Forum home Plants

Pruning Sambucus Nigra black lace

My sambucus Nigra is looking a bit leggy so I looked up pruning advice. I've read that I should prune it back to the ground in late winter or early spring. Really? That seems very severe for a shrubby plant. If it is a good idea, can I prune now (not quite late winter, that's why I ask) as it's very windy on my hillside and the leggy branches may get snapped off anyway?  I think this is the sambucus's second year in my garden.




  • pansyfacepansyface Posts: 21,524

    Hello Fiona. I have one of these and I live in a windy place. Sambucus is nothing more than a fancy elderberry bush. So if you imagine what you would do with one of those, the same thing applies. However, just to be on the safe side, I would cut it down to about three feet off the ground. It will grow on up from there next spring by about the same amount, leaving you with a six foot high bush next autumn. If that is the height you want, just keep on doing the same. If you want it shorter, take a bit more off next spring.image

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
    If you live in Derbyshire, as I do.
  • If you're growing it for it's foliage then it's usually cut hard back as you say.  However, if you want the flowers and berries then it's usually only trimmed as needed after flowering in order to keep it a reasonable size. 

    If it's looking a bit leggy now I'd cut it hard back after the leaves have fallen.  It's very young and this will encourage more growth from the base and thicken it up. 

    As you say, as you're in a windy spot cutting it back earlier in the winter will help prevent wind-rock allowing water to freeze around the roots.

    However cutting it all hard back will mean you get good foliage at the expense of flowers, so when it's a bit more developed you can choose not to hard prune, or to only take one third of the canes out each year, keeping the growth rejuvenated but also allowing the older two thirds of canes to flower.

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

  • Thanks pansyface and dovefromabove (what made you choose this name?). 

    I'm a bit of a novice so wouldn't know what to do with even a common elderberry (I have one and just let it grow but it's never looked quit as spindly)????. I've got the gardening bug but always feel a bit nervous when it comes to pruning particularly as shrubs can be a bit expensive and I don't want to kill them! But I think I will prune to the ground as the branches are a bit spindly so would like them to thicken up a bit. Wonder if I could try propogating from the prunings or is this the wrong time of year?


  • pansyfacepansyface Posts: 21,524

    As it's only a baby, I'd err on the side of caution. Take off any very small, thin shoots and try to prune it to what looks like a healthy bud joint. 

    Spring is going to be the best time for cuttings now. You can use the trimmings from the prunings. Just cut to below a bud joint on a stem about 8 or 10 inches long, nip off the top part, take off all the leaves, push it into a bit of ground in a quiet spot and leave it alone.

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
    If you live in Derbyshire, as I do.
  • Fiona MacDonald wrote (see)

    Thanks pansyface and dovefromabove (what made you choose this name?). 

    We're big fans of Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer's Shooting Stars and when I was casting around for a name for this forum our garden was full of pigeons - it seemed to fit.  image 

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

  • pau hinkpau hink Posts: 1

    I have a sambucus nigra black lace I bought from a nursery Its tag with care instructions and its description says it is a sambucus nigra black lace. Can this be taken that it is an elderflower and can be used as such.? The nursery says it is, how can you be 100% do not want to poison myself thanks

  • DyersEndDyersEnd Posts: 730

    Which bits do you want to eat?

  • nutcutletnutcutlet Posts: 26,974

    Sambucus nigra is elder as in elderflowers and elderberries. It has several decorative cultivars but it's just elder.  

    In the sticks near Peterborough
  • I have one, well, I have a six foot high stick that gets some leaves and a few flowers each year...

Sign In or Register to comment.