Elderberry Seedlings

Michael Gonzales
September 9, 2023

Elderberry plants thrive in full sun or partial shade conditions and prefer slightly acidic soil (pH 5.5-8.6) but can adapt to less ideal environments.

Fast-growing shrubs that can develop into small trees. Perfect for use as natural buffer zones, drainage swales or rain gardens.

Sow Indoors

Elderberries (Sambucus nigricans) are easy to cultivate from seeds or cuttings, with optimal results both ways. If you don’t already have elderberries in your garden, many nurseries and online retailers sell starts that are ready for transplanting into garden beds. Keep in mind, though, that elderberries need one year to become established before producing any fruits – the first year should only focus on harvesting flowers while simultaneously building strong root systems rather than producing many berries.

If you want to start elderberries from seed, the optimal time and place to sow is fall through spring when they’re dormant. This allows time for germinating seeds to establish strong root systems before it becomes too hot for them – depending on where you live it might even be necessary to start them indoors for extended growing seasons.

Before planting elderberry seeds outdoors, the soil must first be prepared. Make sure the site you select receives full sun with well-draining soil, cover the area with mulch and provide regular irrigation – elderberries require approximately one to two inches of water each week during summer, although they will still thrive without this much rainfall.

Purchase starts of elderberry varieties from garden centers or online at Norm’s Farm, Strictly Medicinal Seeds or Raintree Nursery for best results. Be mindful to select elderberry variety starts and not generic berry starts – elderberries have been specially selected to thrive in certain climates while generic starts may not thrive as effectively in others.

Growing elderberries from cuttings is much simpler than planting from seed. From late fall to early spring when your elderberry plant is dormant, cut six-inch pieces from elder branches that are dormant and remove all leaves but leave the nodes intact before placing these cuttings into a container of sand with peat moss or potting soil for storage.

Over time, you should notice your cuttings rooting. Test their growth by pressing on the soil – if their roots feel solid when pushed on they may be ready for transplanting.

Sow Outdoors

Elderberry plants can be propagated easily using cuttings or suckers that can be dug up during dormancy and planted during autumn or early spring. You can also purchase seedlings at local nurseries or online through companies like Norm’s Farm and Strictly Medicinal Seeds; while buying ready-made plants can be easier and quicker to start your own elderberries than starting from seeds.

Before planting an elderberry tree, ensure the site is prepared by clearing away weeds and making sure its soil drains freely. Since this species does not thrive under competition, make sure there is plenty of room for expansion. Conduct a soil test as well; this can reveal any nutrient deficiencies which need correcting; aim for soil with pH levels between 5.5-6.5 for best results.

Choose a hardy cultivar that thrives in your climate, such as “Black Beauty.” This variety thrives from zones 3-10 and tolerates hot conditions well, yet still thrives under drought-stressed environments, though full sun exposure is recommended for best results.

Soak cuttings in non-chlorinated water (filtered, distilled or rainwater) for 24 hours to encourage better root development. Some growers recommend dipping the end of each cutting in natural rooting hormone such as that found on willow branches to expedite root formation – however this step isn’t strictly necessary.

Place cuttings in containers deep enough to cover their bottom node. There has been some debate about which potting medium is ideal, with some advocates advocating soilless growing media while others suggesting sterilized potting soil or a mix of sand and leaf compost as suitable choices. At Lily Springs Farm they use water that has had willow branches soaked for presoak purposes but this step isn’t essential.

Plant your cuttings in an area receiving six to eight hours of sun per day, adding organic compost as part of the soil mix, then cover it with a thick layer of rotting hay mulch for additional soil moisture retention and to prevent the soil from drying out too rapidly.


Elderberries are stunning shrubs with stunning flowers and delicious berries that can be used in numerous recipes. While easy to grow and care for, elderberries do require some advance planning in order to ensure their seedlings flourish in their new environments.

Elderberry plants are deciduous woody perennials considered more of a shrub than tree, hardy through gardening zones 3-9 and often found near ditches or wet areas such as rivers. Elderberries do best when grown on deep, rich, well-draining soil with mulch covering.

To propagate new elderberry bushes, take pencil-thick dormant branches from existing plants in late winter or early spring – January through February is ideal in Zone 7a; but any time prior to leaf buds appearing can also work. Dip each cutting in rooting hormone before inserting it in a sterile rooting medium that stays warm and moist throughout its use; use a propagation tray or glass cover as light protection.

Once your plant has taken hold, transplant into its desired location. Full sun exposure should be the goal; partially shaded locations are fine as long as enough light comes through during the rest of the day. Avoid sites prone to standing water and poor air circulation as these could increase disease risks in your shrubs.

Once your shrubs have established themselves in their new environments, be sure to provide enough water. Regular watering for at least the first year after transplant may help ensure healthy conditions, before gradually decreasing frequency during hotter seasons.

Elderberry bushes are popular garden additions due to their beautiful, vibrant berries; however, without proper management they can quickly become invasive plants that take over an area. As such, it’s crucial that their population be controlled using physical barriers or repellents that deter deer and squirrels from eating the berries.


Elderberries are easy-to-grow plants that add an attractive addition to any landscape. Not only do these multipurpose shrubs produce delicious berries and flowers, they can also be used in herbal medicine remedies. Elderberries prefer full sun but can thrive even under partial shade conditions. Ample moisture and drainage is required to avoid root rot issues while ample space must be provided for their roots to spread out freely.

Success of this type of plant relies on proper soil amendment and mulch. When planting this type of crop, add 2 to 3 inches of shredded bark or hay around each plant’s base for better moisture retention and slow-release fertilization. An extra layer of 2-4 inches can also protect it against extreme temperatures or winds.

This hardy shrub doesn’t have particular preferences when it comes to growing conditions, though they do prefer cooler than sweltering conditions and intolerant of wet, soggy soil. Good drainage is also required in order to avoid root fungus issues – to guarantee this, place them in an area with adequate sunlight with adequate drainage as well as adding rich compost amendments for increased nutrition in their soil environment.

Maintain your shrubs by giving them regular prunings to promote good health, increase fruit production and decrease disease risks. Remove all dead or damaged twigs as well as suckers that form at the base of the plant for optimal performance.

Pests that threaten elderberries include stalk borer beetles and the invasive Drosophila fly, which feasts upon ripening fruit. Insecticidal sprays may help control Drosophila fly populations while planting in raised beds or placing plastic mulches at the base of plants may deter borer beetles from disrupting growth.

At first, when planting elderberry bushes, expect small clusters of white flowers to appear, followed by harvests of fresh or medicinal berries that can be enjoyed fresh or used medicinally. Berries should reach maturity when their color begins to darken to either purple or black in hue, although early harvesting is possible depending on your climate conditions.


  • 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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