Growing up if I ever felt nauseous I remember my mom giving me a spoon of elderberry syrup. It’s something I still take if I’m feeling under the weather. If something tastes good, is natural, and prevents me from getting sick I am all for it. So when I learned I could actually grow elderberry here in Florida AND make my own elderberry syrup that would ultimately cost less than store bought, I got excited. Of course, growing anything I can eat gets me excited. Below I’ll share with you some of the benefits of elderberry, how to grow elderberry from cuttings, and a couple of recipes you can make from your own elderberry bush.
Benefits of Elderberry
Elderberry bushes, also called Sambucus, can get pretty big and have small white flowers referred to as elderflowers. The berries are bluish-black and can be quite tart, but shouldn’t be eaten raw (only cooked).
Elderberries contain a high concentration of vitamin A and C, bioflavonoids and other antioxidants. It’s an immune-boosting herb that is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral. It can help with cold and flu symptoms.
A tablespoon of elderberry syrup 3 to 5 times a day when you have the flu can shorten the duration as well as reduce the symptoms. As a preventative measure, one tablespoon a day is recommended to boost your immune.
In addition to helping with illness, elderberry can also help reduce inflammation and support skin health.
While there are many health benefits to elderberries, there are still a couple of things to be aware of if you decide to grow elderberry. Keep in mind when growing elderberry that raw berries, leaves, and bark are considered poisonous so you shouldn’t eat those, and be mindful if you have children or pets that will be playing around your plants.
How to Grow Elderberry from Cuttings
Step 1. Get your cuttings
I purchased 4 elderberry cuttings at a plant festival last year. Plant festivals and local nurseries are probably your best bet for finding elderberry cuttings. Cuttings are just branches that have been cut off from the elderberry bush that can be rooted and planted. The ones I got only cost $2 each. Because I wasn’t sure how well they would grow (and because I can never have too many plants) I picked out 4 that looked fairly straight. You can see below that the 4 cuttings are just dormant branches. They basically look like sticks wrapped up in a wet paper towel. And as you can see I got a few succulents while I was at the festival as well 🙂
Step 2) Encourage root growth
Once you have your cuttings, place them (cut side down) in a mason jar and add water so that there are a few inches soaking. Leave the jar in a sunny area for about 2 months. I’ve seen information online that says you can add root growth hormone, or that you can soak the bottom of your cuttings for 48 hours and then plant them directly in the ground. While there are multiple routes you can take, I opted to stick all 4 branches in one pint-sized mason jar on the front porch and then proceeded to forget about them. You should change out the water once a week to keep it fresh. I did not use any growth hormone for mine to root.
Step 3) Plant your Elderberry
Once you start to get some roots you can plant your elderberry cuttings. I planted mine in small pots for now until they get a little bigger, and then I’ll probably move them to larger pots before planting them in the ground. After 3 months of having your elderberry cuttings, you should start getting new shoots. Elderberry bushes stay small for the first few years, but mature plants can get 10 feet tall if you don’t trim them. The 4 plants below are 6 months old from when I purchased the cuttings.
Elderberry bushes grow best with a soil pH of 5.5-6.5 with at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. Their roots are shallow the first year so they need extra watering. Your elderberry bushes should also be planted 6 to 10 feet apart.
Elderberries can be used for a lot including elderflower lemonade, elderberry syrup, tea, jam, pie, tea, and wine. Below are two recipes you can try – elderflower lemonade and elderberry syrup.
During the first year of growing your elderberry bush, it’s recommended to pick the flowers to allow your bush to mature, and grow stronger roots, before setting fruit. Your elderflowers don’t have to go to waste though. The flowers can be used to create an elderflower infused lemonade. If you don’t have an elderberry bush, you can also purchase dried elderflowers.
- 1 cup fresh or dried elderflower
- 1 cup white granulated sugar
- 1 cup of water (for syrup)
- 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 6 cups of water
- Pour 1 cup of water into a medium saucepan, along with elderflower and sugar. Set over medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Bring the mixture to a simmer and then turn off the heat, cover, and allow to steep for 1 hour.
- Pour the syrup through a strainer into a pitcher and discard the elderflowers.
- Add freshly squeezed lemon juice and water to syrup. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours.
Elderberry Syrup is how I was first introduced to elderberries. You can purchase the syrup or make your own. A tablespoon is recommended per day to boost your immune and to help fight off colds and flu. If you’d still like to make your own elderberry syrup and don’t have elderberries you can purchase dried elderberries.
- 2 cups of water
- 1/2 cup dried elderberries (or 1 cup fresh)
- 1 tsp fresh ginger (grated or sliced – optional)
- 1 whole cinnamon stick
- 4 whole cloves
- 1/2 cup raw honey
- Pour the water into a medium saucepan along with elderberries, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves.
- Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, or until liquid is reduced by half.
- Mash the berries carefully and then pour through a strainer into a glass jar or bowl.
- Once the liquid is cool, add the honey and stir well. Keep in a sealed jar in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.