Mistletoe Is a Parasite: Here Are 5 Festive Plants to Hang Instead


It’s a scene straight out of a Victorian Christmas card: Two shy lovebirds are batting their eyelashes at one another during a holly jolly party, then suddenly realize—what!—that they’re standing directly under a sprig of mistletoe, offering an opportunity for a big, romantic smooch. And while that scene is all well and good for a Hallmark holiday movie, in reality, the thought of having to kiss someone simply because you’ve both found yourselves underneath a bit of greenery is a little, uh, creepy. What’s more, mistletoe is actually a parasite (yes, really!) that steals both nutrients and water from its host tree when found in nature, potentially causing it to die. No one needs that kind of bad energy in their home during the holidays, so below are five plant alternatives perfect for decking the holiday halls—no parasites required.

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Yuletide Camellia: With its seasonally appropriate name, fiery red blooms and wintertime growing season, blooms from this evergreen shrub look gorgeous when clippings are tied together with ribbon and used as a natural “garland” on a mantle or staircase.

Dried Herbs (Thyme, Sage, Basil, etc.): Remember those fresh herbs from your garden you’ve been drying for a few months? Now is their time to shine! Tying together dried sprigs of your favorite herbs will add natural potpourri throughout your home.

Winterberry Holly: A plant almost as synonymous with the holiday season as mistletoe, winterberry holly is easily formed into a DIY, rustic wreath that’s perfect for the front door. (Plus, making the wreath is a great way to involve kids in decorating!)

Christmas Cactus: If you want to take a funkier approach to replacing mistletoe this holiday, lean towards something prickly with a Christmas cactus. With a mix of green stems and red flowers, even the biggest holiday grump will be sure to get a kick out of seeing such a festive—and unexpected—plant in a hanging basket.

Paperwhites: A type of winter-blooming daffodil, paperwhites produce delicate, snowy blossoms that make them ideal for cutting and bundling to hang for a pop of freshness anywhere around the house. (They’re also wildly easy to care for if you are in search of a plant gift that can even withstand your black-thumbed friends or relatives.) 

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