If you’re growing elderberries, it’s important to know how to prune elderberry bushes for maximum growth. Here’s how to do light and hard pruning as well as how to transplant and keep elderberry offshoots from taking over an area.
Check out this blog post if you’re looking for how to grow elderberries and planting tips.
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Why I Grow Elderberries
It’s true there are some things your climate may not allow you to grow. However, if elderberries are an option for your growing zone, then I highly recommend growing at least two bushes (you need two bushes for pollinating purposes).
I love harvesting my elderberries and preserving them (usually dehydrating, freezing, or freeze-drying) for making homemade elderberry syrup and these 29+ elderberry recipes. When your plants are well established, just a couple of bushes will provide ample berries for a year’s supply for your family.
Why You Should Prune Elderberry Bushes
Pruning elderberry bushes is healthy for the fruit production of the plant. Also, because I don’t want to get a ladder each year when it’s time to pick my berries, I like to prune the plant back so it’s more bush-like rather than tree-like.
Pruning elderberry bushes maintains the structure of the plant and keeps them from overtaking an area. There are different methods of pruning, so keep reading to see which option is right for you and your elderberry bushes.
When Should You Prune Elderberry?
Pruning elderberry is best done when the plant is dormant. That means a late winter, or early spring pruning is ideal.
An elderberry bush that is less than two years old should not be pruned. You need to give the bush adequate time to establish a good root system first.
After the second year, you can lightly prune the elderberry bush to maintain the shape that you prefer, however, a hard pruning shouldn’t be done until the bush is in its fourth or fifth year.
The bushes I’m pruning in the video are five years old.
Can You Prune and Replant Elderberry Bushes?
Yes! In fact, that’s what I’m going to be doing with some of the off-shoots of my five-year-old elderberry bush. The roots have sent out runners, which have formed entirely new plants.
By digging down to the root, I can sever it from the main root system, and the bush will be able to be transplanted to a new location. This is a much faster option than obtaining cuttings. However, I do have a video and blog post on how to grow elderberry bushes from cuttings.
Both methods work similarly, however, with the larger stalks that also include the root system, I will simply transplant those directly where I want them on the Norris Farmstead.
Can You Prune Elderberry to the Ground?
Yes! It’s important to understand that elderberry bushes will send out off-shoots from the root system. This is similar to how raspberries grow new plants. If you want to keep your elderberry bush to a maintainable size, you’ll want to make sure you’re pruning back unwanted shoots each year.
How to Keep an Elderberry Bush from Spreading
To keep an elderberry bush from spreading, you can take a lawn mower and mow back the off-shoots (or runners).
They will come back each year, so you’ll need to keep up with this. Another management tool is to hard prune the bush (more on this below).
With my five-year-old plants, I’m using a combination of hard pruning and pruning to the ground. However, I’m also digging up some from the root in order to transplant the bushes where I want them growing in another area on the Norris Farmstead.
How do You Prune Overgrown Elderberry?
Unlike a fruit tree or a berry bush, you actually want to prune off overgrown bushes to about a foot off the ground.
Depending on how large you want your bush to be, you can even cut all branches off, only keeping one main stalk. For my bush, I cut down the nine main stalks to one foot from the ground.
This year each of those stalks will produce new growth, and I should expect to have a great elderberry harvest come fall.
Can You Hard Prune Elderberry?
Yes! Hard pruning an elderberry bush will give you more fruit production the following year. Hard pruning is where, instead of pruning off the branches from a main stalk, you actually prune back the main stalk to about a foot off the ground.
This doesn’t work for all fruit trees, and in some cases will actually be detrimental to the tree. However, elderberry bushes love being hard-pruned and will thank you for it with their ample growth throughout the season.
Though hard pruning may not be best every year for long-term maintenance, it’s a great option every other year or more.
If you have an elderberry bush that looks more like an elderberry tree, simply hard prune the stalk to about a foot from the ground and be amazed at the new, lower growth it puts out.
Other Berry and Fruit Growing Guides:
- How to Grow Elderberry Bushes
- How to Prune a Blueberry Bush for a Larger Harvest
- How to Get Rid of Mummy Berry Disease on Blueberry Bushes
- How to Plant Raspberries – Soil Prep, Growing & Caring for your Raspberry Plants
- Orchard Planning to Keep Pests Out (Live Coaching Call)
- How to Prune Raspberries
- How to Prune Apple Trees
- Heirloom Apple Varieties & Saving Them for Future Generations
- Planting Berry Bushes & Fruit Trees
- 5 Tips to Starting an Orchard & Growing Fruit
- When and How to Plant Fruit Trees
- How to Treat Fruit Trees Organically: When to Spray for Disease
- How to Care for Fruit Trees In Fall & Winter