Sambucus canadensis: American Elderberry Seeds
The American Elderberry is a large fruit-bearing shrub. Produces black or purple berries that are great for wildlife and jams and jellies. Small, white, flat-topped clusters of flowers. It has light gray or brown bark and is arching in form. Produces attractive flowers and berries all season long. A showy ornamental ideal for the garden.
When choosing a location, keep in mind that the American Elderberry has a fast growth rate. It grows up to 12 feet in height and 10 feet in spread. It can be planted in zones 3 to 9. Prefers moist soil and full sun.
How To Start These Seeds:
Scarification: Soak in hot tap water, let stand in water for 24 hours.
Stratification: Warm stratify for 60 days, cold stratify for 150 days
Germination: Sow seed 1/4 inch deep, tamp the soil, keep moist, mulch the seed bed. Can be sown outdoors in the fall for spring germination.
Seed Count Per Packet:
This packet contains 60 hand-sorted, high-quality seeds.
If refrigerated upon receipt, these seeds can be stored for up to a year before you decide to use them.
Growing the Elderberry from Seed
Elderberry seeds need the coldness of winter, or stratification, before they will germinate. Germination is tricky and plantings will sometimes produces nothing even though the same methods are used from year to year. Elderberry seeds have an extremely hard outer coat. This is a factor contributing to low germination. The most productive method is to mimic Nature’s natural conditions of warm stratification for 2-3 months followed by cold stratification for 3 months. Winter weather conditions will play a big part in if a seed planting will be successful. I have planted seeds several times and some years I get elderberry plants and other years, typically warmer ones with less snowfall here in MO, I get nothing.
If you have any animals wandering around your property you should consider seed plot protection from animal disturbances. Cats, dogs, raccoons, armadillos, opossums, and chickens all seem to love scratching in freshly turned soil. Gather seeds after harvest and keep them in a safe place, or just leave outside and protected, until planting time.
When to Plant Elderberry Seeds
Regular dried elderberry seeds will not sprout because they have been cooked during the drying process.
Fall is the time to plant elderberry seeds! Planting elderberry seeds is not a reliable way to obtain elderberry plants as the seeds do not always sprout and sprouting is highly weather dependant. There are no guarantees that you will get plants but come spring if your weather conditions are right, (freezes, & unthaws that weakening seed coating enough) you may get wonderful surprises!
Plant seeds in late fall. Cover seeds with 1/4 inch of soil. Mist soil until soil is moist at a two inch depth. Water again if top inch of soil becomes dry before first frost. After frost water again ONLY if very dry periods occur. Watch for sprouting after temperatures remain at or above 68 degrees for 2-3 weeks. Caution, elderberry sprouts do not look like the typical elderberry, be careful not to mistake them for weeds and pull them up.
The very first set of leaves do not have the saw-tooth edges commonly associated with elderberry plants but are smooth and tear dropped as shown in some of the smallest ones in this plot of elderberry seed sprouting. The leaves develop the saw-tooth as they grow.
Why you may not be happy with Elderberries Planted from Seed
A cutting from a known elderberry plant will produce an elderberry plant with the same characteristics as the parent plant. An elderberry planted from seed will NOT have the same characteristics as the parent plant. Planting elderberries from seed produces plants that lack consistency. You will end up having plants with berries that are ripe at various times meaning you may pick one ripe cluster today and another cluster tomorrow and again the day after that. You will also likely have many clusters in which the berries do not all ripen at the same time, leaving you to try and pick out green berries before cooking with them.
Planting elderberries from seed may be the method you want to try if you want a cheap way to obtain many elderberry plants, are willing to take the chance that some or all of the plants may not be great producers and are patient enough to wait 2-3 years to find out. If time (you may not get them to germinate the first year) and a productive harvest is more important, it may be a much better idea for you to plant your elderberries from the cuttings of a known cultivar. One that has the properties that you desire, such as even ripening, large clusters, sweetness, or disease and pest resistance.
If you decide to grow your elderberries from seed do make sure to take your seeds from an exceptional elderberry plant, this should increase your chances of growing better elderberry plants from a seed.
Germinating Elderberry Seeds – Elderberry Seed Growing Tips
If you are cultivating elderberries for commercial or personal harvest, growing elderberry from seed may not be the most efficient way to go. However, it’s very inexpensive and entirely possible as long as you bring patience to the job. Elderberry seed propagation is a bit more complex than the same procedure with other plants. Be sure to read up on how to proceed with elderberry seed growing to avoid disappointment. Read on for all the information you need to propagate elderberry seeds.
Growing Shrubs from Elderberry Seeds
Pretty and practical, elderberry shrubs (Sambucus spp.) decorate your yard with showy flowers that later become dark purple berries. The shrubs can be propagated from cuttings, which produce plants that are biologically identical to the parents.
It’s also possible to get new plants by growing elderberry from seed. For those who have elderberry plants already, it’s easy and free to obtain seeds since they are found in every berry. However, plants produced from elderberry seed growing may not look like the parent plant or produce berries at the same time since they are pollinated by other plants.
Germinating Elderberry Seeds
Elderberry seeds have a thick, tough seed coat and what botanists call “natural dormancy.” This means that the seeds must obtain optimal conditions before waking up from their deep sleep. In the case of elderberries, the seeds must be stratified twice. This is not difficult, but it takes time, up to seven months to complete.
Elderberry Seed Propagation
The stratification required to start propagating elderberry from seed should mimic nature’s cycle. First expose seeds to warm conditions– like the normal conditions found indoors– for several months. This is followed by winter temperatures for another three months.
Experts suggest you mix the seeds into a well-draining substrate like a mixture of compost and sharp sand. This should be moist but not wet and there should be enough to keep the seeds apart from one another.
Put the mixture and seeds into a large zip-lock bag and let it sit somewhere with temperatures of around 68 degrees F. (20 C.) for 10 to 12 weeks. After that, place it in the refrigerator at 39 degrees F. (4 C.) for 14 to 16 weeks. At this point the seeds can be sown in an outdoor seedbed, keep moist and wait for the seedlings to appear. After a year or two, move them to their final location.