American Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) Pruning

I live in central Kansas and we’ve had a very weird and unusually warm winter. I have a 100’ row of American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) that I planted 5 years ago this spring. These plants have not been pruned, other than the occasional removal of dead material, since they were planted.

The plan was to go out today and mulch the row with wood chips, then prune everything down to close to ground level. The intention is to refresh the plants and encourage larger cymes and a tighter ripening window. I was going to pot up the healthiest cuttings for propagation.

The problem I’m running into is that I am seeing signs of dormancy break on some plants. We will see lows around 0F next week so none of this growth will survive.

Should I move forward with my plan or skip cutting back the plants breaking dormancy now?

I am hoping someone here has experience with American elderberry and can point me in the right direction. Thanks!

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FYI, it’s totally normal for elderberries to show green bud development (you can see the fully formed leaves all tightly bundled in miniature form) LONG before it’s warm enough for them to jump into growth mode.


Search university of Missouri publications…I believe most growers prune on a 1-3 year cycle (with annual mowing giving largest cymes and berries but mix of 1 2 and 3 year old stems giving best overall yield

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You are seeing dormancy breaking on old wood.

American Elderberry flowers and fruits on both Primocane and Floricanes.

If you want smaller berries and less vigor then do not prune old wood. This will have primocanes and floricane production on same root system. Energy will be divided.

If you want maximum energy into canes, flowers and fruit then only plan for Primocane crops.

Move forward with your plan.