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The Best Time to Divide Elderberry Plants

Michael Gonzales
January 5, 2024

Elderberry plants thrive in many types of soil conditions and full sunlight conditions. When planting, add compost as part of the mix, and feed each year with a balanced fertilizer before spring arrives.

Black Lace(r) elderberries thrive with shallow roots and thrive when provided with ample mulching, while they tolerate wet soil environments well.


Elderberries (Sambucus nigra and Sambucus canadensis) are versatile shrubs with stunning foliage that offer both beauty and healthful berries, making them easy to cultivate regardless of sun/part shade exposure and adaptable enough to thrive in any variety of soil conditions. Their flowers can be used for syrups and medicinal applications while the fruits themselves can be enjoyed fresh, dried or prepared into juices/preserves for consumption or cooking into juices/preserves for juicers/preservers etc.

Black elderberry plants are popular garden options due to their beautiful purple-black berries that produce stunning contrast against deep green foliage and light-pink or white blooms that bloom late spring/early summer.

While this plant is drought tolerant, its optimal environment includes rich yet slightly acidic soil with well-drained drainage channels and sunny to part-shade conditions. Clay soils tend to be particularly well tolerated. Ideal environments for this shrub would include wooded areas where other shrubs or perennials require similar growing conditions – but don’t limit yourself only planting one!

Elderberry can thrive in various settings due to its versatility. It makes an excellent choice for slope plantings where water drainage may be an issue; however, regular irrigation must follow planting as well as an annual application of compost or organic fertilizer to boost performance and yield.

Elderberry bushes have shallow-rooted systems and must be transplanted carefully in order to avoid damage or root rot. Transplanting should occur either during their dormant stage in autumn, or the spring after the last frost date in spring. To prepare a planting site before transplanting begins, dig a hole several times larger than their root ball size, loosen its roots, and fill the hole with equal parts soil and compost mixture (using an eyedropper if possible).

Once transplanted, cover its roots with 3-4″ of mulch to protect from weed competition for moisture and help retain soil moisture for the first year after planting. Water your new elderberry once or twice weekly during its first year until established.


Black elderberries (Sambucus canadensis) and their dark purple berries of Sambucus nigra make beautiful features in any garden, but these shrubs also provide culinary and medicinal uses beyond simply ornamentation. You can use their fresh berries in jellies, syrups, jams and pies, make herbal tinctures against colds flus and allergies or provide shelter for birds nesting therein. Elderberries provide shelter from harsh weather while providing habitat.

These plants are hardy in most USDA zones, though your climate will ultimately determine whether you can grow them successfully. Both species thrive in cool, moist climates; both can tolerate partial shade as long as their soil drains properly; they tolerate wet conditions but not standing water where root rot can form.

Keeping elderberry bushes healthy is key to producing abundant harvests of berries. Regular pruning increases production; hedges or spread-out shrubs may even be pruned into hedges for easier harvests; for those willing to put in extra work, training them into small trees could even be possible!

After pruning, apply a 3-in. layer of wood chips or compost as mulch to keep the ground cooler while improving soil quality and decreasing watering needs. Elderberry shrubs tend to thrive near wetlands in nature; in summertime however, these plants may suffer from lack of nutrients, so it’s vital that they receive sufficient amounts of moisture.

Watering elderberries early morning is ideal, to prevent foliage and fruit wilting in hot weather. A watering can or watering hose are both available, though rain usually provides sufficient hydration during warm spells. When using either, be sure to do it slowly and deeply so the roots get saturated – any dry soil could lead to stem rot or other diseases plaguing these plants; soil tests will help you determine the ideal pH levels and nutrients in your area; although natural loam is preferable when planting elderberries but any well-draining and fertile ground will do.


Black elderberries can be grown from seed easily. To collect them at their optimal stage of maturity, wait until late summer or early fall, when their seeds have fully ripened. Once collected, simply press them between your fingers until the pulp separates itself from them for easy extraction of seeds. Once the seeds have been cleaned and prepared, they should be planted in early spring in a sunny bed with light mulching. Well-draining soil works best for this type of planting; seeds should be planted 1/4″ deep in rows 2′ apart with frequent watering to keep the soil moist without becoming waterlogged. For those without much experience growing plants from seed, Raintree Nursery or Strictly Medicinal Seeds offer various elderberry starts or seeds available for purchase if you want an easier option.

Elderberries can be propagated easily using cuttings, which makes this an easy and straightforward way to expand your plant colony or share its beauty with others. Cuttings should be planted between late winter and early spring while they’re still dormant. Select a healthy branch with at least one bud. Cut the stem at an angle near this bud before cutting down to form its root end – if your soil doesn’t drain well add soil-less potting mix, sand, or perlite before planting your cutting. Before planting be sure dipping its cut end in rooting hormone for added effect – to give this plant every chance of survival!

Elderberry plants are highly resilient plants once established; however, the shrub can quickly become overgrown without regular pruning and training. Pruning should include trimming lateral branches back to a few buds as well as removing suckers as they form in order to keep the bush under control. It is best practiced prior to commencing a new growth cycle by pruning elderberry bushes in autumn before they start their next cycle of growth.

Elderberries require adequate nutrition in order to thrive and produce large harvests of berries. As soon as spring arrives, make sure that your elderberries receive a slow-release organic liquid or granular product to give their plants a quick start this season with vital vitamins and minerals they require for growth. This will give them a much-needed boost of essential nutrients needed for fruiting production.


Elderberries are relatively care-free to cultivate, with only minimal special care requirements. They prefer cool temperate climates with ample rainfall throughout their growing season; failing that, adequate irrigation should ensure healthy roots that will eventually form strong branches without root rot and die back completely or wither away completely. A layer of compost mulching may help preserve moisture in the soil for greater success in this regard.

Sambucus canadensis and Sambucus nigra are hardy in USDA Zones 3-9 and will tolerate partial shade in warmer zones. Both varieties tend to thrive in slightly acidic or neutral soil that drains well, preferring slightly acidic environments over neutral ones.

Flower and fruit production will benefit from being grown in full sun or partial shade areas, with more sunshine providing optimal conditions. They may require extra water during dry spells in hotter weather to stay alive and blooming.

Planting should take place in spring after any risk of frost has passed, at least 3 feet apart for growth and cross pollination purposes. They’re fast growers that will quickly fill out any additional space quickly.

Pruning elderberries is best done annually during winter when they are dormant to promote branching and maintain manageable height. Trim branches to just above their second or third set of leaves and remove any dead wood; although elderberries can produce fruit on their own, producing even more when pollinated with another cultivar nearby.

Elderberries can be susceptible to pests and diseases such as aphids, black spot and leaf blight as well as Botrytis cinerea (botrytis). Being proactive about controlling these issues will go a long way toward maintaining healthy plants.

Elderberries can thrive without needing fertilizers; however, if you decide to apply one it is generally recommended that only an equal-content fertilizer be applied during their initial year of cultivation, when they will be establishing themselves. After this initial year of growth has concluded a balanced fertilizer can be applied annually in early spring to encourage vigorous and prolific growth.


  • 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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