Skip to main content
  1. Life
  2. Home & Living
  3. Lifestyle

The kissing ball for a mistletoe stand-in

See also

The Kissing Ball by STEVE ASBELL

It seems that 'under the mistletoe' is the hottest place to be for the holidays, and 'kissing balls' of mistletoe have adorned homes at least since the days of Victorian England. The unfortunate thing about real mistletoe is that the parasitic plant is highly poisonous and doesn't even last long in displays since it dies the moment it's cut from the branch of its host tree.

" ...real mistletoe is that the parasitic plant is highly poisonous..."

That's where mistletoe cactus comes into its own. Plants in the Rhipsalis genus acquired their romantic common name because like the real mistletoe, it hangs from trees and bears white, round berries. But these cacti are benign plants called epiphytes that live in the treetops without harming their hosts. This means that unlike the real mistletoe, Rhipsalis can continue to live on their own accord. If you cut a stem and provide moisture, it will form roots of its own.

I've made these kissing balls for years and have even included one in my book on creative houseplant projects, Plant by Numbers. Oddly enough, it took me a while to even consider giving them a holiday makeover! I got the idea when scrambling to think of a more natural looking way to grow my orchids and other epiphytic plants, and the affordable grape vine balls sold at Michaels were perfect.

Making these living Christmas decorations is a lot easier than you would think, and the mistletoe cactus plants are easy to find with the at your local nursery or big-box retailer. All you do is stuff a grapevine ball with moistened sphagnum moss, clip off stems of a Rhipsalis plant and carefully insert them into the moss. Since the stems are brittle, it does pay to take your time rather than just jamming them in. I've also added Tillandsias, commonly known as air plants to add a little bit of interest, but these aren't necessary. To finish, just wrap a ribbon to the ball's wire frame, hang from an overhang or ceiling and add a bow.

The longer I've made these, the easier my instructions become. While you can certainly root the cuttings in advance with rooting hormone, I've found that as long as you keep the ball moist, the cuttings will establish. Oh, and unless you live where frost isn't a problem, don't leave them outdoors. Rhipsalis are tropical plants and will perish in the cold. For even more tips, wait for my book to come out in March of next year! Asbell’s upcoming, Plant By Number: 50 Houseplant Combinations to Decorate Your Space.



  • Dead babies found
    Seven dead babies were found in Utah resident Megan Huntsman's old home
    Shocking Discovery
  • Kendall Jenner
    Get the Coachella looks: Kendall Jenner’s nose ring, green hair and edgy nails
    Coachella Look
  • Dog's Easter basket
    How to fill your dog’s Easter basket with the perfect toys
    Easter Basket
  • Rabbit owners
    Bringing home the bunny: Important information for rabbit owners
    7 Photos
  • Haunted island
    The world’s most haunted island may soon be the most haunted luxury resort
    Haunted Resort
  • Sunken ferry
    Search continues for missing passengers after a ferry sinks off the South Korean coast
    Sunken Ferry

User login

Log in
Sign in with your email and password. Or reset your password.
Write for us
Interested in becoming an Examiner and sharing your experience and passion? We're always looking for quality writers. Find out more about and apply today!