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How to Propagate Sambucus Nigra

Sambucus Nigra is a large shrub with foliage in shades of dark, vivid purple and white blooms that appear in mid-summer. In late summer, Sambucus Nigra produces large clusters of dark blackish-purple berries that are more familiarly known as elderberries. The shrubs make lovely ornamental hedges and windscreens and the berries have been favored for years in teas, wines, jams, jellies and pies. Sambucus Nigra is easily propagated from softwood cuttings in early summer.

Cut several 4 to 6 inch tips from the stem of a healthy elderberry bush using a sharp knife or pruning shears. If the stem is ready to cut, it will break with a snap when it's bent. If the stem bends without breaking, it's too young. If the stem is so thick that it won't bend, it's too old.

Keep the stem cuttings cool and moist while you're working. Put the stem cuttings in a container with damp paper towels and keep them in the shade until you're ready to plant.

Fill a large plastic or clay pot with a mixture of half commercial potting mixture and half coarse sand. A two pound coffee can will work if you drill drainage holes in the bottom. Dampen the potting mixture with a spray bottle until it's damp clear through.

Strip the leaves from the bottom half of each stem cutting. Dip the cut ends in rooting hormone and plant the stem cuttings in the potting mixture with the bare stems in the soil and the leaves above the soil. Several stem cuttings can be planted in the same container as long as the stems aren't touching. Cutting off the tips of the leaves will allow more cuttings to be planted in the container and the smaller leaves will require less moisture.

Put the container in a large, clear plastic bag. If necessary, keep the plastic from dropping on the cuttings by installing a few stakes or a piece of bent coat hanger.

Keep the container in a warm room with bright light, but don't put the cuttings in bright afternoon sunlight or in a sunny window. Check the container every day, and if the soil is dry, open the plastic and mist inside until the soil is damp. It's crucial to keep the atmosphere humid, but don't overwater, as too much water will cause the cuttings to rot.

Check on the elderberry cuttings in about a month. If the cuttings are rooted, you'll feel resistance when you tug lightly on a cutting. If they aren't rooted, keep checking them every few days.

Remove the plastic when the elderberry cuttings have taken root and continue to keep the potting mixture damp. After about 10 days to two weeks, move each cutting into its own 4-inch pot filled with commercial potting soil.

Plant the elderberry bushes outdoors in autumn. The young bushes will have a better chance of survival if you plant them in a sheltered spot where they will be protected from cold and wind. Leave them there for at least a year before moving the bushes to their permanent location.

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