Although mistletoe is spread naturally by birds, it is possible to grow it yourself. You do, however, need an enormous amount of patience as it can take several attempts until you finally see the first tiny shoot.

Mistletoe (Viscum album) is a parasitic evergreen shrub covered with white berries from winter to spring. It grows around a metre high and across in the branches of trees such as hawthorn, apple and poplar.

Although mistletoe berries from Christmas springs are tempting to use to grow your own, do not as the best time to harvest berries is March or April when they are fresh and ripe.

Remember that they are poisonous so wash your hands before and after handling them.

When choosing which berries to harvest make sure that the tree the mistletoe is living on matches the type you are planning to grow the plant in on the smallholding. Remove the seeds from the berries.

Choose a branch fairly high up that is 10cm or more wide on a tree that is 15 years old or more and make a flap of tree bark by shallowly cutting the branch. Carefully spread many of the seeds under the flap and then bind in hessian to protect them from birds. Bear in mind that only one in ten seeds germinate and male and female plants are needed to form berries.

If you are lucky the branch will swell because the mistletoe is growing. It can take five years before berries are likely. If, despite flowering, no berries appear after this time it is likely that you have grown a male plant. Try the process again and see if you can balance the male and females.

The benefit of growing mistletoe is not just for Christmas. The number of mistletoe plants is declining because the number of traditional apple orchards is decreasing. It could take a while to succeed in your mission to grow your own mistletoe but there’s no denying the feelings of joy and reward when you do.

This article is in the Christmas 2017 edition of Smallholder which is out now and in all good newsagents. To secure the next 13 monthly issues for £30 go to