If you like vamping up your house for Halloween — adding some ghoulish touches and a few frightening follies — here’s a way to enjoy the spirit of the season all year long. Creepy flora, like bat plants and Dracula orchids, give your garden and indoor pots a delightful touch of the macabre. If you dare, click through our scary slide show of creepy plants.
This gross little blob of a mushroom isn’t an edible plant — not that you’d want to. But it’s a beneficial fungus that attaches itself to host tree roots and gives out minerals and amino acids in exchange for tasty carbon. It grows throughout North America. When moist and healthy, it bleeds droplets of bright red juice that inspired its other nickname, “strawberries and cream.” Yum.
Creepy Plants for Your Halloween GardenBlack Bat Flower (Tacca chantrieri)
Not many plants have ears and whiskers, but the bat flower does. Throw in the odd black color, and you’ve got one spooky little blossom. This rare plant grows wild in China, but in the states requires careful care — shade, well-drained soil, just the right amount of water, and temps no lower than 30 degrees. Buy it from a nursery specializing in unusual plants for $20.
Creepy Plants for Your Halloween GardenCrown of Thorns (Euphorbia millii)
Although it’s speckled nearly all year long with bright little flowers of various colors, the crown of thorns is an absolute beast when it comes time for pruning. Armed with sharp thorns, each stem is a waiting weapon. Be extra careful when trimming — the sap of Euphorbia is toxic if ingested and can cause skin rashes on contact. A potted start is $5.
Creepy Plants for Your Halloween GardenGhost Plant (Monotropa uniflora)
Pale as a corpse, the ghost plant — AKA Indian pipe — has a nearly translucent stem and a wan, white flower. Unlike most plants, the ghost plant doesn’t have chlorophyll and doesn’t produce energy from sunlight. Instead, it’s a parasite that gets its sustenance from other plants. Because it doesn’t need sun, it can grow in dark understory nooks and crannies. It’s rare and difficult to propagate domestically.
Creepy Plants for Your Halloween GardenDoll’s Eyes (Actaea pachypoda)
Resembling a space alien from a 1950s sci fi movie, doll’s eyes has globular white fruit with a disconcerting black “iris.” This eastern North America perennial, also called white baneberry, is very toxic — ingesting the berries or stems can lead to cardiac arrest and death. It’s certainly weird-looking; or maybe it’s just looking. Seed packets are $3; a potted plant is $16.
Creepy Plants for Your Halloween GardenChinese Lantern Plant (Physalis alkekengi)
Looking like a delicate paper lantern as it matures, the flower of the Chinese lantern plant dries to reveal a small reddish fruit encased in a skeletal covering. It’ll grow in just about any hardiness zone in North America. In Japan, the plant’s seeds are used to help guide the souls of the dead. Maybe to your house? Cost: $2 for 50 seeds.
Creepy Plants for Your Halloween GardenDracula Orchid (Dracula sergioi)
The aptly named Dracula orchid is a delicate beauty with a nasty bite — look directly down the center of the flower to see its piranha-like mouth. Thankfully, this little orchid doesn’t really have fangs. It’s native to Central America and rare in the U.S. If you’re looking to buy one, search online for orchid specialists. $15-$25 per plant.
Creepy Plants for Your Halloween GardenVenus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula)
What’s for dinner? The well-known Venus flytrap is carnivorous, dining on insects that wander into its gaping jaws — actually the plant’s leaves. The flytrap snaps shut in a fraction of a second; the long fringes prevent prey from escaping. We find it ironic that it’s named after the goddess of love. Cultivated worldwide, it’s native to North and South Carolina. Well-cared-for plants can last 30 years. Buy them online for $8.
Creepy Plants for Your Halloween GardenAngel Trumpet (Brugmansia)
Showy angel trumpets are popular flowering shrubs in hardiness zones of 10 or above. The multicolored, 8-inch-long flowers are way cool, but the plant has a shadowy history. In South American tribal cultures, its hallucinogenic properties were used for sorcery, black magic, and to call forth the dead. All parts of the plant are extremely toxic, but for those who don’t give a toot, the angel trumpet is easy to grow, although it’s banned in some communities. Young plants are $20-$25.
Creepy Plants for Your Halloween GardenVoodoo Lily (Sauromatum venosum)
Writhing like snakes, this group of voodoo lilies is just starting to emerge from the ground in spring. It’s a shade-loving plant that multiplies by producing new bulbs underground, and it’ll get 3-4 feet tall. Its name comes from its spooky ability to blossom without soil or water — all you have to do is put a corm on a windowsill. The flowers are patterned like reptile skin and smell like rotting meat. Lovely. Bulbs are $10-$30.
Creepy Plants for Your Halloween GardenDIY Your Own Creepy Plant
Longing for your own creepy Halloween plant but your garden only grows pretty things? Too bad, but there’s hope: You can make your own fantastical flora from papier-mache. Paint ‘em and pot ‘em, and you’ve got some weird just in time for the holiday. Or buy ‘em ready to go — this eye-opening arrangement is $150 and never needs watering.
With their long, grabby arms and menacing spikes, some varieties of cacti (Cactaceae) seem to be reaching for a hug — a painful hug that’ll last a long, long time. Like forever. There are more than 1,500 known species of cacti, and many make good houseplants or additions to Southwestern landscapes. Those with long arms include Argentine toothpick (Stetsonia coryne), Cereus, and the famous saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea).