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What’s wrong with my Black Tower Elder?


We bought a black tower elder from the garden centre back in January, and it developed foliage and flowers but it certainly didn’t look like a tower of black leaves like I’ve seen in images.  The picture shows what it looks like today, what can I do to make it “bushy” for next season?

please help! I only just started gardening due to first home and lockdown!




  • KeenOnGreenKeenOnGreen Posts: 1,021
    It wants to be a shrub/small tree, so the pot you have it in is too small.  It won't get enough water or nutrients.  Best to put it into the ground, or into a larger pot.

    Make sure to water regularly (very regularly if it is in a pot), and feed every week or so with a liquid feed.  They respond well to pruning, so you could consider pruning the end off of some of those taller branches, which will stimulate growth on the lower branches, and make the plant more bushy.

    If it were me, I would tackle the pot/ground issue, before considering any pruning. 
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 63,816
    It needs to be planted in the ground ... it’s not really a plant for a container ... especially not one as small as that. I think you’ve done well to keep it going this long. 

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • FireFire LondonPosts: 7,064
    edited 20 July
    It will be happier in the ground.
  • Thanks everyone, we asked for something that could be grown in a pot and this was recommended.  Finding a space in the ground may be difficult as we don’t have loads of space (idea was to plant it when we moved next).  What size pot would you recommend? We have a lot of paved area so size shouldn’t be a problem, just actual ground for direct planting would be an issue.

  • JennyJJennyJ DoncasterPosts: 2,591
    edited 20 July
    As big as you can get, and will be able to move if/when you need to. Large cheapo plastic is better than small but fancy ceramic - the plant won't care. Use your small pretty pots for something like annual bedding that will be OK in them - you can stand them in front of the elder if you like.
  • We also got a flowering cherry - frilly frock - which is doing well in a similar pot but I already decided to repot that when it’s dormant, tree to pot size looks odd
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 63,816
    edited 20 July
    These are large and inexpensive ... not the most stylish, but at least they’re fairly unobtrusive and as it’s only until you have a garden to plant them in, they’ll be fine.

    Don’t use ordinary just multipurpose compost ... it’s not suitable for shrubs on its own ... you need to get a bag of John Innes No 3 loan/soil based compost and mix it with some multipurpose at a ratio of 3:1. 

    Hope that helps 😊 
    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 2,855
    Yes it needs a *much* larger pot, and it would be helpful to keep it somewhere a little bit shadier, as the sun will dry the compost out very quickly (some sort of mulch e.g. pebbles would help with that too. The good news is you can hard prune in winter for a bushier plant next year.
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