grow your own mistletoe

Grow Your Own: Mistletoe

Did you know you can grow your own Mistletoe

Mistletoe isn’t your ordinary plant; it is a partial parasite, rather than growing in the soil it grows on trees such as apple, crab apple, hawthorn, lime, poplar trees and occasionally on maple, sycamore, willow, ash, oak, plum, rowan and cotoneaster. Although it’s small green leaves provide the host plant with energy through photosynthesis, it also sends a root under the bark of its host and pilfers nutrients there, so be sure to choose your host wisely.

Mistletoe is dispersed by birds eating their sticky berries; they’re excreted with much of their sticky coating still attached so that as soon as they land on a branch they stick to their host plant through all weathers and are ready to germinate in February and March.

How to grow your own

Collect berries from plants as soon as they are ripe, but only if you have permission to do so as this plant is in decline in the wild. Berries are ripe when they have turned a pure white in colour. Do not use berries from decorations that have been hanging under electric lights all Christmas as they will be dried out. Instead try keeping decoration cuttings fresh by keeping them in a vase of water in a window. If possible, it is highly beneficial to know where the berries originated as it is believed that the mistletoe will grow best when using the same tree as its host.

Best conditions

  • Plant in February and March
  • Choose an established host tree at least 20 years old; on a branch about 20cm in diameter as the bark should be thin enough for germinating seeds to penetrate.
  • Choose an area approx. 1.5m above ground level and make a small incision on the bark first so that the berry can be firmly attached by smearing into the crevice.
  • To mark the spot tie the berry in with some string, this will also help protect it from hungry insects and snails.
  • It is best to try and grow several Mistletoe plants as it has separate male and female plants, plus some berries may fall off.

Then just be patient, the seeds may take a couple of years to germinate. Once it begins to grow, cut it back each year to stop it growing too big and harming the tree. Your Mistletoe and its host should be able to thrive together for years. So eventually one Christmas you will be able to show off your very own Mistletoe from the garden.

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