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How to Prune a Sambucus Black Lace Tree

Updated February 21, 2017

Black Lace Sambucus (Sambucus nigra "Eva") is a trademarked variety of elderberry plant that grows as a large shrub, or that is pruned into the form of a small tree. It gets its name from the black colouring of the leaves, which have lacelike or fringed edges. In the spring and summer, the plant produces pale pink flowers that tower above the foliage creating a distinct contrast in colouring. Black Lace sambucus should be pruned back hard when it is young and only to remove deadwood thereafter.

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  1. Wait until the Black Lace elderberry has stopped blooming for the year, which typically occurs in the late summer. Prune back all of the upper limbs using pruning shears until they are only two-thirds of their original length.

  2. Look at the main trunk of the Black Lace tree and identify any branches that are sprouting up from the ground or from the lower portions of the trunk. Prune these off at ground level or flush with the trunk using hand pruners. This prevents the tree from turning back into a shrub form.

  3. Rake up the clipped stems and place them into a compost area. You can also place them into the trash for disposal if desired.

  4. Repeat the same pruning procedure until the third year of growth.

  5. Remove all dead wood starting in the third year by identifying stems that are black or brown in colour or that lack foliage. Cut them off at ground level with hand pruners. Forgo pruning after blooming after the third year to allow the edible, tart, dark berries to develop.

  6. Tip

    If you live in U.S. Department of Agriculture growing zones 4 or colder, the plant stems die back to the ground after frost. Prune the dead stalks off at ground level using pruning shears and they will regrow once spring arrives.

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Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Hand pruners
  • Rake

About the Author

Kimberly Johnson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in various online publications including eHow, Suite101 and Examiner. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and began writing professionally in 2001.

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