Halloween gardening: Experts suggest some spooky season plants

Halloween gardening: Experts suggest some spooky season plants

For some Halloween enthusiasts, the season starts long before October: The scary movie marathons have begun, the decorations are up and… the plants are showing off their foliage? 

Yes, the plants. Spooky-looking garden and house plants have become increasingly popular. More than 17,000 posts on Instagram include the hashtag #gothgarden and plants such as the Raven ZZ (aka  Zamioculcas zamiifolia) and Alocasia Black Velvet are hot commodities in plant shops.

Though many of these plants are popular year-round and are long-term additions to gardens and homes, Halloween seemed like the perfect time to give them their spotlight. We asked experts for their picks for some creepy – but striking – plants. 

Carnivorous cuties

A classic edition in the creepy plant pantheon is the carnivorous plant, and Danae Horst, owner of Folia Collective in Eagle Rock and author of the book “Houseplants for All,” knows of a few common varieties that will love munching on creepy crawlies in a sunny window. 

Venus flytrap: The Venus flytrap, with its mouth-like appendages that can quickly doom an insect, is a classic, but Horst said one of the interesting things about this plant is that there are so many different cultivars with unusual coloration or shapes. Some varieties are blood red; others have much larger traps.  

Sundews: One of Horst’s favorite carnivorous plants is the sundew, which boasts sticky glands on its petal-like leaves that work like a natural kind of flypaper. 

Pitcher plants: Horst said the term “pitcher plant” refers to multiple genuses, but in general these plants are known for their tubes that attract and then trap insects. Pitcher plants come in a wide variety of shapes and striking colors, according to Horst. Some are bright red and others have multicolored patterns. 

“They definitely look very otherworldly,” she said. 

Carnivorous plants may be scary, but they won’t be hardy if they don’t have the right conditions met. 

These plants need lots of light and, because they often originate from bogs, benefit from being put on trays with some standing water. They’re also picky about the kind of water they get. 

“They really only should be watered with either distilled water or rainwater,” Horst said, explaining that the plants don’t handle the minerals commonly found in tap water well.

Outlandish outdoor plants 

California natives can be spooky, too. We reached out to two faculty members from Cal Poly Pomona’s Department of Landscape Architecture, Muriel Fernandez and Sarah Fisher, and they provided some suggestions. 

Salvia: Fernandez recommends two species: Salvia leucophylla and Salvia munzii, which she says have intense bluish-purple blooms,

Smoke tree: Another of Fernandez’s picks is the smoke tree. This native plant features spiny, greyish-green branches and leaves that give it almost a billowy appearance. It makes flowers that are a deep blue color. 

Fisher shared her picks for native plants in an email. 

Cobweb Thistle: This has leaves with a hairy appearance similar to cobwebs.

Fragrant Evening Primrose: This sports large white blooms at dusk and attracts pollinators such as sphinx moths.

Sacred Datura: This one produces “beautiful haunting white flowers that open at night.” Fisher notes that Sacred Datura has hallucinogenic properties so it’s not recommended for gardens where children or pets are present.  

Goth gardening

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Shannie McCabe, a horticultural expert for Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, said there are many flowers that put out dark plumage for a goth vibe. Some examples are the Bowles Black pansy, Jet Black hollyhock, Chocolate cosmos and Black Prince snapdragon.

Some root vegetables are also great picks for a goth garden such as the the Black Nebula carrot, which has a deep purple hue and the Bull’s Blood beet, which sports a rich red color.

And for those looking to make a Halloween-themed cocktail? “They both make incredible blood-red juice,” McCabe said.

Folia Collective’s Horst also had some suggestions for goth houseplants.

ZZ plants: ZZs, which are prized for being low-maintenance and thriving in indirect and low light conditions, are already pretty popular, but now they come in goth colors, too. The Raven ZZ is one of the most recognizable varieties, but Horst said there are now many different varieties that sport darker foliage. 

Begonias: Begonias come in a range of colors, but some come in deep reds, dark purples or even black with a high contrast neon green vein running down the middle, making them a great choice to create a more moody or spooky vibe, Horst said. 

Alocasias: Alocasia Amazonica and Alocasia Black Velvet both sport darkly-colored leaves with white veins. 

Geogenanthus ciliatus: Horst said this plant, a newly popular houseplant variety, has glossy purple foliage that’s so dark it almost looks black. It also sports a high-contrast purple vein. She said the plant has been frequently requested as a companion plant to the very popular Raven ZZ by people trying to create a goth vibe within their homes. 

Unlike the ZZ, though, the geogenanthus needs a little more care. Horst recommends keeping it near a source of bright, indirect light, keeping it moist, and making sure it has a lot of humidity. She recommends keeping a humidifier near the plant or keeping it in a place such as a bathroom, assuming that the bathroom gets enough light. 

Halloween may be the season of scares, but there’s nothing really that scary about caring for a geogenanthus. 

“I wouldn’t say it’s the easiest plant, but it’s definitely not the hardest,” Horst said.