Germinating Elderberry Seeds – Elderberry Seed Growing Tips

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If you are cultivating elderberries for commercial or personal harvest, growing elderberry from seed may not be the most efficient way to go. However, it’s very inexpensive and entirely possible as long as you bring patience to the job. Elderberry seed propagation is a bit more complex than the same procedure with other plants. Be sure to read up on how to proceed with elderberry seed growing to avoid disappointment. Read on for all the information you need to propagate elderberry seeds.

Growing Shrubs from Elderberry Seeds

Pretty and practical, elderberry shrubs (Sambucus spp.) decorate your yard with showy flowers that later become dark purple berries. The shrubs can be propagated from cuttings, which produce plants that are biologically identical to the parents.

It’s also possible to get new plants by growing elderberry from seed. For those who have elderberry plants already, it’s easy and free to obtain seeds since they are found in every berry. However, plants produced from elderberry seed growing may not look like the parent plant or produce berries at the same time since they are pollinated by other plants. 

Germinating Elderberry Seeds

Elderberry seeds have a thick, tough seed coat and what botanists call “natural dormancy.” This means that the seeds must obtain optimal conditions before waking up from their deep sleep. In the case of elderberries, the seeds must be stratified twice. This is not difficult, but it takes time, up to seven months to complete.

Elderberry Seed Propagation

The stratification required to start propagating elderberry from seed should mimic nature’s cycle. First, expose seeds to warm conditions – like the normal conditions found indoors – for several months. This is followed by winter temperatures for another three months. 

Experts suggest you mix the seeds into a well-draining substrate like a mixture of compost and sharp sand. This should be moist but not wet and there should be enough to keep the seeds apart from one another. 

Put the mixture and seeds into a large zip-lock bag and let it sit somewhere with temperatures of around 68 degrees F. (20 C.) for 10 to 12 weeks. After that, place it in the refrigerator at 39 degrees F. (4 C.) for 14 to 16 weeks. At this point, the seeds can be sown in an outdoor seedbed, keep moist and wait for the seedlings to appear. After a year or two, move them to their final location.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.