Freaky, Creepy Plants for Halloween

I love this time of year, especially Halloween. 

In the past, in honor of this holiday, I’ve written about my favorite black & orange plants, and spooky old cemeteries (click here and here, if you dare!) 

This year, being the bizarre year that it is, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite freaky, creepy plants that I’ve encountered over the years.  

I hope they add a little Halloween spirit to your week!

1.  The Carrion Flower – the creepiest plant of all (yes, that carrion… as in rotting meat.)

Several years ago, I was garden touring in Tucson when I stumbled across this gorgeous flower, perfectly placed behind this woman’s ear.

It was no ordinary flower, but the stinky Carrion flower (from this stapelia gigantea succulent.) 

When open, it smells like (you guessed it) rotting meat.

Why would Mother Nature be so cruel to make such a foul-smelling flower?  Of course, there’s a perfectly good explanation (she always has one.)

The stench is there to specifically attract flies which will, in turn, pollinate the flower.

Flies are SO convinced this is putrid meat they even lay their eggs on the flower, thinking it’ll be a great food source for their sweet, little babies.  


Yes, the flower REEKS.  But it’s so pretty, I just had to have one.

So needless to say, I’ve added a few varieties to my succulent collection over the years, including this orbea variegate (also called the Starfish Flower.)

I remember convincing my daughter to come outside to ‘smell this amazing flower.’

I know, I know – I’m such a mean mother.

But wait – I get even meaner.

I later bought this new variety, the huernia zebrina, aptly nicknamed the Lifesaver Plant.

When, you guessed it, a few years later I convinced her yet again to come outside and smell THIS amazing flower.

Needless to say, she now has trust issues.  

2.  Any head overflowing with plants


Just about anything will look a tad spooky when planted in a skeleton head (like this one spotted at the Ruth Bancroft Garden.)

Even sweet and dainty succulents like the ones, below, tucked here and there in my client’s garden beds look a little unnerving.


The same thing goes for my proud and regal head who lived on top of my repurposed fireplace mantle.

To read more about the biggest dumpster score of my life, click here.


3.  Carnivorous plants (and all their beautiful, vicious, blood-sucking relatives.)

A few years ago my husband and I visited one of the coolest nurseries around – California Carnivores.

When I was young, I remember loving the little venus fly traps that my parents would bring home for my brother and me.

We’d have so much fun watching the horror unfold as we’d feed the flytraps an unsuspecting fly.

But at this nursery there’s SO much more than Venus flytraps!

There’s the deadly, sticky Sundews and Butterworts, or the gorgeous pitcher plants just waiting to drown their victims. 

This little sweetie is the Fanged Pitcher Plant (nepenthes bicalcatarata) from the S.F. Conservatory of Flowers (you can read more here.) 

While botanists aren’t entirely sure of the fang’s purpose (the toothy protrusions running along the side of the plant), some think they’re strategically placed to lure insects to the top of the lip where they’ll certainly fall to their watery death. 

4.  Little brains and living stones (lithops)

I’ve always had a thing for lithops (also called split rocks, living rocks, or living stones.) 

Originating from South Africa, their bizarre fleshy ‘leaves’ lie close to the ground, mimicking rocks, designed to protect them from grazing animals.

Their deep tap roots help them endure months and months without water. 

I’ve had this little container of lithops for two years now, and have been rewarded each October with cheery yellow blooms.

They’re notorious for being a bit difficult to keep alive, but the key is knowing when and when not to water. 

Here’s a really helpful video explaining  just how to keep these little brains alive.

5.  Blue Eyeballs (globularia sarcophylla)

One of my favorite plants in my garden is this globularia sarcophylla ‘Blue Eyes.’ 

The flowers look exactly like, well…little blue eyes. 

Even its botanical name globularia is gross, isn’t it?

When in bloom, kids love this plant.   


The globularia is a warmer climate, low-growing shrub for zones 9-10 gardens. 

When not covered with blue eyeballs in the spring, the glaucous foliage is a welcome sight in my garden (click here for more glorious glaucous plants.)

6.  A few more odd-ball favorites


I discovered this spooky plant (athanasia pinnata) leaping from the grave at the Sacramento Historic Cemetery.

Someone definitely had a sense of humor when planting this behind the 100-year old headstone.


Bear with me on this next one, please. 

Annie’s Annuals sells this beauty, called the ‘Family Jewels’ tree, otherwise known as asclepias physocarpa

One of my clients has this growing in their garden, and it’s covered with, well…spiky, hairy balls. 

It’s a super fast growing 6-foot tall milkweed (yes, it hosts monarch butterflies, too!)   A perfect plant for catching your visitors off guard.   

I particularly love the ghastly named Love Lies Bleeding, found growing in a Mountain View garden. 

Usually the flowers are held in long, draping panicles. This is a smaller, upright variety called ‘Pygmy’s Torch’, which you can find here.  

While on a garden tour in Arizona, I spotted this cholla cactus ready to jump on its next victim.

The setting sun backlit this spiky beauty, causing it to look like a giant tarantula.


And speaking of tarantulas…

My mother calls calls this my Tarantula Cactus (it’s actually a cleistocactus winteri.)

And while it might resemble a big spider climbing out of the pot, it’s  common name is the Golden Rat Tail, which is just as icky.

It does, however, have the cutest flower!


Even though this succulent has the cutest common name (crassula rupestris ‘Baby Necklace’) my husband thinks it looks like little snakes growing out of the pot. 

Thanks a lot for the image, Tom.

I’ve had this succulent for many years, and it’s SUPER easy to grow.

And fairly tough, too, as mine has never suffered much from drought, heat, or our winter temps that dip into the high-20’s. 

And finally, what spooky plant post would be complete without mentioning the Dracula Orchid!

Spotted at the SF Conservatory of Flowers, was this giant sculpture of a dracula vampira orchid. 

If you’re thinking to yourself ‘hmmm…I’m not seeing Dracula here’ you wouldn’t be alone. 

The Latin translation of Dracula is ‘little dragon’, which is what this flower is named after. 

If you enjoy bizarre plants as much as I do, you’ll definitely want to read Amy Stewart’s Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities. 

It’s one of my favorite books and SO entertaining!


Happy Halloween!

Enjoyed this article?  Please share it with others: 

Please leave a comment below


  • What fun to see all these unusual and scary plants. You made my Halloween so special! What a talent you are.
    My thanks to Betty Childs for sharing this with me.

    Geri May Thirloway (Jeraldine)
    Sa Dieguito Garden Club, President

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed this post, Geri, and welcome to Harmony in the Garden! (Thanks, too, to Betty Childs) 🙂

  • Oh my gosh! Your article was so very funny. I thoroughly enjoyed your humor and all the beautiful, if creepy, fascinating plants. It makes me want to expand my houseplant collection, since I leave in zone 7 in Washington.
    You never fail to inspire, entertain and educate!

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed this one, Kristin – I had fun writing it, that’s for sure. Have a great Halloween weekend! 🙂

  • Oh how fun and clever this article is!! I am smiling from ear to ear!!

    Happy Halloween!!

  • Such fun reading Rebecca! I LOVE your garden mantle! What a spectacular find! I am always inspired by your posts. Definitely makes me want to get out into my garden and stir things up a bit!

    • Thanks so much, Katy – I had to leave my fireplace mantle when I moved and I sure hope the new owners love it as much as I did. I bet you’re glad I didn’t plant any of those Carrion Flowers in your garden! 🙂

  • I love Halloween and this article was informative and fun! There are all sorts of Halloween goodie recipes out now but I haven’t seen anything like this.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Chris – I had a lot of fun creating this one!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe to my blog

Upcoming Speaking Events

September 16,2021
September 22,2021
October 6, 2021
October 22, 2021
February 9, 2022
March 11, 2022

Vertical Gardening

City of Federal Way, WA Garden Series
Zoom Presentation

Topic: TBD

Garden Club of Hingham, MA
10:00am EST
Zoom Presentation

When to Break the Rules (and how to get away with it!)

Diablo Women’s Garden Club, CA
In Person Presentation

The 7 Sins of Garden Design

San Diego Home & Garden Show, CA
Zoom Presentation

When to Break the Rules (and how to get away with it!)

Merced Garden Club, CA
In-Person Presentation

Topic: TBD

University Farm Circle Garden Club, Davis CA
In-Person Presentation

Harmony in the Garden is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to
provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to and other affiliate marketing companies.

Scroll to Top