Resorption is the process by which nutrients are withdrawn from leaves prior to leaf fall. Mistletoes are generally thought not to rely on nutrient resorption; being xylem-tapping parasites, they instead derive the nutrients required for new growth from their host plant, at little or no cost. We measured nutrient (N, P, K, Ca, Mg) resorption in 18 parasitic mistletoe–host species pairs distributed across three sites with notably low-P soil, also quantifying relationships with leaf lifespan (LL) and specific leaf area (SLA). There was little or no evidence of N, Ca or Mg resorption. By contrast, on average ∼30% of P and ∼20% of K were resorbed prior to leaf fall. Longer LL in mistletoes was associated with lower N and P concentrations in mistletoes and in host leaves. We provide evidence that, even though mistletoes are relatively inefficient in terms of nutrient resorption compared to non-parasite species, on low-P soils their ecological and evolutionary strategies for conserving phosphorous involve modulation of both leaf lifespan and P concentration in senesced leaves.