What Are the Best Tips for Growing Mistletoe?

G. Wiesen

Anyone interested in growing mistletoe should keep a few simple ideas in mind to make the process easier, and to better ensure a productive cultivation. Even though mistletoe has certain traits in common with plants, it requires a host on which to grow, such as an apple tree or oak. It grows well in well-lit areas, so it should be placed on a fairly thick branch of a tree, usually the same kind from which its seeds or berries came, that is in full sunlight. The process of growing mistletoe can take four or five years and should begin in the spring.

Mistletoe requires a host tree on which to grow.
Mistletoe requires a host tree on which to grow.

Growing mistletoe is not necessarily easy, since the seeds can have a fairly low success rate once cultivated. One of the most important tips to help make the process successful, however, is that mistletoe requires another tree to grow upon. It is a hemi-parasite, which means that it produces chlorophyll much like a plant, but also acts as a parasite that draws nutrients and other materials from a host.

People customarily kiss under mistletoe during the Christmas season.
People customarily kiss under mistletoe during the Christmas season.

Different types of trees can be used for growing mistletoe, though it seems to do best on various types of apple trees. Oaks can also work quite well, especially for American mistletoe, which is similar, but not identical, to the European type. Berries are typically cultivated from an existing plant, and should be transferred over to the same type of plant if possible. Someone interested in growing mistletoe on an apple tree, for example, should look for an existing one on another apple tree from which to gather berries.

A fairly thick branch of a tree should be used for growing mistletoe, usually about 4.0 inches (about 10 centimeters) in diameter. It is best if this is in full sunlight, which is part of why mistletoe is often found at the tops of trees where the light can reach it. Birds often spread mistletoe on their beaks and in droppings. Numerous berries or seeds should be used together because both male and female seeds are required for a plant to flourish and grow.

Berries used for growing mistletoe should typically be gathered around March or April, when the plant is flowering and producing many of them. These should be kept whole until they are used, to prevent the inner seeds from drying out. Within a few weeks of placing the seeds along the branch of a host, or into slits made in the host tree's bark, a green shoot should appear. This typically remains through the following winter, after which the plant will continue to develop and grow. It often requires about four or five years before mistletoe reaches full maturity and begins to flower.

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