Great Plant Pick: Sambucus nigra ‘Gerda’ Black Beauty

Black Beauty is the best of the purpleleaf elders. (Richie Steffen)

The best of the purpleleaf elders, this robust shrub retains its deep burgundy-purple foliage color from spring to fall.

What: The best of the purpleleaf elders, sambucus nigra ‘Gerda’ Black Beauty retains its deep burgundy-purple foliage color from spring to fall. This robust shrub can create a dramatic effect in the landscape in just a few years. Once the large, lush leaves emerge in the spring, they are followed in May by lacy, rose-pink flowers. Use Black Beauty to create an eye-catching backdrop for the perennial border.

Where: Sambucus nigra ‘Gerda’ grows best in rich well-drained or moist soil, but will adapt to sandy sites or clay and tolerate short periods of standing water. The best and most vigorous growth will occur with regular watering and fertilizing, although it will tolerate more occasional watering during dry weather. Plant it in full sun for the best foliage color.

Size: In 10 years, Black Beauty will grow to be 10 feet tall and 12 feet wide.

Care: A light pruning in winter to remove dead and broken branches and older twiggy stems will keep it looking tidy. Vigorous growing plants can be cut to the ground every year or two to encourage robust whips of growth that will have the boldest foliage.

— Richie Steffen, Great Plant Picks


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