The American Elderberry (Sambucus Canadensis) is native to much of North America, primarily found in eastern and the Midwestern states. The elderberry bush can be found growing throughout Missouri, but prefers sunny areas with moist well-drained soils. The elderberry plant has been grown for generations as an ornamental bush and backyard fruit.
Elderberries have a potential future as a value added crop, due to the increasing demand for both its fruit and flowers. Commercial products produced from elderberries are wine, juice, jelly and dietary supplement products. Elderberries have been grown in Europe (Sambucus nigra) as a commercial crop for many years.
According to the University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry, elderberry is underdeveloped as a commercial crop, and there is much to learn about its production as a viable crop. It does appears to be a good commercial crop for Missouri.
Elderberry Cultivation Tips
Elderberry plants can grow on a wide range of soil types, although well-drained and moderately fertile soils are best. Soil testing is recommended to measure the soil ph and nutrient level.
Even though elderberries can tolerate cold temperatures, they do best on elevated sites to protect them from spring frost. Planting a non-competitive ground cover between the rows is recommended.
American elderberry cultivars are commercially available from Nature’s Organic Haven. Choose your cultivar based on your region. Nature’s Organic Haven has the following cultivars available as dormant hardwood cuttings; Bob Gordon, Wyldewood, York, Marge and Ozark. Order dormant cuttings Here (link to Purchase Cultivar page)
Elderberry cultivars tested in Missouri;
- Missouri cultivars; University of Missouri/Missouri State University – Bob Gordon, Wyldewood
- New York cultivars; NY Agricultural Experiment Station – Adams 1 and Adam 2, York
- Novia Scotia cultivars; Kentville Research Station, Nova Scotia – Johns, Kent, Nova, Scotia, Victoria
We take cuttings from the dormant elderberry plant in November or December. Our cuttings are shipped in the cold winter months of January, February or March. You can place an order for cuttings at anytime, but we only ship during the winter months. They can then be rooted immediately or refrigerated for 4-6 weeks for rooting later. How to root cuttings.
Dormant plants can be planted in early spring. Container grown plants that are actively growing should be planted in late April or early May. Rows are spaced 10-12 feet apart, with plants spaced 4 feet apart. Remove flowers from the elderberry bush the first growing year to develop the root system. A small crop can be expected the second year and a full crop the third year.
Fruit is borne on 1 to three-year-old wood. Each elderberry branch reaches its full height the first year. The second year it fruits and sends out laterals that will bear fruit in the third year.
Elderberries are ripe when deeply colored and slightly soft, in late July. A plant can produce 12 to 15 pounds of fruit per year.
Prune elderberry bushes in late winter, removing old woody canes. Read more about pruning.
The University of Missouri, Center for Agroforestry, developed an Elderberry Financial Decision Support Tool designed to assist with elderberry establishment and management decisions for growers. This tool allows the user to select multiple options from a list of the most common establishment, management, harvesting and marketing techniques to determine the techniques that will generate the best economic returns. See Tool.
Commercial Cultivation Resources
Agroforestry In Action: Growing and Marketing Elderberries in Missouri
University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry
Elderberry Financial Decision Support Tool
University of Missouri School of Natural Resources