How to Grow Elderberries from Cuttings
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Elderberries are an awesome addition to any farm or homestead; the flowers can be used to infuse tea and other herbal products and the ripe berries can be used for baking, cooking, or winemaking among other uses.
The medicinal properties of elderberries are also incredibly valuable; we use homemade elderberry syrup almost all winter at our house!
Growing elderberries is actually pretty easy, and once you have a plant or two you can multiply your berry patch (or share it with others) simply by taking cuttings from your plants and propagating them!
We have three full-grown elderberry bushes (Sambucus nigra) and this year we took about 30 cuttings to propagate so that we could expand our own collection and share with friends and neighbors.
There are several methods for taking cuttings from elderberries but this article describes the process of using hardwood cuttings to propagate during the winter or early spring.
The process is ridiculously simple!
STEP ONE: Cut Shoots from your Plants
In February or March when your elderberry plant is still dormant, begin taking cuttings. Choose shoots that are spread out from the main base of the plant and are about a finger’s with (anything much smaller should be left to grow for another year or two). Cut the shoot at an angle, as low to the ground as you can get.
STEP TWO: Create Sections from the Cuttings
For each elderberry plant that you want to propagate, you’ll need a section of the cutting that has two “nodes” (little buds starting to come out on either side) – one toward the bottom and one toward the top. You’ll want to keep track of which way is “up” on the plant so always make sure that your bottom cut is angled and your top cut is straight. You should be able to get 4-6 sections from each shoot.
STEP THREE: Store the Cuttings (optional)
If you are not going to be planting your cuttings right away, keep them in a cool moist place until you are ready – a sealed plastic bag with moisture out of direct sunlight will work.
STEP FOUR: Plant your Cuttings
To plant your cuttings in a pot, fill a medium-sized container (we use empty quart-sized yogurt containers with holes drilled in the bottom) about 2/3 full with potting soil enriched with compost if you have it. Bury the bottom “node” (buds) of your cutting about 2 inches below the soil. Put these pots in a cool area instead of a warm greenhouse so that the top does not leaf out too much before the roots on the bottom have time to get strong. Then, when the plants show signs of good root growth (i.e. they seem nice and rooted in the soil and buds on top are starting to pop out) you can share them or transfer them!
As described in this video, you can also plant your cuttings right into the ground before it warms up. This will help to ensure that the lower node that is under the ground grows first so that it can be established under the soil before the top of the plant starts to leaf out.
Plant your elderberry in a location with full to part-sun and acidic soil (although elderberries are not too picky about their conditions). We recommend starting a couple of shoots as you never know how many will fully “take.” You should see berries on your plant after about 2 years. We planted a shoot like this last year and by the end of the growing season it the plant was 2 feet tall with multiple shoots coming up!