Oh my goodness, did I kill my Sambucus Black Lace?

ostrich(3a AB)October 19, 2008

Some of you may remember my question here a few weeks ago about transplanting my Sambucus Black Lace and switching position with my Ninebark Summer Wine. The Sambucus Black Lace is 2 years old and this year, it more than tripled its size (over 6 foot tall now) and I wanted to move it to a different location so that the flower bed would look more balanced. Anyway, I got brave today and proceeded to the transplantation with a friend. As I loosened up the moistened soil, to my shock and horror, I found a very extensive and strong root system, way much more extensive than I had ever imagined for a 2 year old shrub! They were like the roots of a tree!!! Since I had already started, I had to finish it, esp. since the Ninebark was already removed from its current location. In the end, I had to yank some thick roots out and also cut some too. Many of them also broke off. I was simply exhausted by the end of this operation.

Anyway, with all the trauma, I am sure that this poor thing will be in a state of shock, even though I did not allow the roots to dry out during the process. I watered it very well and used the Schultz Transplant solution too.

Is there anything else that I can do now to save this poor thing? Have I killed it? I really hope not as I love it... maybe sometimes I really should not have been as brave as I was and should have just left it alone in its original position!!! Sigh... anyway, if it survives, then it will look beautiful in its new location.

HELP! I would really appreciate any advice please! Thank you!

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Well, maybe not exactly encouraging words cause I never had a S.nigra, but all of my four S.racemosa 'Sutherland Gold' had been moved with ultimate success numerous times at ALL times of the year from March till November, with or without rootball intact and sometimes with just 25-30" of roots left. As a matter of fact just yesterday one of the 8-footers was chopped down to 3' and moved again.
If S.nigra is similar in this respect to S.racemosa you should sleep well.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2008 at 8:46PM
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ostrich(3a AB)

George, thank you so much! I suspect that it will do well then because this thing has just been ridiculously vigorous! I cannot imagine how a 2 year old plant could have grown like this! Anyway, I guess it will look ugly for the next few weeks until all the leaves will fall off. All I am hoping is that it will then spend the next couple of months growing its roots until the ground freezes in late December. Then when spring comes, I just hope that it will do well!

George, did you find that your Sutherland Gold had these ridiculously strong and extensive roots too? Did you trim your roots? I did not do that.... perhaps I should have?

Thanks for posting - I do feel a little better! :-)

    Bookmark   October 19, 2008 at 9:23PM
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ostrich(3a AB)

BTW, George, when you said 25-30 inches of roots, do you mean that the longest intact root was 25-30 inches long? Or did you mean that collectively they had 25-30 inches of roots? I suspect you meant the former... hmm... I did not think that mine were that long.... there were multiple roots but nothing more than 2 feet long. I hope that was going to be OK...

    Bookmark   October 19, 2008 at 9:27PM
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"the longest intact root was 25-30 inches long?"


    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 10:10AM
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chrsvic(z6 OH)

Sambucus is incredibly tough. S. canadensis, i would describe the roots as looking like a string mop - a big, long, thick tangle. You don't have to dig up all of the roots. And you can cut them back hard in the spring, they'll sprout back to 6 foot pretty quick.

All of the sambucus are easily propagated by cuttings. After some hard freezes in the fall, cut off foot long sections, bundle them in damp sand in a bucket, and store in a cold basement. Next spring, stick those deep in the ground and you'll have plenty of plants. Black Lace is of course patented, so you can't sell the sprouts, but you could make plenty of starts for your own use.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 7:21PM
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ostrich(3a AB)

Thanks, chrsvic! I really appreciate your reassurance!

I really abused this poor thing yesterday and yanked on its roots rather viciously... I feel pretty guilty about it now!

Anyway, I just got home, and as I expected, all the leaves are looking very droopy and sad. Should I just leave them alone, or should I be removing them all now? They are pretty ugly at this point.

So what should I do now? Thanks again for your help!

    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 7:28PM
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chrsvic(z6 OH)

You probably don't need to do anything with the leaves. As long as you have the plant watered in, it should be fine.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2008 at 3:39PM
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ostrich(3a AB)

chrsvic, I really appreciate your help! I will just leave those droopy leave alone then... :-)

    Bookmark   October 22, 2008 at 10:44PM
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ostrich(3a AB)

Hello everybody, I am back from my hibernation! :-)

I just wanted to thank all of you for your help with my Sambucus Black Lace - I went out to check yesterday (the weather is finally warm enough to go outside!) and the branches are full of buds! So obviously it survived the severe transplantation last fall and also the incredibly harsh winter that we have had! Thank you!

Now, this thing is almost 6 foot tall already. However, it only has a few main branches. If I wanted a fuller plant with more branching, and less height, should I prune it now? Would that affect the blooming? How far down should I cut it to if I prune it?

Thanks again for all your help!

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 9:18AM
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mary4b(4b WI)

Hi there, congrats on your Black Lace transplant success! I think you can prune it anytime, but it might not look great for the rest of the year...the best time is in late winter when it's still dormant...you can cobble it, that is, cut the whole thing down to the ground, about 6" from the ground is good. You can do that every year, or every other, which ever you prefer. My Sutherland Gold Elderberry has gotten so beautiful in its present form, that I don't have the heart to cobble it. But if it ever gets leggy, I will do it in the following dormant season.

One more thing, if you didn't prune it back this spring, do an experiment. Just prune one or 2 branches now and see if they branch out more over this season, or if they just sit there until next year. You can't hurt it.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2009 at 12:31AM
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This is a good thread and told me exactly what I needed to know.
I just moved two specimens (Black Lace, and another variety with black lobate leaves) that needed more room. The roots are tough and deep and I knew the plants would sulk, and they did. If they are as tough as this thread suggests, I'm happy.
A word of advice do not plant Sambucus where another plant will block or overshadow it. They don't like to compete for light and will never grow to that 6 foot potential.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 11:51PM
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I'm surprised she didn't have trouble with the ninebark...I moved a ninebark that had been there for ages and the longest root was actually 12' long!

    Bookmark   July 15, 2010 at 2:01PM
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joe_thurston(Z4 MN)

I planted a S. nigra Black Lace this spring, and it's not happy at all with its location. I agree with frodo157, it must not like to compete for light. I've picked a spot in my back yard where it will get lots more light, and won't have to compete for it. It's good to know that Sambucus are tough enough to survive a transplant. I plan on doing the deed next spring.

Thanks for the thread!

    Bookmark   August 12, 2010 at 1:12AM
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This is fantastic news. I just moved my S. nigra Black Lace today and I had the same issue as ostrich. I didn't prune it back before I moved it because it had so many new flower buds on it and I was hoping it would be a smooth transition, not anticipating the root system. It is very droppy, should I cut it back now? I'm in toronto so it's late spring. Any thoughts are welcome.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2011 at 2:38PM
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ademink(z5a-5b Indianapolis)

no, don't cut it...just let it be. water it and let things run their course this year. you can prune it next spring

    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 10:36PM
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Thank you for the tip ademink. Greatly appreciate it.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2011 at 10:12AM
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blue23rose(6b IN)

I moved my Black Lace Elderberry after it was about 1 year old and it is still going strong two years later. I was nervous too after I saw the root system on it and was afraid it wouldn't live, but am so happy it did. I did not cut it back at the time, but just kept it watered.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 7:58AM
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dontknow(z6 - Upstate NY)

Don't give up!

I can tell you our 4 Sambucus shrubs really took off this year after being planted 3 years ago. They are finally stunning and thriving!

We were really considering giving up on them if they looked as ratty at the end of this season as they did for the last couple.

I'm really stunned and wish I had a before/after pic because it really is something.

By the way... No fertilizer - no nothing other than it's "natural" environment and some minimal pruning/shaping.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 8:00AM
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Does anyone have any pics of their Sambucus they can share? I was thinking of getting Sutherland Gold.

Does it grow like a tree? Wondering how much space I need.

Do these drop berries? I ask because I have dogs and I read that all parts of the plants are poisonous.


    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 8:19AM
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