Horrible Houseplants to Grow for Halloween
These plants aren't really horrible. They're just twisted, contorted, prickly and fun to grow for spooky decorations.
Some houseplants are weird and otherworldly, with strange shapes and creepy names that make them perfect—and perfectly fun—to grow for Halloween. Don’t be afraid to try them just because there’s a little boo in these beauties.
Are you going for an alien theme? You need a Crested Euphorbia (Euphorbia lactea). This grafted plant looks menacing with its spiky, cactus rootstalk and twisted, red-rimmed comb. It doesn’t need much water. A drink every couple of weeks will do, but it does like a warm room and plenty of light. Use a mulch of pebbles around the base and display it with other creepy cacti and sinister succulents.
Celosias come in several colors, but you need a dark red variety like ‘Dracula’ to really spook things up. Typically grown as garden annuals, celosias bloom until frost, but you can pot them as temporary houseplants or use the cut, dried blooms for arrangements. ‘Dracula’ is a novelty celosia that produces one big flower on the top of each plant. When grown outdoors, the foliage, which starts out green and red, becomes more purple. The flowers turn dark purple, too. Unlike the real Drac, celosias love sun.
Also known as African mask or elephant's ear, Alocasia poly has big, dark leaves with what we’ll call "dead-white" veins, around Halloween. This exotic tropical needs bright light and the kind of high humidity found in kitchens and bathrooms. Show it off as a specimen or group it with other foliage plants. Then weave some fake spider webs through the leaves, dim the lights, play a tape of creepy, chattering insect sounds, and turn your party room into a menacing jungle.
Senecio vitalis ‘Serpents’
Senecio vitalis ‘Serpents’ is often grown as a garden annual. It’s hardy in USDA zones 10-11, but can be grown as a low-maintenance houseplant, too. This succulent tolerates heat, likes part sun to sun and needs watering about once a week in warm weather. In the winter, water it only enough to prevent wilting. The fleshy, blue-green leaves give the plant its common name, blue chalk fingers. Grow it for Halloween, and conjure up images of ghostly fingers reaching for the sky.
Scatter pots of Venus flytraps around, and wait. Someone is bound to say, “Feed me, Seymour,” when the plant’s “teeth” snap shut. Your guests are safe, but Venus flytraps will trap and digest ants and other small insects. Use this carnivorous beauty in a terrarium or give it high humidity, good air circulation and moist soil. The plant will catch its own dinner when grown outside, but you’ll have to feed it indoors. That means giving it live flies or other insects, since dead ones won’t simulate the traps to open. Nasty? Yes. That's why this is a good choice for Halloween.
Pitcher plants are also carnivorous oddities that lure and feed on mites, ants, spiders and other insects. Sarracenia leucophyllair isn't easy to grow indoors, but you can buy a potted plant to enjoy for a short time. Keep it moist with rainwater or distilled water (tap water can harm its sensitive roots). Follow the care directions on the label to enjoy the pitcher plant’s haunting looks for Halloween.
Earth star, or Cryptanthus, is an eye-catching bromeliad you can grow in a terrarium. Up the eerie factor with spooky props like tiny headstones, or let the kids add miniature aliens and action figures for that “came-from-outer-space” look. Let the plant’s soil dry out before you water again, and keep it in plenty of light in a warm room. Don’t let the terrarium sit in full sun to avoid burning the leaves.
Agaves come in many colors and fascinating shapes. Thread agave has stiff leaves covered with thin, white, web-like fibers. Others have arching leaves that look like the legs of squids or octopi, or sharp spines along their margins. No matter how they look, most agaves are easy to care for, grow slowly and thrive in warm temperatures and bright light.
Some gardeners see a spinal column in the zig-zag arrangement of Pedalianthus’ leaves, which explains why it’s commonly called the devil’s backbone. Grown indoors, the plant reaches about 2’ tall. It tolerates low light and dry conditions, so put it in a corner for Halloween, and use a lantern nearby to cast twisted shadows on the wall. Be careful not to cut the stems of this devilish beauty, as they’ll ooze poisonous sap.
Although it’s the season for tricks and treats. there’s no trick to growing undemanding spider plants. They’re happy with bright to moderate light and the temperature and humidity in the average home. Their arching stems bear lots of baby “spiders” that dangle over the edge of pots and baskets. They’re almost too cute to be spooky, unless you’re a gardener who just can’t stand the idea of spiders in the house.