Growing your own Mistletoe

Trust Orchard Officer, Chris Groves, harvests mistletoe (Viscum al) © Ross Hoddinott

Trust Orchard Officer, Chris Groves, harvests mistletoe (Viscum al)

We were encouraged to grow mistletoe at Acorn Bank by Mr W Bailey, an orchard keeper living near Preston.

We started 9 or 10 years ago and now have 7 plants spread through out our orchard.

If you want to grow mistletoe in your own orchard or garden, this is what you need to do.

Choose a healthy (young) tree. Mistletoe needs light and healthy, intact bark to grow, so no cutting or nicking.

You will need lots of berries and a good deal of patience – it is very slow, taking 3 years before you will see very much in the way of leaves for your effort and at least 5 years before you get any berries at all. After that things speed up and you will need to be prepared to harvest and control the crop.
The berries should be ripe before planting; you will have more success in February and March than at Christmas.

Squeeze the berries and gather a number of seeds on your finger, they will stick just fine, then transfer the seed one at a time with some of the sticky goo onto a young, smooth branch, about pinkie finger thickness. If you label the branch you will be able to look out for signs of growth. If you don’t label you will have a nice surprise in a few years time!

Try for about 20 berries per tree. Two reasons; you need a male and a female mistletoe to get berries, and a lot will germinate but suffer from early mortality – eaten or knocked off.

Move onto the next tree; it seems that some varieties of apple could be better hosts than others. You could also try growing on pear, poplar, and hawthorn.

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