If you want to create a chill for Halloween at home, do it with houseplants – whether you choose freaky foliage, spiky succulents or carnivorous candidates.
Garden centres are now awash with scary possibilities that you could pair with rustic carved pumpkins and trailing hairy air plants for maximum effect.
Set the stage
Create your own witches table with gothic candles and bottles of different coloured herbs that have potion potential, or add a selection of miniature pumpkins or tombstones, black berries and weird seedheads to your terrarium for a spine-chilling combination.
“For maximum effect, group your Halloween-inspired plants on a mantle or shelf. Use plants like the Humata tyermanii with its hairy spider legs, and tillandsia that gives the allusion of cobwebs, to set the tone,” suggests Rebecca Stanton, stylist for Dobbies Garden Centres (dobbies.com).
“To create a ‘creepy lab’ effect, add moss balls to jars and nestle them in your display, and make sure you include an Alocasia ‘Red Secret’ in the mix. Its glossy blood red leaves will definitely give a haunted house feel. For a finishing touch, add some small gourds – the wartier the better.”
Andy Webb, plant manager at Squires Garden Centres (squiresgardencentres.co.uk) in Woking suggests using orange, black or ghostly white ceramic pots, or containers with a rough texture. You could line a black or white pot with orange tissue paper to dress it up, or wrap pots with orange ribbon, or carve out a pumpkin and use it as a plant pot.
The spook-tacular houseplants to buy
1. Humata tyermanii
“Sometimes known as the rabbit’s foot fern or spider fern, this houseplant is a great addition,” says Claire Bishop, senior houseplant buyer for Dobbies Garden Centres, echoing Stanton.
“The classic fern features furry roots that cascade down the pot of the plant, giving the effect of tarantula legs. The Humata tyermanii should be watered regularly and likes to be in a bright spot with a lot of humidity, making it the perfect addition to your bathroom or kitchen.”
2. Venus fly trap
Flies and other insects get trapped in its leafy jaws as this plant feeds on live matter, making it ideal for Halloween, Webb suggests. Movement activates the trap hairs which then close over the intruder; the plant produces digestive acids from glands on the inner surface of the leaf which kill and then dissolve its victim’s body.
3. Alocasia ‘Red Secret’
Another Stanton recommendation, the haunting Alocasia ‘Red Secret’ features metallic leaves and translucent stems. “It thrives in medium to bright indirect sunlight and enjoys high humidity, so be sure to mist it frequently to keep it happy,” says Bishop, who suggests keeping it in your living room or bathroom.
4. Aloe vera
A classic houseplant year-round, this popular succulent offers a bit of Halloween greenery, Webb suggests. As well as looking frighteningly cool, aloe vera is an air purifier, and is happiest in a bright spot such as on your desk.
5. Rattlesnake Plant (Calathea)
This plant has corrugated leaves, and is very striking. Its leaves are pale green and spotted with deep purple underneath, which is velvety to the touch. The plant can actually move its leaves by changing the water pressure in the pulvini, the swollen nodes at the base of the leaf stalk, almost like it has a mind of its own…
6. Old Man Cactus
This spooky cactus has fluffy white tufts of hair over the surface of its body. But beware – under that white hair are the sharpest of spines, Webb warns.
7. Croton (Codiaeum variegatum)
The warm tones of this houseplant’s leaves make it Halloween and autumn suitable. Bishop advises this plant should be placed in a bright spot, with indirect sunlight, and watered regularly, to keep it thriving. Make sure you allow the topsoil to dry out in between watering so as not to overwater it.
8. Mind Your Own Business (Nertera granadensis)
Add some trademark Halloween orange to the scene with this house favourite, also known as the coral bead plant, says Webb. It’s a creeping perennial that has thin fleshy stems and is covered with orange berries.
9. Tillandsia usneoides (air plant)
Sometimes known as Spanish moss, the Tillandsia usneoides is an easy to care for plant. Drape it across a table or shelf for a live spider web effect, guaranteed to spook your friends and family. Simply mist it twice a week to stop it from drying out. It loves a sunny spot so is excellent for conservatories or bright bathrooms, says Bishop.
10. Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum)
Even if it’s only the name that gives a chill, this houseplant is worth including because it’s so easy to keep and almost impossible to kill, says Webb. A decorative climber with glossy green leaves splashed with yellow, allow it to creep over shelving or up a support for a spooky effect.