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How to Grow

Elderberry cuttings are only available during the winter dormant season till very early spring. If something is out of stock and to get a reminder when they become available, sign up to newsletter (scroll to bottom of page & enter email).

ripe elderberries

Elderberry is one of the easiest plants to start from cuttings out there.

So easy in fact that buying a rooted plant is hardly worth the hassle and higher cost. Cuttings want to live and will grow roots quickly!

If you are wondering: How do I grow elderberry in Canada? Follow these steps and you're on your way to success! 
 

HOW DO I STORE ELDERBERRY CUTTINGS? 

Place elderberry cuttings in the fridge until planting time. Ensure bag remains sealed so they don’t dry out. Check on them, there should be some condensation inside the bag. You can add a drop or two of water, if needed.

 

HOW LONG CAN I KEEP ELDERBERRY CUTTINGS IN THE FRIDGE?

Elderberry cuttings can be stored till planting time in spring in a fridge (1°C is ideal but regular fridge temperature is okay) and ensure they don’t dry out. 

 

WHEN SHOULD I PLANT ELDERBERRY CUTTINGS?

Best time to plant elderberry cuttings is first thing in spring as soon as the ground can be worked. Basically once the snow has melted and the ground has thawed. Frost is fine. As long as the soil is not freezing at night, it’s not too early to plant. 

But you must plant them before it gets hot. Planting in June, in our location is too late and lowers success.

 

HOW DO I START ELDERBERRY CUTTINGS?

  1. Plant first thing in the spring.
  2. Place cutting "angled cut side" down with bottom node buried about 3 inches below the soil. The top node must stick out above soil. 
  3. Keep soil sufficiently moist in well drained soil.
  4. If starting in a pot, place in a greenhouse or near a window.

TIPS: 

  • Elderberry bushes love myco (myco = mycorrhizal beneficial fungi)
  • If you need soil, Pro-Mix sells a pretty good organic myco inoculated mix.
  • Elderberry cuttings do not require any rooting hormone.
  • It’s best to grow cuttings in soil, not to start roots in water.
  • If starting in a pot, only put one cutting per pot.

 

IS IT BETTER TO PLANT AN ELDERBERRY CUTTING IN A POT OR IN THE GROUND?

Elderberry cuttings will grow vigorously in ANY good soil - provided you water them to keep the soil moist and ensure the area is free from other plants.

- GROUND: Starting cuttings directly in the ground is easiest and ideal because they can grow roots in their permanent location. Make sure there are no weeds and don’t forget to water, especially while they first grow roots and also during summer dry and hot times.

- POT: If you are new to growing, consider starting in a pot. It’s possible to have a better survival rate because it could be easier to keep an eye on them.

- GROUND & POT: We start 10-20% extra cuttings in pots in March. In April, we plant cuttings directly in the ground in their permanent location. We plant into landscape cloth so there are no weeds. By June, if any cuttings didn’t take in the ground, we replace them with the potted ones.

 

IF I START ELDERBERRY CUTTINGS IN POTS, SHOULD THEY BE INSIDE OR OUTSIDE?

Elderberry cuttings can be started in pots inside or outside as long as the soil in the pot does not freeze. Frost is fine. Put them where they get sunlight.

In the beginning of March in a greenhouse, we like to start cuttings in small pots (2’’x2’’x6’’) and plant them out in April. Basically, start 6 weeks before you intend to transplant into the ground. If your pots are bigger, it will take longer till the roots fill out. Remember to transplant before they get root bound. 

 

HOW DO I KNOW WHEN MY POTTED ELDERBERRY IS READY TO GO IN THE GROUND?

Ideally you are transplanting when enough roots have grown to fill out the pot but don’t wait so long that they become root bound. When transplanting, elderberry roots are fragile and it’s important that the soil doesn't crumble and fall apart.

  • First look at the bottom of your pot. If you see roots growing out the bottom, it’s a good sign they might be ready. 
  • With your hand covering the soil, gently tip the pot sideways/upside down.
  • Slide the pot away slowly from the soil and look to see if roots are abundant and hold the soil together well. If so, it’s ready to plant out. 
  • If not, carefully slide the pot back on and wait and check again after 1 week or more. 

 

HOW FAR APART SHOULD I SPACE ELDERBERRY BUSHES?

Plant elderberry cuttings about 6 feet apart. You can reasonably expect them to be 6-8 feet high and wide depending on fertility and how you prune in winter. And if fertility is high, or you don't prune much, they can get even bigger! For commercial elderberry farmers, plant 2-6 feet apart in rows which are 12 feet apart. 

 

WHAT CARE & NUTRIENTS DO ELDERBERRY BUSHES NEED?

Choosing a sunny location with moist, fertile, well drained soil will result in a healthy crop of elderflowers and elderberries. Elder thrives with mycorrhizal beneficial fungi

If you think your soil is lacking, consider improving fertility by adding a nice layer of compost as mulch or perhaps well composted manure. If you’re not sure what your soil is lacking, soil tests are a wonderful tool. 

 

SHOULD I MULCH MY ELDERBERRY PLANT?

Yes. Honestly, first year elderberry cuttings do not compete well with grass or weeds. So make sure there is some kind of ground cover like black plastic to entirely stop other plants from interfering with root development. Ground cover helps conserve moisture too!  

In the second or third year once elderberry roots are more established, if you use plastic you can remove it and replace with biological mulch. Wood chips, straw or leaves etc are also great at feeding the soil organisms!

 

SHOULD I PRUNE ELDERBERRY?

One purpose of pruning is to make sure your elderberry bush does not grow so tall that the flowers and fruit are out of reach and to keep the bush in a state of good health. Prune yearly in winter while the bush is dormant, starting in the 2nd year. Prune back at least 30% but you can take off up to 80%. It’s popular to cut back to 1-2 ft of height. If you’re in a shorter growing season, prune taller so the fruit ripens earlier. 

A second purpose of pruning is to renew the bush! You will know you need to prune your elderberry bush more than you did last year when you notice branches that have died back - or there are not a lot of strong, new branches that grew this growing season. 

 

WHEN & WHERE CAN I GET ELDERBERRY CUTTINGS?

Best time to take elderberry cuttings is during winter dormant time and before early spring bud break. You can take your own elderberry cuttings from bushes. You can also buy some elderberry cuttings from us here.

 

Growing elderberry can be easy and rewarding. You got this! Wishing you much success!

Your elderberry syrup farmers,

Jed & Louise, Elderberry Grove

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