Believe it or not, mistletoe is not as romantic as you may imagine. They are actually parasitic plants that depend on other plants, or hosts, for energy. Despite their romantic holiday symbolism, mistletoe can actually present a threat to the life of your plants. Keep reading to find out how to get rid of mistletoe.
The Effects of Mistletoe Infection
Birds that eat mistletoe berries spread the parasite through their feces, which contains mistletoe seeds. Mistletoe infect their host by anchoring themselves to a plant’s branches and absorbing its water and nutrients. They draw a lot of water from the host, which can desiccate the host during droughts. Mistletoe can cause the death of tree branches, and in worse cases, the death of the tree — although this would take many years.
Plants Prone to Mistletoe Infection
The plants that are most likely to be infected by mistletoe include:
- Other hardwoods
- Pine trees
- Other conifers, excluding juniper and cypress
How to Get Rid of Mistletoe
If any of your plants or trees are infected with mistletoe, take the following steps to get rid of it.
1. Trim and prune your plants at least 12 inches behind the mistletoe to prevent it from harming your plants. Mistletoe tend to grow on higher branches in trees, so it might be tricky to get them. We recommend hiring a professional arborist to climb the tree safely with the proper equipment.
2. This process will need to be repeated every year, as this does not cure the host plant entirely; it only expands the lifespan of your plant or tree. Do not over-prune the host plant, as this causes extra stress on the plant.
3. You may also try to cover the mistletoe with black plastic to cut it off from sunlight. Although it is unsightly, this will slowly kill the mistletoe. You can use an herbicide, but there is a large risk of damaging or even killing the host plant.
4. If the parasitic plant has infected most of the host plant, then it might be wisest to remove the host plant altogether and plant something new later.
Seeking Professional Help
If you are having serious mistletoe problems, call an arborist to help you regain control of your plants. TalkLocal can connect you with the best arborists and tree removal services in your area who can help you control your mistletoe infestation. Talk Local is completely free, so try it out today!