Favourite of the druids and a festive icon, there’s far more to this mysterious, parasitic plant than just Christmas kisses. Want to try growing mistletoe yourself? Follow these simple steps:
Step 1 – Acquiring seeds and selecting a host
Mistletoe berries used for Christmas decorations are usually unripe or shrivelled. February-April are your optimum months to harvest pure white berries for propagation.
And of course, you should ask permission if collecting on private land.
Make sure you select a strong, healthy host for sowing: hawthorn, apple, lime and poplar are preferred, but mistletoe (Viscum album) successfully parasitizes over 200 tree and shrub species!
Warning: berries are toxic to humans and some pets if ingested.
Step 2 – Planting mistletoe
Mistletoe needs plenty of light for germination, so find a high branch between 10-20cm in girth to place the seeds. Make several shallow cuts in the branch to create little flaps in the bark and insert the seeds in each, removing most of the sticky glue from the berry.
You may want to protect the seed from birds using hessian.
Plants are male or female, so planting several gives more likelihood of berry production.
Step 3 – Caring for mistletoe
Mistletoe draws its nutrients and water from its host plant, so it's the tree that will need your care. You'll need to ensure that the host plant’s growth doesn't obscure too much light, but that's all. Keep the host fed and watered and your little parasite will thrive.
That said, mistletoe grows very slowly with each ‘fork’ representing one year’s growth. Mistletoe usually takes 4 years to really get established, and you shouldn't expect berries before its 5th birthday. Growing mistletoe requires patience before you can pucker up!