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Perennials/Black Lace Bush


QUESTION: I have a question. The black lace bush I have is almost 2 years old. It took off this year. looked great up until last week. where all the leaves started drooping . Could it have been because we had a crazy summer where we had down pours followed by some warm weather. Or could it be just now the season is over. There is still healthy red (dark) red leaves. it also produced the berries and flowers this year. Now they are falling off when then wind blows on them. I would hate to lose it. But I remember last year about this time it started to die down.

ANSWER: Hello Alisa,

Sambucus 'Black Lace', while a lovely plant, is unfortunately subject to a variety of problems. Borers commonly attack them, and I am wondering whether this could be the issue. You could try cutting down to healthy tissue. Aphids and spider mites also like sambucus. Look closely at the plant and see whether you see tiny little bugs that are sucking the juices from your plant. Normally one would get rid of them with a sharp spray of water, but I would suggest that you cut the plant back below the drooping. But also, please be aware that the branches are very susceptible to wind damage.

Do you think it's wind? If so, you could try moving it to a more sheltered location. And none of these are necessarily fatal. The plant can recover.

Does this help? Please feel free to write again with any more observations, and we will take it from there.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I looked but couldn't find any mites or bugs. Will try putting a strong spray of water though. But we have had real hard rain lately could that do something . the leaves look healthy, at the top. But if I remember this happened early last year. Thought I lost it then. Then some that were drooping fell off today and some were black now. Can it be time for it for the end of the season. It is a beautiful plan. Would hate to lose it.
If I do move it would hate to can there be something I put around it so that the wind or strong rain doesn't damage it?
Thank you very much for replying to my first question.

Hi Alisa,

As I do my research I am finding that a lot of people are having similar difficulty with this plant. It's a new cultivar, so it hasn't been tested by time. A lot of people are experiencing a sharp decline in its condition. It often recovers, but it takes some time. I know that it doesn't like wind, and I suspect that your "hard rain" did some damage.

When I have plants that are fussy I move them to my patio so that I can pamper and observe them more. Can you do that? It would be easier to keep an eye on it.



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Donna Mack


I am a Master Gardener through the University of Illinois Extension.I can answer questions about pest control, especially voles, rabbits, chipmunks and slugs, and have done so on Dave's Garden Watchdog under the name DonnaMack since 2002. I have a lot of expertise with ornamental grass, hardy roses and old garden roses, minor bulbs such as ornigothalem, chionodoxa and allium as well as most types of lilies. I am knowledgeable about organic methods and I grow perennials, annuals and vegetables from seed.


I have been gardening since 1998 and have raised roses, peonies, annuals and perennials (the latter two from seed), and numerous shrubs and trees, many of which I have planted. I am familiar with many organic techniques and use as many as I can but know the chemical solutions, which are most benign and how to use them. I LOVE gardening, and I get great satisfaction with helping others so that they reach the state of joy that gardening can bring to those inclined to it.

The American Lily Society

I have numerous entries in Garden Watchdog under the name DonnaMack. I write three to four columns a year for the Kane County Chronicle.

I successfully completed the University of Illinois Master Gardening Program in March of 2013. I did this to augment extensive self study through books (I've probably read 100) and an arts degree, which helps with aesthetics. I am purely an amateur, but one who studies, reads, and documents extensively. My gardening log began in 2000, and has hundreds of entries, so that I can use my successes and failures to assist other gardeners.

Awards and Honors
The University of Illinois created a Team with Work Award for master gardeners who work together to create what they regard as an outstanding project. I won this award as part of a group that created "The Idea Garden", which suggests plants for home growers to attempt to grow. My personal contribution was salvias - ornamental and culinary hardy and tender perennials, which I grew from seed and tended through the season.

Past/Present Clients
I am currently overseeing and performing the maintenance of two large English style gardens in a suburb of Chicago, and recently acquired the management and redesign of a large estate garden(2015.)

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