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How to Propagate Elderberry Plants

By Jennifer Loucks ; Updated September 21, 2017
Elderberry tree with ripe berries.
elderberries image by Alison Bowden from Fotolia.com

The elderberry is a large shrub or small tree that produces small berries used for jam and jelly. The plant is native to the United States and has been referred to as a ditch weed, as it grows wild in many areas. Propagate elderberry plants by taking softwood stem cuttings in late spring through early summer, preferably during the morning hours when the air temperature is cooler. Softwood cuttings are tender and dry out quickly but have the benefit of rooting quickly.

Cut 6-inch softwood sections of elderberry stems with a sharp knife. The stem sections should be from new growth that is beginning to firm and mature. Place the elderberry stems in a plastic bag with a damp towel to prevent drying.

Prepare a rooting tray by filling it with a well-draining rooting medium. Moisten the medium with water so it is damp but not wet.

Remove the leaves from the lower 3 inches of the elderberry stems. Cut upper stem leaves in half if they are large. This will conserve space in the rooting tray and lower the amount of moisture required by the stem.

Dip the cut end of the elderberry stem into rooting hormone. Tap the stem to remove excess hormone and stick it into the rooting medium at a depth of 3 inches. Place the stems in the rooting tray so the leaves do not touch each other.

Mist the cuttings and medium with water and place the tray inside a clear plastic bag to create a humid environment. Set the tray in a warm location with filtered sunlight. The top of a refrigerator works well for root development as long as light is available.

Monitor the moisture level of the rooting medium to prevent it from drying during the rooting process. Open the plastic bag several times a week to refresh the air. Mist the medium with water if necessary.

Pull on the elderberry stems after four weeks of growth to see if there is resistance from root development. Grow the stems until the roots reach 1 inch in length.

Transplant the elderberry stems to individual growing containers filled with a well-draining potting soil. Grow the cuttings indoors or in a protected environment for the first year.


Things You Will Need

  • Sharp knife
  • Plastic bag
  • Damp towel
  • Rooting tray
  • Rooting medium
  • Water
  • Rooting hormone
  • Water mister
  • Plastic covering
  • 4-inch growing containers
  • Well-draining potting soil


  • Disinfect cuttings tools with isopropyl alcohol prior to using to prevent a spread of disease. Let the tools dry before making cuts.

About the Author


Jennifer Loucks has been writing since 1998. She previously worked as a technical writer for a software development company, creating software documentation, help documents and training curriculum. She now writes hobby-based articles on cooking, gardening, sewing and running. Loucks also trains for full marathons, half-marathons and shorter distance running. She holds a Bachelor of Science in animal science and business from University of Wisconsin-River Falls.