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Wild Elderberries

Elderberries hanging from wild elderberry plant.

Elderberries are native to eastern North America and have many essential nutrients for health. To grow wild elderberries from your own land, identify a healthy wild plant that produces abundant fruit. Then, follow one of the three methods below. 

Method One: In summer, select healthy, undamaged stems that are changing from green to brown before berries have formed (June or July). Using sharp, clean pruners, cut stems at an angle with two to four nodes. A node is the space on the stem between leaves. Remove leaves from the lower two-thirds of the cutting. Insert two nodes into moist rooting medium made of half sand and half cocoa coir. To maintain moisture, tent with clear plastic and/or mist the plant every two to three days. Keep the rooting medium moist but not wet. A new root system should develop within six weeks. Then, transplant into potting soil. Leaf buds will often sprout several weeks before roots are developed. 

Method Two: In winter before budbreak (usually February), select healthy stems and remove the terminal bud with a horizontal cut. Harvest cuttings with three distinct nodes using an angular cut. Dormant cuttings can be directly planted into the garden or orchard. Push the angular end of the cutting into the soil so that two nodes are below the soil line. Dormant stems can be stored in a cool, dark place up to six weeks until planting. Do not allow stems to dry out. For the greatest success, root the cuttings before planting. 

Method Three: Before budbreak in late February, gently harvest four to six long lengths of roots the diameter of a pencil. Place root cuttings horizontally and cover with 3/4 to 1 inch of potting soil or a soilless medium. Keep roots warm and moist. Root cuttings often produce multiple plants.  

Any plants being propagated or grown indoors should not be planted outdoors until the risk of frost has passed.  

By Karen Cox, WVU Extension Agent – Ohio County