Growing an Elderberry Plant from a Cutting

If you are thinking of growing an elderberry plant from a cutting here are 3 methods. 

From elderberry cutting to a well rooted elderberry plant. 

elderberry cutting started in water

Elderberry Cutting in Water - Place the hardwood elderberry cutting into an individual container with water submerging only the bottom part of the cutting, place in sunny warm indoor location.  Make sure that the water remains at 50 degrees or warmer, cold water will inhibit root development. Water will sometimes get chilled if placed near a cold window. When roots have developed, transition them to soil pots. After they have adapted to this and if the last average frost date has passed, and the soil is warmed,  transplant to their permanent home outside. Some may prefer water rooting because the root growth (or non growth) is easily visible. However roots developed in water are very fragile. The water must be changed occasionally, disturbing and possibly damaging these fragile roots. They can be transplanted directly to a permanent home from the water but expect a lower survival percentage. Transition from water to soil can be very stressful with mortality rates. ‘Water roots’ are not the same as ‘soil roots’ and the plant will need to develop soil roots upon moving.

elderberry cuttings in pot starting indoors for spring planting




Elderberry Hardwood Cutting in Pots


Place each hardwood elderberry cutting into a 4 inch pot with moistened potting soil. or one big tub as I did here.  Place in an indoor sunny warm location. Take care that soil is 50 degrees as cold soil will inhibit root development. When roots have developed, the last average frost date has passed, and the outside soil is warmed,  hardened off and transplant elderberry plant to permanent home. The survival rate of this method is good. Minimal transplant stress as long as pot dirt is moved intact. Must evaluate and meet water requirements regularly. Monitoring soil heat is important to increase survival rate. Do not place pot in window sill and not check soil temperature. 


elderberry cuttings in row

Elderberry Hardwood Cutting Directly into Permanent Home.

There are two variations to this method, winter planting and spring planting.

1)Planting in winter the cutting is placed in its permanent home as soon as it is acquired. The cutting should not have been warmed so that the cutting is still ‘sleeping’ in dormancy. Dig a small hole where you want the elderberry to grow and water to set soil. When temperatures outside begin to warm, make sure the soil nearest cutting never drys out. This method allows mother nature and the weather to ‘wake’ the stick from dormancy when the conditions become right for it to grow.

2) Spring outdoor planting requires that you mimic winter until the weather is right to plant outside. You can do this by keeping bottoms of cuttings in moist soil in refrigerator. Many growers ship with cutting bottoms in closed bags of moist soil. If this is the case you will only need to spritz the soil occasionally. When temperatures outside have warmed and the soil is 50 degrees, dig a small hole where you want elderberry plants to be, place cutting in hole with bottom nodes 2-3 inches below the soil level line and water in.  It is very important to monitor watering needs in a direct planting as the roots will be so tiny that they can’t reach out for more water. Consider placing a mulch over the base of the stick to help retain moisture for roots. Cuttings done in direct method planting are never subjected to the stress of transplanting. Growth rates will be behind indoor starting methods (but will even out long before berry time.) This method has the least amount of effort and time for results that you will get. Even with an average survival rate you may end up with a few empty spots in a row or a planting area. A prevention for holes in your row would be to start 2-3 cuttings indoors at the same time you plant outdoors with spring planting or winter planting. When you can tell an outdoor plant in your row is not going to make it, replace it with one of your indoor starters. If they all survive, plant indoor starters at the end of your row.

Plant Spacing

My acre plant spacing is four feet between plants and 10 feet between each row. Four feet between the plants has worked out fine. Ten feet could be improved. In hindsight I would allow 15 feet between rows. In the beginning years the ten feet spacing was more than wide enough to allow tractor passage for our 5 foot wide tractor between the rows. After the third year the the growth of the elderberry plants made the tractor no longer an option. In the years that I do not prune the elderberry plants to the ground the sides of all elderberry plants must be trimmed back to even allow for mower passage. If the rows had been 15 feet apart it would not necessitate forced side trimming for mower passage, 15 feet row spacing during the dormant times would allow tractor passage. Being able to drive the tractor down the rows during the dormant season would help in the removal of dead branches.  

Elderberry cuttings are typically sold between January and March.