Aphids attack ‘Sutherland Gold’

Credit: Jeanette McLatchie

Q: In the spring of 2007, I planted a ‘Sutherland Gold’ shrub in a huge ceramic pot with lots of organic material and gravel at the bottom. Each year since then, it has diligently tried to grow. But each spring, hoards of black aphids attack it. I squish some, but mostly I wait for the ladybugs to come. By summer, the aphids disappear, but by then the weak leaves seem to burn in the sun.

This spring, the plant was so weak that it didn’t even bloom – at all! Should I just accept that ‘Sutherland Gold’ and I don’t get along, or are there steps I can take to make it happier? I live in North Vancouver’s Zone 8 (or Zone 4 if you abide by Sunset’s Western Garden book). The pot gets afternoon sun.

‘Sutherland Gold’ Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa ‘Sutherland Gold’) has a reputation for being less susceptible to sun scorch since it was discovered in Saskatchewan. Sun scorch usually looks like the leaves are burning on one side of the plant, mainly in the middle of the leaves.

Try using a regular potting soil, without incorporating large amounts of organic matter and gravel. Provide some afternoon shade from the heat. Check your plant at least twice a week and try hosing the aphids off the plant. Use a control-released fertilizer as directed on the label.