How do you grow mistletoe?

Answered by Jeremy Urbaniak

Growing mistletoe can be a rewarding and festive experience. While it is primarily spread by birds, it is indeed possible to grow mistletoe yourself. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to grow mistletoe:

1. Harvesting berries: The first step is to gather berries from a mistletoe-infected tree. This should be done in March or April when the berries are ripe. It’s important to note that mistletoe berries are toxic, so handle them with care and avoid ingesting them.

2. Berry selection: Ensure that the berries you collect are intact and not crushed. Discard any damaged or crushed berries, as they may not germinate successfully. Additionally, avoid using berries from mistletoe sprigs that have been used as Christmas decorations, as they may have been treated with chemicals.

3. Choosing a host tree: Look for a suitable host tree to grow your mistletoe. Mistletoe typically thrives on deciduous trees such as apple, oak, poplar, or willow. Choose a branch on a tree that is at least 15 years old and has a girth of 10cm (4in) or more. Select a branch that receives adequate sunlight for mistletoe growth.

4. Preparing the host branch: Use a sharp knife or pruning shears to make a small incision in the chosen branch. The incision should be deep enough to expose the inner wood but not too large to harm the tree. This will create a suitable site for mistletoe seeds to germinate and establish.

5. Applying the mistletoe seeds: Take the collected mistletoe berries and gently squeeze them to extract the sticky white pulp containing the seeds. Apply this pulp to the exposed wood of the host branch, pressing it firmly against the incision. It’s important to ensure good contact between the seeds and the branch for successful germination.

6. Caring for your mistletoe: Once the seeds are applied, it’s important to provide proper care for your mistletoe. Keep the surrounding area free from competing vegetation to avoid overshadowing the mistletoe. Regularly monitor the growth and development of the mistletoe and provide water during dry periods. Prune any neighboring branches that may obstruct mistletoe growth.

7. Patience and persistence: Growing mistletoe can be a slow process, requiring patience and persistence. It may take several years for the mistletoe to establish and produce berries. Regularly monitor the plant’s progress and make any necessary adjustments to ensure its health and growth.

Remember, mistletoe is a parasitic plant that relies on its host tree for nutrients. While mistletoe can be a beautiful addition to your garden or home, it’s essential to consider the potential impact on the health of the host tree and take appropriate measures to prevent excessive growth or damage.

Growing mistletoe can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience. By following these steps and providing proper care, you can successfully cultivate your own mistletoe and enjoy the festive tradition it brings.