Mistletoe is a welcome sight at the holidays, especially when it’s hanging over the head of someone you’d like to kiss. While it’s great to display indoors, gardeners don’t hold the same affection for mistletoe when it’s outdoors. Find out why.
Mistletoe is an evergreen bush grows on soft-bark trees, including apple, hawthorn, ash and lime. Its leaves are a dull, light green color and oval in shape. The flowers are small and grow in the forks of the stems in groups of threes. Mistletoe flowers bloom in May and the light pink berries ripen in December.
Mistletoe is native to Europe, but it can grow in the U.S., although most gardeners and arborists do not recommend it. American mistletoe is especially invasive and potentially harmful to all the plants around it. European mistletoe grows slowly and doesn’t present damage to its neighbors as quickly.
The problem with growing your own (of wither variety) is that mistletoe is a parasite. It grows on host trees and can ultimately kill branches, if not the whole tree. In addition, mistletoe is very attractive to pests, including wood boring insects that can cause even more harm to your trees. as if that weren’t enough, the roots of mistletoe provide a pathway for fungal infections. The plant grows like a weed and can spread everywhere in your yard when birds disperse the berries. The sticky berries will attach to any tree it falls on and a new root system will begin growing. Once mistletoe infests your yard, it’s very hard to conquer.
The best bet for enjoying mistletoe is in the comfort of your holiday home, not as a landscape plant!