Welcome to the English Mistletoe Company’s how to grow mistletoe page
Rule one of mistletoe growing is patience! Once a seed has germinated it will do little for the first year, it will take another 12 months to show its first leaves and it is not likely to produce berries (if it is a female plant) until year 4 or 5. After that it is likely to double in size each year.
Rule two of mistletoe growing is that the plant is dioecious; it has male and female flowers on different plants, so you will need to have both plants present and growing to produce berries in the future. This is why we recommended that you plant in batches of 4-5 berries about 20cm apart. No one can know the sex of the plant until it grows and shows you.
Within this page you should find all the information you require to grow your mistletoe. We accept that we do not have all the answers and as our knowledge increases on the subject we will update these pages for the information of all. Likewise we accept that with time you will have your own information and we would love to here your views and experiences with regards to propagating the mistletoe of the future.
On receipt of your seeds from the English Mistletoe Company we suggest that you examine and make sure your seeds are not damaged and the casings are fully intact and then store them in a fridge until you are ready to plant. Let us know immediately if you have any problems.
Good Luck with your endeavours!
ABOUT THE PLANT
Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that lives in trees and directly derives a proportion of its required nutrients from its host during its life cycle. Although the plant contains chlorophyll, it depends on the hosts for most of its carbon requirements and for nearly all of its other nutrient and water needs. By this parasite action on a host plant, the mistletoe has a competitive advantage over many other forms of life as it does not have to compete in soil for its water and nutrient needs.
About 18,000 years ago, mistletoe actively migrated north and south and started to evolve to produce the mistletoes we know today. There are four families, of mistletoes but only two of these, the Viscaceae and Loranthaceae, are of widespread importance.
The family Loranthaceae is large and contains at least nine types, most of which are prolific in the tropics. Most have large, showy flowers and attack a variety of tree hosts.
The family Viscaceae contains several types, but only Phoradendron and Viscum are important to the legends and myths of the plant. In Europe Viscum album is the major species with which our ancestors knew and formed the basis of many myths, legends, and religious beliefs, as well as being used for medicinal purposes.
For a more details on Mistletoe, the Natural History Museum’s website is a good source of information: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/species-of-the-day/common-species/viscum-album/index.html
Most of the seasonal crop is taken from apple orchards (apple is the English mistletoe's favourite host).
With the decline in management of traditional orchards mistletoe is increasingly either absent in the modern bush orchards, or too numerous in neglected traditional orchards. The English Mistletoe Company promotes the sustainable harvesting of mistletoe in all orchards where practical, including remedial management where trees have become overgrown and so threatened by the excessive growth.
Mistletoe has no commercial value 'on the tree' - which may account for why so much has become neglected. The cost of harvesting, sorting, packing and then transporting can be prohibitive without a defined market. The English Mistletoe Company’s website helps to provide that market, and so the trees we harvest are subject of better management.
If you research the Internet in respect of Mistletoe and the growing of Mistletoe you will find a lot of contrary opinions and differing advice. Remember that some of the comments made might not be actually about the European Mistletoe, Viscum album, but about other species and varieties of the plant such as the American mistletoe Phoradendron leucarpum (American Oak mistletoe) or Phoradendron serotinum.
We find that more and more people are trying to plant Mistletoe on all sorts of different types of trees, so our advice is try, and let us know what the results are!
The best advice we can give from our expert’s many years of experience is make sure the tree you chose is healthy, select your planting site so that the seed is exposed to plenty of light and yet protected from predators. The tree branch selected should at least 10 cm (4”) in diameter and there are suggestions that the tree should be at least 15 years old (In consideration a tree with branches of 10 cm diameter is likely to be that age any way).
As for the species of tree – here lies much debate! There are some schools of thought that say you mistletoe berries should be planted in the same trees that the berries came from, to a certain extent this might be true in respect of Oak. This comes from research done in France with French oaks. We find that most common UK fruit trees will be suitable as a host tree, as well as poplar, limes, hawthorns and even roan. We must also state that we know of very little mistletoe growing in English Oak in our area.
So try, experiment as see what happens – remember patience is a virtue!
HOW TO PLANT
Having chosen you trees that you wish to use as hosts to your new mistletoe plants, you now have to select where in the tree you are going to plant your seeds. We recommend that each planting site can accommodate 4 – 5 seeds spaced about 20 cm apart.
When deciding on where to plant think about the following:
Upon germination, a root-like structure, called a radicle, emerges from the germinated seed and grows along the branch surface. When it encounters an irregularity in the bark, the radicle will produce a swelling called a holdfast, it is here that it will try to grow into to tree and link up to the trees water and nutrient supply.
Seeds and seedlings are subject to predatory behaviour of birds and grazing creatures.
They are also susceptible to drought and they need light to germinate and grow.
Having chosen your site (and we would suggest that you chose at least two trees) you need to extract the seed from its casing.
First remove any the plant that might be attached to the seed and acting as plug for the casing.
Gently squeeze the seed between thumb, index and forefinger. This should cause the seed to emerge surrounded by a sticky clear substance.
Wipe the seed on to the planting site on the host, the sticky substance will insure that it sticks to the host’s bark.
Think about where you are going to place your seed. Remember its roots eventually have to penetrate through the bark into the tree itself. Think about natural crevasses in bark that might provide an easier point of entry and that might also provide some natural shelter and protection.