out Stark Bros. for availability!

Wrapping Up the Ranch Elderberry

Try planting the Ranch elderberry shrub if you want a functional fruit-bearing plant! The drought, weather, disease, and pest-tolerant shrub will provide your yard with aesthetic properties and high yields of sweet berries.

For more information on growing these berry-bearing shrubs, check out our elderberry page!