Spooky plants for Halloween decorating Who needs Halloween decorations when nature provides such bizarre and beautiful creations? Display these flowers and plants to add a little haunt to your house this season...if you dare Feed me, Seymour Place a pot of Venus flytraps (Dionaea muscipula) on the table and your guests won’t be the only ones enjoying dinner. When the plant’s trigger hairs inside are touched, its elegant eyelashes turn into teeth that snap shut—even emitting a slight electrical current as they close. To grow: Venus flytraps can grow outside in frost-free climates, or as houseplants in bright light. Pinterest Dark and stormy A handful of tall ‘Hot Chocolate’ callas makes for a moody bouquet. Tuck in nearly black aeonium rosettes and Colocasia ‘Puckered Up’, a new elephant ear, to add more dark texture. To grow: After frost has passed, grow callas from rhizomes. Aeoniums need protection from frost. Elephant ears can grow outdoors in mild climates, and as houseplants in all regions. Come hither Native to nutrient-poor soils, monkey cups (Nepenthes ‘Miranda’) have dangling pouches that capture and dissolve insects for food. “We call them ‘roach motels’ because insects check in, but they’re never checking out,” says Mark Pendleton, manager of Brookside Orchids. Pair the plant with Spanish moss, a cobwebby mass made up of tangled airplants (Tillandsia usneoides). To grow: Try monkey cups as houseplants; they need bright light and daily misting. Burning beauty Create a surreal scene with the flamelike stems of ‘Sticks on Fire’ euphorbia and a container of carnivorous plants. Here, Cobra plants (Darlingtonia californica) arch over smaller Venus flytraps and pitcher plants. Finish off the display with Swiss cheese vine (Monstera obliqua), planted in a low bowl so its leaves creep out onto the table. To grow: All of these plants can grow outside in mild climates or as houseplants in bright light. But beware: Cobra plants are finicky and need cool temperatures. Frankenstein Crested euphorbias (back) are like something out of a monster movie. Grafted onto stems of another type of euphorbia, their crests gradually double over as they grow. Other menacing creatures: Dyckia, a dark bromeliad (center), black mondo grass, and split rocks (Pleiospilos nelii ‘Royal Flush’), camouflaged as unassuming stones in black sand. To grow: All four plants need mild temperatures and minimal water. They are happiest outside in arid, frost-free areas, but the succulents will thrive indoors too. The bat cave Line up a series of black bat lilies (Tacca chantrieri) on a mantel; with their winglike webbed bracts, they look ready to take flight. Their whiskers are a mystery—some speculate they provide a pathway for ants to crawl up for pollination. But as Mark Pendleton says: “They’re just one of those things that makes people go ‘Wow.’” To grow: Bat lilies need mild temperatures and shade. Indoors, keep in filtered light and don’t let the soil dry out. Witches' brew The elegant long throats on these pitcher plants (Sarracenia) have a deadly purpose: to swallow bugs after luring them in with a liquid in the top flaps. “Bugs get so drunk off the nectar that you can just watch them fall right in,” says Rob Co, a Northern California carnivorous-plant collector. To grow: Pitcher plants can grow outside, except in the coldest climates. Indoors, give them bright light. Sticky surprise Place sundews on a patio and you’ll never see a gnat again. The fuzzy stems of these sundews (Drosera tracyi and D. binata) are coated in drops of dew, which are actually digestive enzymes that attract and dissolve prey. To grow: Sundews need bright light, moist soil, some humidity, and temperatures of at least 40°. A face only a mother could love Look closely at this bat-face cuphea and you’ll see why it gets the name—the picture-perfect face of a bat, ears and all. It’s totally tiny, but beyond creepy. To grow: Cuphea grows as an annual everywhere. Freaky from above Bromeliad-family Dyckia have graphic, shark-like teeth. Place them as a centerpiece on a table for a spiny, perfect display. To grow: Dyckia plants need mild temperatures and minimum water. They’re happiest outdoors in arid, frost-free environments. Octopi on sticks Like little sea creatures tethered to sticks, Octopus orchids (Prosthechea cochleate) are a great addition to Halloween decorations. To grow: These orchids can take a light frost if they’re protected, but should be moved indoors in a hard freeze. They don’t like to be dried out or exposed to hot sun. An atrium or porch is ideal. Staring contest No, you aren’t imagining things—those are little faces on each flower of a Stanhopea wardii, an orchid from Mexico. Hang one of these from a hook and make all your guests feel like they’re surrounded by beady little eyes. To grow: These can take a light frost if they’re protected, but should be moved indoors in a hard freeze. They don’t like to be dried out or exposed to hot sun. An atrium or porch is ideal. Sickeningly sweet This orchid, Stanhopea tigrina, has super short-lived flowers that last three days maximum. Their interesting, claw-like shape beckons you closer, but then you notice their smell. It’s sweet, yes, but an oppressive kind of sweet that, in an enclosed environment, becomes much too much, all too quickly. To grow: These can take a light frost if they’re protected, but should be moved indoors in a hard freeze. They don’t like to be dried out or exposed to hot sun. An atrium or porch is ideal. Take my hand, if you dare What seems like an inviting dish of fruit is actually a bowl full of claw-like citrus, Buddha’s hands. Though they look scary as can be, their zest is actually absolutely delicious in your Halloween cocktails. To grow: Citrus need protection from frost. Cover them in the case of a light frost, or bring them inside in cold-winter climates. It's in the veins The pink and purple tie-dyed look of amaranth 'Early Splendor' is awesome on its own, but it’s the bright pink stem that really takes it over the top. The plant looks like it’s being supported by a giant, pulsing blood vessel. To grow: Amaranth grows as a summer annual in all climates. Blades of blood Grow a pot of Japanese blood grass (Imperata cylindrica ‘Rubra’) for some spooky seasonality. The tips turn red in autumn, making the grass look likes it’s been dipped in blood. To grow: Considered an invasive plant in the Northwest, be sure to grow Japanese blood grass in a pot. It takes full sun to part shade, and regular water. Zombie fingers Lovingly referred to as, “dead man’s fingers” by designer Daniel Nolan of Flora Grubb Gardens, Cotyledon orbiculata oblanga ‘Flavida’ makes us all feel like we’re living in a post-Apocalyptic world and old men are crawling out from the ground. To grow: This succulent does best in sun or shade in frost-free coastal climates. Stegosaurs back It’s called a slipper plant, but we think that the flower-like bracts of this Pedilanthus bracteatus look alarmingly like the back of a stegosaurs. Though it’s native to Mexico, the long, arching branches and minimal amount of leaves make this whole plant look so foreign—like it’s dropped down from another planet. To grow: Slipper plant is a succulent. It needs quick draining soil, full sun, and is hardy down to 25°. Poisonous pepper No, it’s not actually going to poison you, but the fruits of this ‘Black Pearl’ ornamental pepper definitely look like lethal little capsules, especially when they ripen to bright red. The black foliage gives this plant even more interest in the garden. To grow: As you would any other pepper—a summer annual in full sun and with great drainage. Skeleton crew The stalks of the nearly-leafless cattails euphorbia (Euphorbia leucadendron) look almost like skeletal bones. Put the houseplant on center stage for a spooky Halloween display. To grow: Outside in frost-free climates, indoors in bright light. Needs very little water. Gorgeously ghoulish The leaf of this split leaf philodendron (Monstera deliciosa) looks stunningly chic—and ghostly—in a vase of its own. To grow: Have one as a houseplant in a bright, humid location, or have the florist order you a bunch of leaves for a spooky display. In a tangle Harry Lauder’s walking stick (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’) stars here, its dormant bony form on full display. Greenish yellow catkins will soon dangle from the tree’s twisted branches, followed by a covering of bright green leaves in spring and summer. The supporting cast, from top: a wispy Sophora prostrata 'Little Baby', a rosette-shaped ‘Blue Glow’ agave, and a Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’. Kaleidoscopic color It’s hard to pick a best moment for Berberis thunbergii ‘Orange Rocket’, whose spring foliage starts out coral, ages to green, and then turns red. But the two-toned nature of its autumn habit is something spectacular. In this faux-aged terra-cotta pot, the barberry rises above a green and coral pork and beans stonecrop (Sedum x rubrotinctum) and a parrot’s beak (Lotus maculatus), which dangles its soft stems over the edge. The undead These wire netting bushes (Corokia cotoneaster) only look half-dead. The New Zealand natives, known for their zigzagging branches, actually thrive in pots. They hold their structure year-round, sending out a flush of star-shaped yellow flowers in spring. Their companions include a pair of spiny Dyckia ‘Burgundy Ice’ and a nearly black mass of large-leafed Heuchera ‘Obsidian’, in a low stone trough. Dark and twisted Japanese bitter orange (Poncirus trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’) is grown more for its gnarled shape than its fruit. Here, it spreads its green stems—cloaked with sharp spines and the last of its yellow fall leaves—above softly mounding reindeer moss (Cladonia rangiferina). Heuchera villosa ‘Big Top Gold’ picks up the color of the citrus plant, and a weeping Purple Pixie Loropetalum provides a dark counterpoint. Thriller These redtwig dogwoods may be dormant, but bare of their green leaves, the branches almost glow. Gallon-size shrubs fit a 20-inch square container in the fall but should be replanted into separate pots or garden beds in spring, giving each plant room to reach 4 to 6 feet wide or more. At left, the spiderlike leaves of black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’) appear to crawl over the edge of a pail. Orange is the new black Dark hues come together beautifully in this cluster of containers. At far left, an Agonis flexuosa 'Jervis Bay Afterdark' sports feathery dark purple—almost black—foliage in a brown and black speckled ceramic container. In metal container in back, blades of Carex testacea 'Prairie Fire’ glow orange at the tips. Next to it, Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’ bears velvety purple foliage with hints of pink and lime in a rusty old container. In front, Copromsa ‘Tequila Sunrise’ blends all the hues together with super glossy leaves in a multitude of orange, purple, green, yellow, and coral hues. Black and frilly Available from longfield-gardens.com. After years of breeding, 'Black Parrot' has risen to the top as one of the darkest tulips on the market. The fringed petals have us reminiscing about Black Swan. So dark, so beautiful. To grow: Plant in fall for a spring bloom. Black as the night Along with 'Black Parrot', 'Queen of the Night' is one of the darkest tulips on the market. This moody beauty is available from longfield-gardens.com. To grow: Plant in fall for a spring bloom.