How to Grow an Elderberry Tree From Seeds

Grow an Elderberry Tree From Seeds
Grow an Elderberry Tree From Seeds (Image: John Nyberg)

Growing trees, such as an elderberry, from seed can sometimes take a year or two just to get it to germinate. Because we all have such busy lives, most people prefer buying a young tree and planting it outdoors where all they have to do is water it once in a while. But planting the seed and watching the seedling grow to a large tree is what gardening is all about. This is not a difficult project, but it takes a lot of time and patience.

Things You'll Need

  • Elderberry seeds
  • Large outdoor flower pot
  • Throw-away flower pots
  • Stones
  • Horticulture sand
  • Compost
  • Plain peat moss
  • Liquid plant food

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Place stones on the bottom of the flower pot to prevent the drain holes from being clogged. You can use broken terracotta pots if you don't have any stones. Then place about 1 inch of horticulture sand on top of the stones. Builders sand will work as well.

Mix the seeds with peat and sand. The peat should be wet enough that when you squeeze it you can get a drop of water from it. Use equal parts of sand, seed and peat. Spread the mixture on top of the sand already in the pot.

Cover the mixture with another inch of horticulture sand. Place the container in a shady spot in your yard. Keep the container sheltered from animals. If you are planting more than one kind of tree or plants, mark the container, "Elderberry", so you know what it is when you are ready to plant. The container must remain outdoors for an entire winter, and the seed will be ready for planting the following March.

Mix three parts compost to one part planting soil and fill the throw-away flower pot. These are the pots you buy flowers in and then bring them home and transplant them. They give excellent drainage to the seeds.

Dig out the seeds from your pretreatment pot and plant about five seeds per throw-away pot. Push them down into the surface of the soil and cover with a very thin layer of sand. Press down with a block of wood.

Place the pots in a shady, sheltered area. Water them frequently, keeping them moist at all times. Water from the top. You should see them start to sprout within a couple weeks.

Place the seedlings in a sunny area. The trees will need plenty of light to develop strong. You will still need to shelter them from birds and other animals. You can use chicken wire laid on top.

As soon as you can tell which seedling is the strongest, transplant the others to other pots or take them out and discard. The soil must still stay moist at all times, but you don't want them soaking wet. Use a liquid plant food and feed once a month for the next few months.

Plant the seedling in its final place outdoors when it reaches about 1 1/2 feet tall. This may or may not happen the first summer. Elderberry trees like soil that drains well, and you can continue to add compost to the soil for at least the first year every couple of months.

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