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Best Time to Plant Elderberry Cuttings

Michael Gonzales
December 23, 2023

Elderberries thrive in loose soil that’s rich with organic matter. If your garden’s current soil lacks vitality and nutrition, add compost every year to enrich and nutrify its contents.

To root an elderberry cutting, just dip its angled end coated with rooting hormone into potting mix and mist regularly to maintain humidity levels.


Doing so takes advantage of the natural energy available from within a plant, which at this point in its growth process is focused on root growth.

Sambucus plants are perennial hardwood perennials belonging to the Genus Sambucus and can be propagated using both softwood and hardwood cuttings. Hardwood cuts should be taken during winter dormancy while softwood cuts may be taken in spring; when propagating hardwood cuttings for propagating purposes it is ideal to do it during winter dormancy or early spring before bud break; some experts claim late March would still work in our climate zone (Zone 7a).

Step one of elderberry cutting is finding a branch with at least one set of leaf buds. Use a sharp knife to cut a 6- to 8-inch piece from it using pencil thick stem and with four buds at least. Slant these cuttings by making cuts on the “root” side rather than on “bud” side – this saves time when planting cuttings at their new homes, and ensures they go into the ground in their correct orientation.

Rootone, Super Thrive, honey or willow bark rooting hormone or stimulants should then be mixed with the water in a jar and placed inside, with your cutting pointed down in it. If no cloche is available to protect its environment then pile soil around its base as an anchor point to hold it steady. Cover the jar with plastic wrap to maintain moisture levels within its interior; check on cuttings weekly to make sure soil remains moist but not wet; leave this process alone until roots have grown out enough for transplanting!

Alternately, planting cuttings directly in the ground to form permanent plants can also be done successfully. When doing this, be sure to weed well around the planting site, provide plenty of sunlight and fertile, slightly acidic soil; water regularly during hot and dry summer days with mulching as an aid to conserve soil moisture and decrease competition with weeds; do not fertilize upon initial planting but consider applying light applications of nitrogen (1/4 cup ammonium sulfate per plant) about two months later for optimal growth.


Elderberry cuttings may be taken during any season of the year; however, the best time for rooting them is during winter dormancy or shortly after bud break. This allows the plant to focus its energy on producing new roots instead of producing more growth.

Find a soft, flexible branch with at least two buds and cut it at an angle near the base to form the “root” end. Soak the end in water, followed by rooting hormone or powder to aid the rooting process. Plant it into well-draining potting mix such as one with perlite or vermiculite added for increased drainage and airflow, covering with humidity dome or clear plastic bag to retain moisture, placing in an area away from direct sunlight and keeping moist at all times.

Alternately, elderberry trees can also be planted directly into bare ground beds in spring or fall when dormant. When doing this, ensure the soil is free from weeds and provide ample mulch to conserve moisture and decrease competition from weeds.

Once your cutting has developed roots, it can be transplanted to its permanent home. As it grows, re-mulching should be applied regularly in order to keep soil in contact with its roots and prevent drying out. In ideal circumstances, fertilizer should be applied through either nitrogen (1/4 cup ammonium sulfate per plant) or phosphorus and potassium applications depending on results from your soil test.

Elderberries should be planted at least 100 feet from other varieties to prevent cross-pollination and increase fruit production. To achieve optimal results, both soft and hard pruning must be used to remove dead limbs from the bush while keeping its size manageable. Establishing a weekly routine of pulling any weeds that pop up and giving these resilient yet easy-care shrubs an ample supply of water will go far towards simplifying caregiving efforts.


Elderberry plants can be grown both indoors and outdoors; for optimal success in our zone 7a it’s best to plant cuttings after winter dormancy but prior to early spring bud break (after winter dormancy, before early bud break). That way the first year’s growth can be free from competing weeds while being easily monitored for watering and nutritional needs, particularly during dry and hot periods in summer.

If you’re starting them in containers, fill a container about the size of a large mason jar with well water or distilled water and add elderberry cuttings angled down, with any rooting hormone still attached facing down, for 24 hours before prepping your planting medium – seed starting mix, potting soil or even rock wool mixed with damp sand will work fine – creating holes with your index finger in each hole with which to insert each cutting carefully into its place; be sure that its end dusted with rooting hormone faces down before gently tamping the soil around each cutting to place in an ideal warm sunny location

Once your new plants have taken root and begun growing well, you can remove them from their container and plant them directly in either the ground or large pot. When planting directly into the ground, be aware that this plant can quickly take over; be prepared to pull weeds by hand as they try to nibble at its roots; also continue regular watering during dry and hot periods during summer.

When harvesting elderberry cuttings yourself, look for healthy canes with multiple nodes and pencil thickness. When taking cuttings of elderberries yourself, choose healthy canes with several nodes that have pencil thick bud sides; the base/angled sides will become roots. It helps if slanted cuts were made during harvest so when planting time comes around you know which side is the root side and which will become top sides; additionally it would be wise to spray any exposed surfaces with rooting hormone beforehand for extra success.


Elderberries, perennial shrubs of the Sambucus genus, go dormant in winter before blooming in early summer with fruit for culinary use. You can grow these as bare-root starts or purchase them from nurseries; USDA plant hardiness zones 3-8 should have no issues growing these. Elderberry propagation from soft or hardwood cuttings works best, though soft cuttings should be rooted before bud break occurs for best results.

To take hardwood elderberry cuttings, look for healthy branches 6-8 inches long that have two or four leaf nodes and then make an incision along one edge with a sharp knife at an oblique angle so as to facilitate easier root identification when planting the cuttings. This makes determining their direction easier.

Immerse the end with its slope facing downward in water for 24 hours to help ensure cutting gets off on a strong start and maximize energy invested into developing strong roots. This step ensures cutting takes hold and maximizes success!

Prep your cuttings container by filling it with light potting mix (Norm’s Farms recommends 50% peat moss and 50% sand), which has been moistened. Add organic matter if the soil is very sandy. Place a clear plastic bag over your pot as this will create a mini greenhouse and maintain moisture levels without sogginess in your pot’s soil. Mist regularly as necessary until roots begin forming within six weeks – do this again every few days if necessary!

At this stage, it’s crucial that none of the leaves or buds be removed in order for your plant to focus its energy on growing healthy roots and increase its chances of successful repotting later on.

As soon as roots form, repot the cuttings into larger containers or directly into your garden. After the plants have had time to establish themselves, mulch the area surrounding them in order to conserve soil moisture and reduce weed competition. If planting directly in the ground, consider giving each plant 1/4 cup ammonium sulfate every two months as this will promote strong growth and increased fruit production.


  • Michael Gonzales

    Michael has a diverse set of skills and passions, with a full-time career as an airline pilot and a dedicated focus on health and fitness consulting. He understands the importance of balancing a busy lifestyle with maintaining a healthy mind and body, and is committed to helping others achieve the same success. Michael's expertise in health and fitness is not just limited to physical training, but also extends to nutrition, stress management, and overall wellbeing. He takes a holistic approach to health and fitness, helping clients to achieve their goals in a sustainable and fulfilling way. With a strong desire to inspire and motivate others, Michael is always ready to share his time and knowledge with those who seek his guidance. Whether in the air or on the ground, Michael is dedicated to helping others live their best lives.

    https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-gonzales-07bb4b31/ [email protected] Gonzales Michael


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