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Elderberry Propagation Series Part 2: Sowing Seed and Germination

Posted by Catie Morse on

A particularly challenging plant to grow from seed, we’re working on developing and documenting the best practices for West Coast native elderberry propagation. Typically, favored cultivars of elderberry are propagated via cuttings. This is a reliable method to generate genetically identical plants, however we are looking to promote genetic diversity and grow far more plants at once. We’d like to equip everyone with the tools to do the same. We've had a few surprises already! Come take the journey with us.


To stratify, or not to stratify?

We've collected berries, and prepared seed. What to do now? Looking through planting guides for Sambucus nigra you'll find many recommendations to cold stratify the seeds. Stratification is a treatment process to simulate warm or cold conditions that seeds encounter naturally which help stimulate germination, essentially putting the seeds into a refrigerator or inside at room temperature for some amount of time. However, we found in our trials this year that fresh seed planted right away germinated better than any of our stratified seeds!

In our trials, we had the best results with fresh seed and no stratification. We are going to keep our trials going again this year, and see what happens with stored seed as well.


Plant the seeds!


Materials you will need:

- Mesh propagation tray

- Germination cover

-Soil media


-A mixing bowl


First we want to prepare the tray. Fill the tray about 3/4 full with the soil media, and pat them down gently to press away large air gaps. Repeat until the media covers the entire tray, about 3/4 to the top.

 Filling tray with soil media

Next, in a separate container we mix our seeds into the perlite. About 1 Tbsp of seed per 2 cups of perlite.

Then we want to grab handfuls of the perlite/seed mixture, and spread them evenly across the top of the tray.


Make sure everything gets a nice watering


Now we wait. This can be the hardest part! The plants will take a few months to germinate. Check on the tray every day or so, to make sure the seeds stay damp. In our trials, the plants typically took 3 months to germinate.


Stay tuned for the final installment of this series where we take our baby plants, and get them all the way into their final homes!

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