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Dressed to Kill: 7 Haunted Houseplants for Halloween

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Dressed to Kill: 7 Haunted Houseplants for Halloween

October 22, 2018

First, a disclaimer. No houseplants were harmed in the creation of this post. Well, at least not fatally. But we did force them to dress in creepy costumes for Halloween, despite knowing they’d rather be growing outdoors in their native climates (for most of them, that would be the tropics). Tough job, being a houseplant.

This DIY decor project was pretty easy on humans, though. First, we chose our victims for their theatrical foliage. Then, to create a darkly tortured Little Shop of Houseplants, we cloaked the plants’ nursery pots in washable black Paper Storage Bags (a set of three in different sizes is $32.41 from Warm Grey Company via Etsy). Tip: You can also give your houseplants a haunted look by simply painting their pots a dark color (see our Ikea houseplants below, painted in Farrow & Ball’s bruise-black Railings).

If they know what’s good for them, on Halloween our haunted houseplants will gather by the front door, where they can scowl menacingly at the trick-or-treaters:

Photography by Mimi Giboin for Gardenista.

 Peacock Plant

There are dozens of species of tropical Calathea, many with waxy, patterned leaves. We got our unlabeled specimen at Home Depot, and with some sleuthing have determined that the white outline on its leaves is similar to a potted Calathea &#8
Above: There are dozens of species of tropical Calathea, many with waxy, patterned leaves. We got our unlabeled specimen at Home Depot, and with some sleuthing have determined that the white outline on its leaves is similar to a potted Calathea ‘Marion’ available for $25 at White Flower Farm.

Botanical Name: Calathea ‘Marion’

Care and Feeding: Calatheas will fade if they get too much light; keep yours away from bright sun to preserve the distinct veining and colors of its leaves.

Design Tip: With its stiff leaves and strong silhouette, Calathea contrasts nicely with ferns or other lacy-leafed plants.

Snake Plant

Our baby snake plant came from Ikea, where an assortment of Sansevieria in a pot is available for £4 per plant in the UK; in the US, we paid $3.99.
Above: Our baby snake plant came from Ikea, where an assortment of Sansevieria in a pot is available for £4 per plant in the UK; in the US, we paid $3.99.

Botanical Name: Sansevieria

Care and Feeding: The best way to take care of a snake plant is: don’t. This plant is a survivor. Leave it be, except to water it every week or 10 days if the soil feels dry to a depth of 1 inch.

Design Tip: Get a mini version, as we did, and you can use it as a sculptural accent on a windowsill or a cocktail table.

As an added bonus, our snake plant was sprouting offshoots that look like tiny, menacing teeth.
Above: As an added bonus, our snake plant was sprouting offshoots that look like tiny, menacing teeth.

Ming Tree

A Ming Aralia Tree in a 6-inch pot is $.95 from Amazon.
Above: A Ming Aralia Tree in a 6-inch pot is $15.95 from Amazon.

Botanical Name: Polyscias fruticosa

Care and Feeding: Aralias include about 70 species of evergreen trees, perennials, and shrubs commonly found in the mountainous, wooded regions of Asia and the Americas. Don’t over-water yours—and remember that it thrives in warm temperatures.

Design Tip: Keep this dwarf tree small by trimming it with scissors.

Rattlesnake Plant

Its dramatically speckled leaves with bruised-purple undersides make our Calathea insignis look like it got into a bar fight. For a more demure specimen, a Rattlesnake Plant in a woven pot is $ from White Flower Farm.
Above: Its dramatically speckled leaves with bruised-purple undersides make our Calathea insignis look like it got into a bar fight. For a more demure specimen, a Rattlesnake Plant in a woven pot is $25 from White Flower Farm.

Botanical Name: Calathea insignis

Care and Feeding: A native of the tropics, Calathea likes moisture and well-drained soil. Avoid direct sunlight (it fades the pattern on the leaves) and mist its leaves if the air in your home is very dry.

Design Tip: Assume that your Calathea’s patterned foliage will be the visual focus in any group of houseplants; pair it with plants that have quieter colors and softer, fernlike-silhouettes.

Arrowhead Plant

Our Arrowhead Plant came from Home Depot; for a similar variety, a small Syngonium Podophyllum &#8
Above: Our Arrowhead Plant came from Home Depot; for a similar variety, a small Syngonium Podophyllum ‘Cream Allusion‘ in a 2.5-inch pot is $4.49 from Josh’s Frogs.

Botanical Name: Syngonium podophyllum

Care and Feeding: Filtered light will prevent its leaves from turning brown and curling, and you can avoid root rot by letting the soil dry out between waterings.

Design Tip: Don’t be fooled by its compact shape; Syngonium podophyllum is a vine and wants to spill over ledges, shelves, and sills. Its destiny is a hanging planter.

Flaming Sword Plant

Our baby bromeliad came from Ikea, where a 5-inch Bromeliaceae in a pot is $9.99.
Above: Our baby bromeliad came from Ikea, where a 5-inch Bromeliaceae in a pot is $9.99.

Botanical Name: Vriesea bromeliad

Care and Feeding: “Remove the flower after it becomes unsightly, using a sharp, sterilized knife or pair of scissors to cut back the spike as far as possible without injuring the plant,” writes our contributor, Kier Holmes. See the rest of her tips in our recent post, Gardening 1o1: Bromeliads.

Design Tip: “Seek out unique varieties that have exotic leaves in bold colors or striped like a snake,” suggests Kier.

Dumb Cane Plant

A Dieffenbachia Camille in a 6-inch pot is $.74 at Home Depot.
Above: A Dieffenbachia Camille in a 6-inch pot is $24.74 at Home Depot.

Botanical Name: Dieffenbachia

Care and Feeding: Make sure it’s in a well-draining pot; if the leaves start to turn yellow, water it more frequently.

Design Tip: With leaves that have ghostly white centers, this variety of Dieffenbachia is at happiest a tropical rain forest where there’s plenty of protection from hot sun. Respect its needs and keep it away from a harsh southern exposure.

We discovered this little insect, disguised to match the Dieffenbachia leaf on which he was hiding. When we tried to catch him, we found out he was a jumping bug. He looks like a katydid to us.
Above: We discovered this little insect, disguised to match the Dieffenbachia leaf on which he was hiding. When we tried to catch him, we found out he was a jumping bug. He looks like a katydid to us.

And finally…

The house plants should recover by next Halloween.
Above: The house plants should recover by next Halloween.

N.B.: See more of our dangerous decor for Halloween at:

Finally, get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various houseplants with our Houseplants: A Field Guide.

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