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How to Care for Elderberry Plant

Updated: July 4, 2022

Elderberry plants are not only beautiful but also useful. They produce clusters of small, dark purple berries that are rich in antioxidants and can be used to make jams, jellies, syrups, and even wine. Elderberry plants can also be used as ornamental shrubs or small trees in gardens and landscapes. However, like any other plant, elderberry requires proper care and maintenance to thrive. In this article, we will discuss some tips on how to care for elderberry plants.


Elderberry plants prefer well-drained soil with a pH range of 5.5-6.5. They also require full sun exposure; therefore, planting them in an area that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight per day is recommended. Elderberry plants should be planted in the early spring or fall when the soil temperature is between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit.

When planting elderberry plants, make sure to dig a hole that is twice as wide as the root ball and deep enough to cover the roots but not the stem. Mix compost or aged manure into the soil to improve drainage and fertility. After planting, water the plant thoroughly and mulch around the base to retain moisture and suppress weeds.


Elderberry plants require regular watering during their growing season, which is from spring to fall. The soil should be kept moist but not waterlogged. Overwatering can cause root rot, while underwatering can lead to wilting and reduced berry production.


Pruning elderberry plants is essential for their health and productivity. It helps maintain a good shape, promotes air circulation, and stimulates new growth. Pruning should be done in late winter or early spring before new growth starts.

The first-year elderberry plants should be pruned back to about 3-4 inches above the ground after they go dormant in the fall. This encourages bushier growth and more fruiting wood in the second year. In the second and subsequent years, remove any dead, diseased, or damaged wood, and cut back one-third of the oldest wood to the ground to promote new growth.


Elderberry plants do not require heavy fertilization. However, they can benefit from a balanced fertilizer application in the spring after pruning. A slow-release granular fertilizer with a ratio of 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 can be used. Follow the instructions on the package for application rates.

Pests and Diseases

Elderberry plants are relatively resistant to pests and diseases. However, they can be affected by aphids, spider mites, and powdery mildew. Regular inspection and early intervention can prevent severe damage.

Aphids and spider mites can be controlled by spraying the plants with a strong jet of water or insecticidal soap. Powdery mildew can be prevented by planting elderberry plants in an area with good air circulation and avoiding overhead watering.


Elderberry plants usually produce fruit in late summer or early fall. The berries should be harvested when they are fully ripe, which is indicated by their dark purple color and soft texture. The berries can be harvested by cutting the entire cluster with scissors or a sharp knife.

After harvesting, remove any leaves, stems, or debris, and rinse the berries thoroughly in cold water. Elderberries can be stored in the fridge for up to one week or frozen for up to six months.

In conclusion, elderberry plants are easy to grow and maintain with proper care. By following these tips on planting, watering, pruning, fertilizing, and pest control, you can enjoy healthy and productive elderberry plants for many years.

FAQ Section

Can I grow elderberry plants in containers?

Yes, elderberry plants can be grown in containers, but they require large pots with good drainage and regular watering. Dwarf varieties such as “Laced Up” or “Black Lace” are suitable for container growing.

How long does it take for elderberry plants to produce fruit?

Elderberry plants usually start producing fruit in their second year after planting. The yield increases with age, and mature plants can produce up to 15 pounds of berries per season.

Can I propagate elderberry plants from cuttings?

Yes, elderberry plants can be propagated from hardwood cuttings taken in the late fall or winter. The cuttings should be about 8 inches long and dipped in rooting hormone before planting in well-drained soil.