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How to Grow an Elderberry Tree From Seeds

By Jennifer Loucks ; Updated September 21, 2017

The elderberry is a perennial shrub that is hardy in USDA growing zones 4 and higher. The shrub produces a white scented flower and small purple berry in the summer months. Propagation occurs through seed germination, however patience is required during the process as it may take up to two years to complete. The shrub grows quickly once seedlings are present and will reach maturity in three to four years. Elderberries are used in the food production of pies, jams and jelly.

Planting in the ground

Harvest elderberry fruit when ripe. Lay berries in a single layer on a flat surface to dry.

Smash dried fruit with water gently in a blender so the seeds float to the top. Separate the seeds from the mixture. Air-dry the seeds for planting or storage.

Store the seeds at a temperature of 41 degrees F if not planting. The seeds will store for up to two years.

Sow the seeds in the fall season at a depth of one-fourth inches and density of 35 plants per square foot of area. Cover the seed with a three-eighths inch layer of sawdust mulch.

Mark the planting area and monitor as germination will not be completed until the second spring after planting.

Water the seed planting area to keep the soil moist. Gently remove weed growth.

Planting in pots

Stratify the seeds for two months in a greenhouse by placing them in a mixture of sand, peat and vermiculite. Keep the temperature at 70 to 85 degrees F during the process.

Place the seeds just under the soil surface of seed starting trays filled with moist seed starting media. Continue to germinate the seeds in a greenhouse.

Keep the soil moist but not wet during germination.

Transplant the seedlings into three inch pots for continued growth.

Transplant the seedlings outdoors in the fall season once they reach six to eight months of age. Water the transplant in areas where the soil is dry.


Things You Will Need

  • Elderberries
  • Blender
  • Shovel
  • Water
  • Greenhouse
  • Sand
  • Peat
  • Vermiculite
  • Seed starting soil
  • Seed starting tray
  • Three-inch pots


  • Plant elderberries in a well drained soil that is slightly acidic. Work compost into the soil prior to planting to increase the nutrient value.

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.