How to Root Elderberry Cuttings

How to Root Elderberry Cuttings

At Norm’s Farms, we carefully prepare our elderberry cuttings in the winter after the elderberries have lost all their leaves and are fully dormant. 

Each cutting is made in the same way with the slope cut located at the “rooting end” of the cutting and the flat cut at the “leafing end” of the cutting. 

Each of our cuttings has at least two node pairs as well. These node pairs will produce roots and new elderberry shoots below ground and leaves above.

Norm's Farms cuttings are shipped after February 1 of each year.  When you receive your cuttings, you'll need a few supplies to root them.  Elderberries root best in cold to cool weather, and typically take 8 to 10 weeks to develop enough roots to allow them to be transplanted.


To get your cuttings rooted you will need the following supplies:

  1. Rooting hormone or rooting stimulant, such as naturally found in honey, or willow bark or you can purchase a rooting stimulant off the shelf.
  2. Large pots
  3. Soil

Elderberry Cuttings are propagated following typical hard wood propagation techniques.  

 When you receive your cuttings the first thing you want to do is soak them in well water or distilled water for 24 hours. Fill a large glass container such as a canning jar with the water and place your cuttings in the water, angle side down 

Place the jar in a cool location away from direct sunlight and let sit for 24 hours.  After the 24-hour soak period it's time to prepare the cuttings for planting.

Remove the cuttings from the container of (well or distilled) water and place them on a paper towel to air dry for a couple of minutes. Empty a small amount of rooting stimulant into a clean bowl.  Dust the angled end of the cutting with rooting stimulant and tap the cutting against the side of the bowl to remove the excess.

 Steps to root elderberry cuttingsHow to propagate elderberry cuttings

 Using a rooting stimulant helps prevent fungus and bacteria from infecting your cuttings and helps speed the rooting process. Most commercially available rooting stimulants (also known as hormones) contain a synthetic version of a class of plant hormones called auxins.   These synthetic hormones are called IBA or NAA.  Due to their synthetic nature, IBA and NAA are not approved for use in certified organic crop production. However, many gardeners and farmers--who lean organic, but choose not to be certified--use IBA and NAA, believing that these chemicals do not negatively affect the quality of their produce. 

If you want to use only natural products, both honey and willow bark water are reported to work well as a rooting stimulant.

Fill a large container with a soil and using your clean index finger or a pencil, create a hole in the potting mix into which you will insert the cutting.  Doing so helps to ensure that you won't knock off too much of the rooting hormone when you plant your cuttings.

Plant up to three cuttings in each large pot by carefully inserting the angled end dusted with rooting hormone into the soil. Be sure to leave the top nodes located near the flat end of the cutting exposed as this is where the new elderberry plant will develop leaves.

Root elderberry cuttings easilyElderberry cutting propagation

Rooting elderberry cuttings guide

Root your cuttings indoors in an unheated, sheltered and shady spot, be sure to check the pots weekly to ensure that the soil is still moist, and water as needed.  Keep the pot tented, as shown above, until the cuttings have rooted well.  Placing the pot in a tray to collect any water that runs out of the pot is also a good idea. After 10 to 12 weeks the plant will be ready to transplant.

Elderberry cuttings rooting tips

Root and Shoot Growth after 6 weeks

The best permanent location for an elderberry bush is one that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day and allows the elderberry to get about 10 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet around.  Elderberry is one of those plants that "sleeps, creeps and then leaps", meaning that it spends most of its first year establishing a good root system, begins to take off on the second year, and then grows vigorously during its third year.  You can control the size of your elderberry bush by pruning away the old third year wood and removing any canes that are growing where you don't want them to be. 

Elderberry cuttings rooting process

Root and New Shoot Growth after 12 weeks

Growing elderberry from cuttings

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