Elder, or elderberry, is a perennial shrub with both European and American varieties. The European variety grows up to 22 feet (7 meters), and the American variety up to 12 feet (3 meters). Plants produce scented white flowers in summer, then fruit. Those starting elderberry from seed need patience—they may not germinate for 2-5 years, thus, seedlings shouldn't be expected for at least two springs after planting. After emerging from the soil, it takes as little as 2-3 years for elderberry to flower and fruit and only 3-4 years to reach full-size.
Sowing Seeds Directly to Soil
Choose a location to sow the seeds. Elderberry likes moist, well-drained soil in the sun, though it can tolerate some shade. Elderberry can be found natively along stream banks.
Plant in autumn about a 1/4 inch deep at a density of about 35 plants per square foot in rich soil.
Cover with about 3/8 inch of sawdust mulch.
Starting Seed in a Greenhouse
Stratify seeds by placing a layer of seeds in a warm, moist mixture of peat, vermiculite and sand for 2 months. The mix should be kept at 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 31 degrees Centigrade).
Plant seeds in flats close to the soil surface. Flats may contain hundreds of seeds.
Pot seedlings in deep 3-inch pots.
Choose the eventual outdoor location of seedlings.
Transplant seedlings to the outdoor location in either fall or spring when they are 6-8 months old.
Give seedlings moisture if you're planting during a dry season, to establish them.