How To Plant Elderberries In Michigan
1. Purchase Quality Plants
Purchase healthy elderberry plants from a reputable nursery or garden center. For best results, choose one of the 2 varieties that are native to Michigan and especially suited to grow in our climate. We recommend starting with bare root or dormant plants if you are planting in early spring.
2. Choose A Suitable Location
Select a site that receives full sun or partial shade and has well-draining soil. Ensure the location has enough space to accommodate the mature size of the elderberry shrubs. Mature shrubs can grow upwards of 8 feet tall, and should be spaced 6-8 feet apart.
3. Prepare The Soil
Before planting, prepare the soil by removing any weeds, rocks, or debris. Loosen the soil to a depth of about 12 inches using a garden fork or tiller. Incorporate organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure into the soil to improve its fertility and drainage.
4. Dig The Planting Holes
Dig holes that are slightly larger and deeper than the root ball of the elderberry plants. The holes should be wide enough to comfortably accommodate the roots without crowding or bending them.
5. Arrange The Plant In The Hole
Gently remove the elderberry plants from their containers or carefully loosen the root ball if they are bare-root plants. Place each plant into a prepared hole, ensuring that the top of the root ball is level with or slightly above the soil surface.
6. Backfill And Firm The Soil
Fill the holes with the excavated soil, gently firming it around the roots to remove any air pockets. Avoid compacting the soil too tightly, as it can hinder root growth. Ensure that the plants are upright and centered in the holes.
7. Water Thoroughly
After planting, water the elderberry plants thoroughly. This helps settle the soil around the roots and ensures good root-to-soil contact. Provide enough water to moisten the soil to the depth of the root zone.
8. Mulch Around The Plants
Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as wood chips or straw, around the base of the plants. Mulching helps retain soil moisture, suppresses weed growth, and regulates soil temperature. Leave a small gap around the main stem to prevent excessive moisture buildup that can lead to rot.
9. Prune If Necessary
If your elderberry plants have any damaged or excessively long branches, you can prune them back by about one-third to encourage new growth and shape the plants. However, any major pruning should be done in the fall or winter when the plant is dormant.
10. Monitor And Care For The Plants
Regularly check the moisture level of the soil and water the plants as needed, especially during dry periods. Keep an eye out for pests or diseases and take appropriate measures if any issues arise. Follow recommended fertilization practices for elderberries, if necessary.
Elderberry Jam by Isabel Schulz