Elderberry is a fruit shrub whose berries are typically harvested and made into jams, jellies, pies and juice. They grow fast and achieve heights of 8 to 12 inches. The plants should be put in the ground in the early spring in a spot with good soil. Elderberry shrubs usually bloom in the summer and are most successful if they have another elderberry bush within 60 feet. New canes grow every year, but they don't have side shoots. Instead, there are large clusters on the ends of the canes. Little pruning should be done to the canes to ensure the health of the elderberry bush.
Use the first year of growth as an opportunity to cut back new flower sprouts to the desired length with a hand pruner. This will ensure the bush is the size you want it.
Cut one or two overly thick canes each year during the winter. These canes grow at the center of the plant. Use hand pruners to cut them at their base.
Remove canes that are older than 3 years. This will encourage growth of new, more fruitful canes.
Use hand pruners to cut off all broken, dead and weak canes before spring growth starts. Cut them at the point where they meet the bulk of the bush. As you thin, be sure that an equal number of 1-, 2- and 3-year-old canes remain in the bush.
Trim off small, dead twigs that grow near the top of the elderberry canes. They are often damaged by the winter freeze.