Elderberry Companion Plants

Elderberry is a deciduous multi-trunk shrub that provides three seasons of color and visual interest. The foliage can be green or a deep, dark purple, depending on the variety and feature sprays of white flower clusters during the summer. By late summer or early fall, the flowers give way to black berries that attract birds and small animals. 

Shrubs can stand up to 12 feet tall and easily become a focal point in a landscape, but they can also introduce texture and color. Grow elderberry shrubs with companions that prefer full to partial sun and well-draining soil. Elderberry bushes are flexible in terms of care but will bloom more prolifically with proper growing conditions.


Shrubs To Plant With Elderberry

The large, lovely flower clusters of hydrangea are hard to beat and bloom during the summer around the same time as the elderberry. The globe- or cone-shaped flowers offer a contrast from the flower sprays of the elderberry. 

Most elderberry shrubs produce edible fruit, so pair them with blueberry shrubs to create an edible landscape. Another edible option is to add a row of various elderberry bushes to make a showy statement and attract wildlife.

Pair elderberry with winterberry to create year-round visual interest. Elderberry is deciduous and puts on a showy display through the spring, summer, and fall. Winterberry boasts stunning green foliage during the growing season, and while many varieties drop their foliage during the winter, the bright, red berries remain.

Perennials To Plant With Elderberry

Whether you select creeping phlox or tall garden phlox, both look lovely with elderberry. Plant either variety in front of the shrub so the bountiful flowers can be enjoyed. Bee balm is another flowering perennial that works well with elderberry. Bee balm’s blooms have a feathery texture that fits right in with the elderberry's arching branches and flower clusters.


Annuals To Plant With Elderberry

Coleus is known for colorful foliage and pairs nicely with elderberry. Select a variety with purple or dark pink hues to echo the dark foliage or fruit of the elderberry. The mounded, spreading growth habit of calibrachoa introduces color when planted around the base of an elderberry. The trump-shaped calibrachoa flowers are available in various colors to either match or coordinate with the elderberry. 

Best Companion Plants For Elderberry in Containers

Elderberry adds height to a container and takes on the role of a thriller. Feature hosta, coleus, or sedum as fillers. Hosta and coleus have broad leaves, and the expansive greenery offsets the woody form of elderberry. The succulent foliage of sedum or stonecrop provides color and contrasting texture. Plant sweet potato vine around the edges of the container so the stems can hang down. All of these plants are known for being low maintenance, allowing for an easy-to-grow mixed planter.  


Plants Not To Grow With Elderberry

Elderberry shrubs are not a good match for aggressive growers like sumac, honey locust, and buckthorn. These plants can live side-by-side but may require routine pruning of suckers to ensure the elderberry has plenty of space. Elderberry bushes can live in damp conditions but expect better growth in well-drained soil, so avoid growing elderberry in wet soil with swamp milkweed, river birch, and hibiscus.

Best Plants To Grow With Elderberry

Elderberry grows best with plants that have similar care needs, which works out to a variety of plants since this shrub is adaptable. Hydrangeas have similar care requirements, as do winterberry shrubs, and can be combined with elderberry to create a border, foundation planting, or privacy screen. Phlox and coleus provide color and can live in full to partial sunlight. Use plants of different heights to create a full, layered landscape.

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Author Alison Cotsonas - Published 10-06-2023