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How to Cultivate & Plant Elderberry Seeds

By Sarah Terry ; Updated September 21, 2017

The elderberry bush has many uses, with edible fruits and flowers that can be used for a variety of medicinal purposes and for dyes. Elderberry bushes can tolerate a wide range of soil compositions, textures and acidities, making them easy to plant and grow. To cultivate and plant elderberry seeds, you need ripe elderberries and a lot of patience during the long germination process.

Collect elderberry fruits when they are fully ripe, in late August to early September. Spread the fruits to dry in a single layer on a paper-towel-lined tray. Put the fruits in a fruit blender and pick out the seeds.

Sow your elderberry seeds directly into the ground in the fall. Alternatively, you can put the seeds through a cold-treatment (or stratification) process during winter and then sow them in the early spring. For the stratification process, simply place the dried seeds in a plastic bag filled with a handful of slightly moistened soil and store it in the refrigerator.

Till the area where you plan to sow the elderberry seeds using a pitchfork or a rototiller. Make sure the soil is moist and well-drained with an optimal pH between 5.5 and 6.5. Amend your soil with manure or compost and apply 1/8 lb. ammonium nitrate or 1/2 lb. of 10-10-10 fertilizer, prior to planting.

Plant the elderberry seeds 1/4 inch deep in the soil. Cover the seed bed with three-eighths of an inch of sawdust mulch. Try to maintain a seedling density of 35 plants per square foot.

Pull weeds by hand to avoid disturbing the seedlings’ shallow roots. After the seedlings sprout, in order to control weeds you can apply a layer of organic mulch, 1 to 2 inches deep.


Things You Will Need

  • Elderberry fruits or seeds
  • Paper towels
  • Shallow tray
  • Plastic bag
  • Pitchfork or rototiller
  • Manure or compost
  • Ammonium nitrate or 10-10-10 fertilizer
  • Sawdust mulch
  • Organic mulch


  • You can store dried elderberry seeds for several years. Place them in a jar or bag in your refrigerator for best storage, at about 41 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • When you are harvesting the elderberry fruit, be sure to remove the entire cluster of berries.


  • Whether you sow the elderberry seeds directly into the ground, provide a stratification process prior to planting or baby the seeds in a greenhouse, the seeds will not germinate completely until the second spring.
  • Contrary to popular belief, the elderberry bush does not prefer swampy or boggy areas. In fact, the plant does not tolerate poorly drained soil.

About the Author


Sarah Terry brings over 10 years of experience writing novels, business-to-business newsletters and a plethora of how-to articles. Terry has written articles and publications for a wide range of markets and subject matters, including Medicine & Health, Eli Financial, Dartnell Publications and Eli Journals.