Monarch Wings Across Ohio has provided guides to establish habitat for our monarch butterfly. If you go to the link there some interesting free downloads. Now is the time to plan!
With the rise in popularity of this excellent native shrub, I thought I would demonstrate how easy it is to create new elderberry shrubs in under a year. This is a general set of instructions for successful stem cuttings for Sambucus canadensis. I'm sure there are other ways and other opinions that are valid. This procedure works for me ( usually 100% ) so I see no reason to change it. If anyone one knows of a more efficient way, please feel free to chime in. The timing to do this is now, after the leaves have fallen.
These particular elderberry shrubs are quite young with most stems under an inch in diameter, which is what's needed for the cuttings.
Cut the stems off at the grounds. In general, don't leave stumps or cut stems randomly when maintaining shrubs. I cut these because they were leaning at too much of an angle to be able to support next year's growth.
Now it is time to actually break down the whole stem into the individual sections that will be used for the new plants.
Now look for buds which will be opposite of each other at regular intervals along the stem.
Here are two horrible images of the buds to look for. Notice they are opposite of each other and they are attached at an angle. The angle part is important later. Make cuts above and below the buds so you have stems with a set of buds on both ends as shown below.
Dividing the different sized stems into like-sized groups is helpful. All that's needed now is a tall container and a bright, warm spot. With the buds facing up, put the stems in a container and fill with water so the bottom set of buds is covered by an inch or so of water. Change the water frequently. The containers will likely need a larger volume of water over time to accommodate for the increasing amount of roots.
Over the last few years I have noticed blue spruce trees dying. It starts with the lower branches. The needles lose their color and drop. This continues up the tree, usually quite rapidly, and suddenly there are no needles left. I want to say the whole process runs its' course in three years or less, sometimes in a single growing season. Lower branches that are shaded will naturally drop needles over time, but if you see needles dropping on lower branches growing in the sun that used to be full and dense with needles, that tree might be next. I found this credible and recent article for more information. If you or someone you know has blue spruce trees, keep an eye on them. The best way to deal with this is to avoid planting these trees. It is always best to plant more than one species. If you need a replacement or want to plant a screen or barrier, use a mix of evergreen species.
Our native common elderberry is now in bloom (Sambucus canadensis). This shrub is very durable and thrives in a wide range of habitats as witnessed now, while its huge flower heads give away just how common it is. It is everywhere- you can see it driving down most any rural road or interstate in a variety of conditions. This is such a great shrubs for the home landscape as well. It usually grows very rapidly and is very easy to manipulate. I have read of people treating it like a perennial and cutting it back to the ground every year. Of course, the berries are edible for us if you can beat the birds to them. Our straight native species can be difficult to find in popular nurseries. Most likely you will be directed to some novelty derivative of the European elderberry that has colored leaves, smaller stature, or some other undesirable feature (undesirable to me at least). You could say our elderberry is loud and proud. Don't settle for a novelty knock-off.
Before and After. The left is spring 2018, after a growing season in the ground. The elderberries were in 3 gallon pots and 30" tall. The right is summer 2019. These plants are now 8 feet tall after being in the ground for 2 growing seasons.