How to Prune Common Elderberry


Two varieties of Common Elderberry are native to the United States -- Sambucus Canadensis in the east and Sambucus cerulea in the west. It has white flowers in the summer, followed by purplish-black or grayish-blue berries in the fall. The berries can be used to make jam, jelly or wine. Common Elderberry is a deciduous shrub that forms a dense thicket of many canes. Fruits are produced on canes that are 1 to 3 years old, so remove older canes for the best fruit production.

Step 1

Remove old canes, as well as thin and dead canes, annually. Use lopping shears for limbs larger than 1 ½ inches and hand pruners for smaller limbs.

Step 2

Determine which canes are more than 3 years old. Use lopping shears to cut the older canes at a 30-degree angle at ground level.

Step 3

Remove dead canes by cutting at a 30-degree angle at ground level with lopping shears. This will help to maintain the health of the plant.

Step 4

Weak or thin canes have little or no foliage and do not appear sturdy enough to hold up a cluster of flowers or fruit. Thin out these canes by cutting at a 30-degree angle at ground level with lopping shears. This will encourage the growth of new canes.

Step 5

Use hand pruners to remove dead or damaged twigs at the tip of the canes. Cut at a 30-degree angle at the first green node or joint.

Step 6

Use lopping shears or hand pruners to remove canes that spoil the shape of the plant. Cut at a 30-degree angle at ground level.

Things You'll Need

  • Lopping shears
  • Hand pruners


  • New Mexico State University
  • University of Wisconsin Extension

Who Can Help

  • Elderberry
Keywords: prune Common Elderberry, prune Elderberry, prune Elderberry shrub

About this Author

Melody Lee began working as a reporter and copywriter for the "Jasper News" in 2004 and was promoted to editor in 2005. She also edits magazine articles and books. Lee holds a degree in landscape design, is a Florida Master Gardener, and has more than 25 years of gardening experience.