Grow Your Own: Spooky Plants

If you’re looking for plants to use to decorate in and around your home for Halloween, there are lots of choices. This time of year Mother Nature provides a wealth of colorful yellow, orange, and purple blooms, as well as plants with eerie formations and “spooky” names to help you set just the right environment for your jack-o-lanterns, scarecrows, witches, and ghosts.

Starting with fall color, Gazania, Gaillardia, Cosmos, Trumpet Flower Vine, and Gloriosa Lilies provide both yellow and orange blooms for your Halloween designs. Bolivian Sunset, Fire Bush, Lion’s Tail, and Hummingbird Bush have orange flowers, while the blooms of Texas Bells, Thryallis, Yellow Alder, and Jerusalem Thorn Tree are all yellow. Beautyberry, Purple Ironweed, and the Passion Flower Vine are a great choice if you want to throw in some splashes of purple.

There are also plants that provide a myriad of scents, shapes, and visual cues to further enhance your Halloween ambiance. There are actually flowers that smell like rotting flesh. This is a mechanism to attract flies, which then help with pollination to ensure the plants’ survival. Different varieties of Stapelia, a member of the Succulent family, produce large lovely star-shaped blooms that invite closer inspection by humans. This, of course, ensures a good whiff of the pungent odor followed by a quick retreat.

The Eyeball Plant, also known as a Toothache Plant, is an herb with leaves you can chew on to help numb the pain of a toothache. The flowers on this ground-cover look like little yellow eyeballs with red irises – just the right look for a vampire’s eye.

Throughout the summer, the Devil’s Trumpet blooms are a beautiful cream tinged with purple. In the fall, as the leaves start to die back, the stems are striking with their shiny blackness and interesting formation. The seed pods look like eggs left by aliens. It’s best to pick these up before they burst to reduce the number of seedlings coming up in early spring.

The Weeping Yaupon Holly has a beautiful display of reddish-orange berries this time of year. Its branches droop towards the ground, providing a great hiding place for little ghosts and ghouls. This small, slow-growing tree is a great plant for a family-friendly yard. Advise the little ones not to sample the berries – they are great for birds, but not for humans. In fact, it’s always a good idea to caution your children to never eat any part of a plant (Holly, Trumpet Flower, Gloriosa Lily, etc.) without checking with you first. If in doubt, don’t take chances.

Some plants really stand out at night. The Spider Lily is a member of the Amaryllis family. While this plant can have beautiful red or pink flowers, the white bloomers look like gigantic spiders in the moonlight. With a little help from a gentle night breeze, Gaura’s tiny white flowers atop tall slender stems look like little ghosts flying near the ground, and Candlestick Cassia sports tall, spiky, yellow blooms that look like torches. Another great plant to use at Halloween is Spanish moss. Whether draping from the branches of trees or from your light fixtures indoors, this is a really spooky-looking way to welcome your trick-or-treaters. If you’re worried about bringing in “critters,” store the moss in a plastic bag in the freezer for 24 hours and you’ll be bug-free.

While it’s too late to grow your own decorations for this year’s costume party, you now have a list of plants you can consider installing for future outdoor and indoor Halloween décor.

Aline Clement is a master gardener with the Duval County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS.

About Aline Clement

Aline Clement is a master gardener with the Duval County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS.