How to prune elderberry?

Softwood Cuttings

These must be taken while the elderberry plant is growing, sometime before mid-July in the Midwestern region of the US. (Note that the exact time of year may vary slightly, depending on your location.)

The process involves cutting three to six inches of the greenest tips of the branches. You can strip the leaves, keeping just one main leaf at the end of each branch intact.

To keep your softwood cuttings fresh, submerge the cut ends in a mason jar of water for about 12 hours before placing each in soil to root, with the proper pH for elderberries (5.5-6.6).

Small seed starting containers may be used to allow the cuttings to grow strong roots before transplanting to their forever spot in the yard or garden. This should be done sometime in the fall.

If you are sure that the new cuttings won’t be disturbed, you may place them directly in the soil after the 12-hour soaking period instead.

Be sure to keep the soil around the new planting moist, but not to the point of creating standing water. The cuttings should take root and start to grow into mini versions of the original plant within a few weeks!

Why You Should Grow Your Own

For now, the ditches and wetlands of the Nebraska River Valley are overgrown with these amazing berry bushes. But this could change at any moment.

With changes in landscape due to farming and modernization, the elderberry plant could cease to exist in the wild acres near my home.

That’s why I’ve taken it upon myself to be purposeful in my planting of these hearty and beautiful bushes.

Adding them to my orchard, along the fence lines of my pasture, and in the corners of my yard ensures that my family will have fresh berries every year – regardless of what happens in the wild. We know so much about this plant to help with successful planting and care.

What’s stopping you from trying out this plant that’s rich in history (and antioxidants)? Grow your own this year, by grabbing a few hearty seedlings from your favorite garden center or online source (or a friendly neighbor with cuttings to spare)!

Do you have a favorite elderberry recipe that you’d like to share? Please let us know in the comments below – we’re always looking for new ways to enjoy this delicious homegrown fruit.

And if you’re looking for other berry guides, check these out:

  • The Ultimate Fall Berry Planting Guide
  • Grow Your Own Gorgeous Mulberry Trees
  • How to Plant and Grow Ground Cherry, A Tasty Tropical Berry


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The staff at Gardener’s Path are not medical professionals and this article should not be construed as medical advice intended to assess, diagnose, prescribe, or promise cure. Gardener’s Path and Ask the Experts, LLC assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet or using plant-based remedies or supplements for health and wellness.

About Linsey Knerl

Born and raised in a small Nebraska town, Linsey Knerl is a homeschooling mother of six who enjoys blogging and working hard on her 3 1/2-acre Nebraska homestead. When she’s not working on her next fantasy novel, you will find her in her kitchen, perfecting the Danish recipes of her grandmother with those special ingredients you can only find in a backyard garden.

View full sizeKym PokornyI love my Sambucus ‘Black Lace,’ but have to prune it at least once a year to keep it under control.

Funny how things always take longer than you think. Well, not really funny. More like aggravating. Such was the case Sunday, when I had to

before I got to the fun part on my to-do list: filling in pots and my front beds.

for that purpose. I don’t know what I’d do without them. Begonias, too.

Back to the


. It always amuses me — in an irritated sort of way — that descriptions of

say it gets 8- to 10-feet tall. Let me stop and snort with laughter. Mine was 15 when I pruned it, and that was less than a year since its last haircut.

Of course, you don’t have to prune it. ‘Black Lace.’ The leaves are dark chocolate, finely cut and a perfect backdrop for the pink clusters of flowers.

. Butterflies and bees are pretty fond of elderberry, as well.

Left to its own devices, this elderberry grows thick and the shade underneath is dense. The roots soak up water, so either I don’t grow anything within 6 feet of the trunk or I have to water quite a bit. In my back garden, nothing is growing below it, which focuses attention on the arching form I’ve shaped created. In the front, there are epimedium, hosta, Vancouveria, wild ginger and Japanese anenome. I water twice a week during the summer, which hopefully will actually show up at some point.

Black Lace® Elderberry

The exciting Black Lace™ Elderberry (Sambucus nigra ‘Eva’ P.P.) takes the traditional notion of a rangy old, plain Jane Elderberry and throws it out the window. With dark purple-red, deeply dissected foliage and a fragrant light pink bloom, this glamorous variety rewrites the way we can use the Elderberry in the landscape!

Developed in England in the late 1980’s is commonly known as the European Elderberry. It’s noted for stylish dark purple-red narrow leaves and puffy, lemon scented pink blooms in the spring.

This dramatic shrub looks stunning with its almost-black foliage. The elegant leaves are almost as ornate as real black lace.

Young stems are purple, and gradually becoming a grey-brown as they age. The light pink flowers are exquisitely visible floating on top of the dark foliage of the Black Laced Elderberry.

The whole plant is sophisticated, including dark fall berries that occur if you plant a pollination partner.

Use Black Lace® as a high-impact accent plant or plant it as an informal hedgerow. The Black Lace Elderberry is the perfect plant for the back of a mixed perennial garden. Or, keep it in a container on your patio.

Add excitement to your yard by using the Black Lace Elderberry as a hedge or foundation plant. This unique beauty even makes an ideal specimen plant or tree.

When this amazing plant first came onto the scene, it won “Best Plant of the Year,” and its reputation hasn’t wavered. Planting some Black Lace Elderberry is a no-brainer if you want beauty, berries, and excitement in your yard! Order yours today!

How to Use Black Lace Elderberry in the Landscape

You could consider this plant as a living sculpture. Black Lace Elderberry is not a perfect, rounded, uniform little ball like Green Gem Boxwood. Instead, the overall look of this stylish upright shrub is free-form, a bit flowy and wild.

You can place a single plant where it will have the space it needs to stretch out and become the magnificent specimen it wants to be. Or, keep it pruned into a tall, narrow waterfall of fascinating purple-black foliage.

Use several plants in a curving row to effortlessly create a marvelously organic flowering hedge around your patio. It provides an airy sense of privacy and elevates the look of your space.

For a hedge, plant them 4 – 5 feet apart on center. You’ll measure from the center of one to the center of the next. If you want to grow an individual plant, give it 7 – 8 feet of wiggle room.

It would make a unique and memorable anchor plant at the corner of your foundation planting. You’ll love the way it resembles Japanese Maple but adds beautiful bright berries in fall. You’ll also appreciate how low maintenance and unfussy it is.

Keep it pruned in a large pot on the patio. It will definitely take on the “Thriller” role and bring a lot of excitement to your balcony, porch or patio. Black Lace® would look great in large unglazed terra cotta or plain concrete containers. Or, pop it against brightly glazed pots of any color from gray, red, dark blue, bright yellow, deep pink, and so on. You name it!

Place one on either side of a wide gate to create a wonderful sense of anticipation to what’s beyond. The lush, ferny dark foliage beckons and the fresh lemony scent of the wide clusters of tiny, precious, fragrant pink flowers enchant you and your guests.

Use several across your property line. You’ll extend the height and improve the looks of any landscape fence.

They’ll behave as a perfectly chic backdrop to so many other plants, (including those little Green Gem Boxwood balls!) With the outstanding wispy texture of the deep leaves, they’ll partner beautifully with flowing Ornamental Grasses, spiky Yucca, stolid evergreens or rounded Rose bushes.

Black Lace® Elderberry plant thrives in wet or moderately wet soil. They can be used in Rain Gardens to filter water runoff from roofs and streets.

You can see where all this is going, right? These fabulous plants are versatile!

#ProPlantTips for Care

Plant it in just about any soil in either full sun or partial shade and give it regular water. Then, just watch it grow!

This forgiving Elderberry is complimented by hard pruning. After the first year, cut it back down to 12 inches tall to encourage a bushier plant. Every 3 years, hard prune in the spring to maintain it’s shape and remove unwanted growth.

Tip prune it each year to keep it shorter or remove the outside stems all the way to the ground to keep it in a narrow, columnar shape.

Dark purple berries ripens in the fall and can be used like its American counterpart, the Sambucus canadensis for jams and wine. The birds and wildlife enjoy these juicy dark little berries, but don’t let them eat all of them. Cook them with sweetener to make fabulous wine and tasty preserves.

For the best fruiting, plan to pair it with a Black Beauty® or Laced Up® Elderberry as a pollination partner. Use a single plant, or several Black Lace® together if you don’t want to grow berries.

The plant requires a thick layer of mulch for consistent surface moisture and to keep the root cool in the heat of the summer. Apply 3 to 4 inches of an acidic mulch out 4 feet from the center of the plant. Feed with Dr. Earth Acid Lovers Organic and Natural Premium Fertilizer late in the winter and after fruit sets in the summertime.

This beautiful plant attracts butterflies and birds and jealous neighbors. Don’t be surprised to get lots of curious questions from visitors to your garden. Order today and enjoy it!

Elderberry Black Lace

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