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All About the York Elderberry

Elderberries regained popularity in 2020 during the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic when everyone was eager to boost their immune systems.

However, you may have heard about elderberries first from your grandparents. These delicate fruits were the first line of cold and flu defense used as home remedies many years ago.

The York Elderberry is a relatively new variety, though, and with its ability to produce high amounts of fruit, it’s quickly become a fan favorite.

Keep reading to learn why farmers and wine producers prefer the York Elderberry over other varieties.

Looking to buy a York Elderberry shrub? Check availability.

A cluster of elderberry fruit similar to the York elderberry.

History of the York Elderberry

The Elderberry plant has been used in herbal medicine for thousands of years. However, the York Elderberry was developed as part of an experiment by the New York Agriculture Experiment Station in 1964.

It is a cross between the Adams No. 2 and the Ezyoff, both large crop producers. Farmers love the York Elderberry because of its ability to produce mass quantities of scrumptious fruit.

Characteristics of the York Elderberry

An elderberry shrub.


The York Elderberry possesses a sweet-tart flavor. Cooking them brings out their sweetness, and they may be too earthy to eat raw for most.


The York Elderberry first blooms white flowers in the spring that will turn to soft, purple berries. It’s the largest of any elderberry and is more compact than most varieties.

Eating the York Elderberry

Because of its ability to produce large quantities, the York Elderberry is often enjoyed in wines, jams, syrups, and pies.

Elderberry syrup.
Elderberry syrup.

The flowers are also edible. They can be eaten raw or brewed into aromatic tea.


You can use any variety of elderberry for these recipes, including the York:

Elderflower Tea

Elderflower tea, a home remedy.

If you want to try elderflower tea, you must leave some flowers on the tree for fruit blossoms later in the season. If you pick them all, you won’t have any berries to pick.

Elderflower tea will feel amazing on your throat if you’re suffering from a sore throat caused by a cold, flu, or allergies. It has a clean taste that will give you relief fast. It’s high in Vitamin C and easy to make!

Just make sure to drink it right after you brew it because it does not preserve well.

First, gather a few bunches of fresh white flowers. Trim off their stems. The stems are not edible and can be toxic.

Bring your water to a boil, then place your flowers in a teapot or a mason jar. Pour boiling water over the flowers, then steep for 10-15 minutes.

Health Benefits

Elderberry gummies.
Elderberry gummies are a popular supplement.

Elderberries have received a lot of attention recently for their health benefits. They’re high in vitamins A, B6, and C, which help our eyes, brains, and immune systems stay healthy. They also contain iron and potassium for hemoglobin production and fluid level balance in the body.

You can enjoy the antioxidant properties of these fruits by taking elderberry supplements or consuming safely prepared elderberry foods.

Medicinal Benefits

Elderberries have been made into syrups for centuries to relieve cold and flu symptoms. They provide sinus pressure relief caused by infections or allergies.

They also help with fluid retention and constipation relief. Elderberries also aid in lowering blood sugar levels.

How to Grow the York Elderberry at Home

Cluster of elderberries on a shrub.

York elderberries grow best in USDA Zones 4-8. First, check your soil pH–elderberries need a soil pH of 5.5-6.5 and do best in moist, well-drained soils

Choose a location with full sun and add compost or manure before planting. Plant elderberries six to eight feet apart in rows ten feet apart.

They must be two inches deeper in the ground than grown at the nursery.

Fertilizing and Watering

You should not use fertilizers at all in the first year. However, watering is essential in the first season because elderberries are shallow-rooted.

You’ll be able to judge how much fertilizer you need in the following seasons based on how the plant appears:

  • You can reduce the nitrogen in half or simply don’t use it if the plant is growing well
  • Apply the recommended amount if the growth is moderate and the plant appears healthy
  • Increase the fertilizer amount by half if the plant is growing well

Signs of Elderberry Disease to Watch For

Elderberries are susceptible to several diseases, including tomato ringspot, fungal canker, powdery mildew, leaf spot, thread blight, root rot, verticillium wilt, thrips, and cane borer.

Most illnesses can be treated by removing the diseased leaves. Still, testing for nematodes that cause tomato ringspot before planting a new tree is essential because they can spread rapidly to adjacent plants.


A young woman holding branches of fruit from an elderberry plant.

Harvest typically happens from mid-August to mid-September, and York elderberries will harvest in bunches all at once.

Elderberries do not transport well, and mechanical harvesting is difficult, so you must pick them yourself.

If you’re harvesting elderberries in the wild or ones you did not plant yourself, read our post on Elderberry Identification to ensure the berries you’re harvesting are safe for use.

Where to Buy

Flowers on an elderberry shrub.

Buy a potted York Elderberry plant that’s already potted from Stark Bros.

You can also look for these plants at local nurseries, greenhouses, and vineyards. Vineyards especially enjoy using this variety in their wine because it produces such large amounts.

Elderberries are challenging to find in commercial grocery stories. The fruit is difficult to transport, but you can check with local farmers who may sell them privately.

Most commercial elderberry syrups do not advertise which variety is used, so ask local farmers which variety they use. It also may be mentioned in the fine print.

A Bountiful Fruit

Closeup of elderberries on a shrub.

If you’ve been wondering if you should start growing your own York elderberries, why wait any longer?

The York Elderberry will produce a bountiful harvest for all your remedy needs, and you’ll be thankful the next time the cold or flu hits your house when you can whip up some elderberry syrup or elderflower tea for fast relief.

Do you want to learn more about elderberry varieties? Check out our Elderberry page!