• How to Make Your Own Elderberry Cuttings

November 04, 2017

Elderberry is gaining in both recognition and popularity in the US. Many people are interested in establishing an elderberry bush or two in their garden or back yard. Potted elderberry bushes can be purchased on line and at some nurseries specializing in native species. Through research done at the University of Missouri and other universities a few named varieties or our native elderberry, Sambucus canadensis ssp nigra, have been established. Those named varieties include Bob Gordon, York, Nova, Wyldewood, Adams and Ranch. These varieties continue to be studied and improved through selection for desired traits.

Through our own growing experience, we have become quite fond of both Bob Gordon and York because they seem to be the hardiest and produce the biggest, sweetest berries. We propagate our elderberries using woody cuttings, and we take the cuttings from the hardiest and healthiest bushes we have in our orchard. You can purchase cuttings directly from us or, if you are the adventurous type, you might want to try making your own elderberry woody cuttings. All you need is a healthy elderberry bush with good attributes, some clippers, a pot and potting soil or a prepared bed, and time. That elderberry bush could easily be one growing in the wild! Many wildcrafters return to their favorite wild elderberry bush each year because it reliably produces large quantities of delicious berries and such a specimen is a great choice for propagation. A wild specimen that is doing well in your neighborhood or county will likely do well in your yard too.

What are the attributes you should be looking for in a healthy elderberry bush? The best way to determine if you have a good candidate for cuttings is to observe it over the growing season, paying special attention to its flowering and fruiting habits. Is it sending up big, bright green new canes each year? Does it produce an abundance of large creamy white flower heads? Does it produce nice big berry clusters? Do the berry clusters tend to ripen evenly and do the berries have a good flavor? If the answer is yes to all of these questions, you have found your specimen!

Winter is the time to propagate elderberry by taking cuttings from 2 or 3-year-old canes. The pictures for this blog post were taken in early November in order to demonstrate the cutting techniques to create a woody cutting.  We are experiencing a very warm fall and have not yet had a hard freeze. To be successful, please take your cuttings after the elderberry bush has dropped all its leaves and the weather has turned consistently cold, generally after the first hard freeze.  Store your cuttings in your refrigerator until you are ready to root them.

The following steps and accompanying pictures are all you need to make your own woody elderberry cuttings. For rooting instructions, please read our blog entitled How to Root Elderberry Cuttings.

 

 

Harvesting an Elderberry Cane
Step 1. Harvest an Elderberry Cane.
Choose a live cane that is about ¾ to 1 inch in diameter at the ground. Nick the bark just above the ground to make sure the cane is a live one. A live cane will be bright green and white under the bark. A dead cane will be dull brown in color, dry and brittle with no shading of green or white when you pull the bark back.


Identifying Leaf Nodes
Step 2. Identify the Leaf Nodes.
This picture identifies the leaf nodes on a woody cutting of elderberry cane. Leaf nodes are the spot on an elderberry cane where next year's leaves will emerge.  The amazing thing about leaf nodes is that they will also produce roots if placed under ground!  Each cutting must contain two leaf node pairs to grow. The bottom set of leaf nodes will produce both roots and cane shoots, while the upper pair of leaf nodes will produce leaves. 


Angled cut below the nodes
Step 3. Make the Angled Cut
The angled cut serves two purposes. The first purpose is that it identifies the end of the cutting that goes in the ground, and the second purpose is that an angled cut is easier to jab into the ground or into a pot of soil than a flat cut. The angled cut should be made about 1/2 to 3/4 inch below a leaf node pair.


Horizontal Cut above a Leaf Node Pair
Step 4. Make the Flat Cut
The flat cut also serves two purposes. The flat cut identifies the end of the cutting that belongs above ground and it gives you a flat surface for applying pressure if you are jabbing the cutting directly in the ground. The flat cut should be made about ½ to ¾ inches above a node pair.


Elderberry Woody Cutting with Two Leaf Node Pairs
Step 5. Ensure the Woody Cutting has Two Leaf Node Pairs
As this pictures shows, all woody cuttings should have two leaf node pairs. This cutting is ready to be planted and rooted. For information regarding how to root elderberry cuttings please see our post entitled How to Root Elderberry Cuttings.





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