Planting Guide Home

St Lawrence Nurseries
325 State Hwy 345
Potsdam, NY 13676



Rooted cuttings of elderberries, unlike seedlings, are genetically true to name.  On receipt, these cuttings are not much to look at: a mass of roots with an “eye” or possibly one cut-off stem. Some cuttings are nondescript, making it hard to determine which part will give rise to the stem.  Since it is important that the plant not be placed in the ground “upside down” (in which case it will probably fail to come up,) look carefully for either a short above-ground stem or an “eye” similar to a large bud.  This “eye” should be planted at about ground level, with the rest of the cutting below ground.  In the case of multiple “eyes”, try to plant such that each eye remains at about ground level.  From such humble beginnings, elderberries will often grow 5 to 8 feet the first year and fruit heavily the second year.

Elderberry plants should be spaced 4 to 8 feet apart, with about 6-10 feet between rows.  Rich loams and clays with slightly wet soil conditions are best suited to growing elderberries.  Moist loose soils will encourage elders to root and spread freely; however, they will drown in permanently soggy locations.  Soil pH should be on the “sweet” side of neutral (slightly above 7.0.)  Heavy applications of mulch encourage healthy production of new canes, as well as reducing weed competition, which can  crowd out the elder root system.  When hoeing around the base of elder plants, be careful not to sever roots that are close to the surface.

Under good growing conditions, canes will often fruit the first year. However, if you are not vigilant, the birds will harvest most of the fruit for you! Also, deer love to browse elderberry plants, so be sure to fence your patch. With regular applications of mulch, elderberries should fruit copiously for 20 to 30 years.  Healthy plants may be expected to produce 12-15 lbs. of fruit per plant. Regular pruning will help to maintain elderberry plants in top condition.  Canes older than 3 or 4 years should be removed, leaving an even mix of 1, 2 and 3-year-old canes.