Forget the Usual Decorations & Replace With Ones You Can Add to the Garden
I love the Fall season. Here in Ventura California it is a lovely time of year when kids are back in school right when the beach weather gets perfect. There’s football nights, water polo games, patches with melting pumpkins, and while there’s no foliage display, we do get to enjoy the Santa Ana winds. We don’t really get a “season” here, unless you count fire season, but still, it is not going to stop us from pretending.
So, every October we get down that dusty box from the garage containing our skeletons, pumpkin spiced candles, and fake spiders.
Even though like most people, I reuse and repurpose the same old decorations I’ve had for years, sometimes it’s nice to cut down on waste and put my effort and money into something with a little more longevity. The increasing availability of unique succulents has certainly provided plenty of inspiration. Here are some of the best I’ve come up with for a spookily sensible Halloween-scape.
1. The Cobweb
The scientific name of this plant actually translates to “always alive on the roof”, as it was (and still is) commonly grown on roof gardens in England and Wales. The legend is that it protects the inhabitants of the home against fires and witchcraft. Also, if a stranger had removed or picked one of the stems, bad luck and even death could become you. Now that’s scary!
Name: Sempervivum Arachnoideum “Spiderweb” “Hens & Chicks” “Cobweb Houseleek”
USDA Hardiness Zones: 5-8
Size: 1-2 inches in diameter
Conditions: full sun to light shade
2. Black Rose
There’s something ominous about a black rose, and nothing goes better with Halloween than good old-fashioned evil boding. Try adding to a terra cotta or orange pot for a deep color contrast. Or add to some glass orbs that you can hang from spray painted dead branches.
Name: Aeonium Arboreum “Black Rose”
USDA Hardiness Zones: 9-10
Size: can grow to 3 feet tall, rosettes up to 8 inches
Conditions: Full sun to light shade.
3. Spanish Moss
The spilling stems of a donkey’s tail, string-of-pearls, or string-of-bananas make for great hanging plants, perfect for heightening visual interest and for all those small space and patio gardens. Simply add that witch hat from last year’s costume box and you have a fantastic front door scare zone. Pictured here is the same idea but with Spanish moss, which is actually an air plant that’s super easy to break apart and add indoors and outdoors. Be sure to mist with water now and then and keep out of direct light.
Name: Tillandsia Usneoides “Spanish Moss”
USDA Hardiness Zones: 7-11
Size: can spread several feet long and wide
Conditions: Bright indirect light, good air circulation, mist with water
4. 5. and 6. Zebra Plant, Blue Chalk Sticks, and Donkey’s Tail
Dia de los Muertos is a super creative theme to include in Halloween décor. There is such a beautiful range of colorful art and imagery, especially in pottery. If you find the original art ceramics too pricey for your budget, craft stores often sell sugar skulls as containers. (Just be sure to replant in the garden if there’s no drainage hole, succulents hate wet feet.) The sky is the limit when it comes to filling sugar skulls, pretty soon every plant you see will look like a fantastic hairdo!
Name: Haworthis Fasciata “Zebra Plant”. Pictured on the right with the spiky stems and horizontal white bands.
USDA Hardiness Zones: 9b to 11
Size: 3 to 4 inches tall, 6 to 8 inches wide
Conditions: Bright, filtered light (can thrive as a house plant)
Name: Senecio Serpens “Blue Chalksticks”. Pictured in the top, background sugar skull, with the blue drooping stems.
USDA Hardiness Zones: 9-11
Size: up to 8 inches tall & up to 40 inches wide
Conditions: full sun to bright shade
Name: Sedum Morganianum “Donkey’s Tail”. Pictured in foreground coming out of the nose of the front left sugar skull.
USDA Hardiness Zones: 11
Size: 2 feet long, 1 foot wide
Conditions: Bright shade.
7. Cotton Ball Cactus
Once you start looking, you will see ghosts every time you go to the nursery. Dense thickets of white spines are found on many varieties of cacti. Once planted in the ground, these can grow very tall and (appropriately for Halloween) blooms only at night with nocturnal flowers. This one has a very unexpectedly soft top, hence the name. Be careful lower on the plant as the spikes get stronger (and sharper). Those spikes can serve as tacks to any features you may want to add, then suspend with a macramé pot holder so your ghost can fly!
Name: Espostoa lanata “Cotton Ball Cactus” “Peruvian Old Man”
USDA Hardiness Zone: 9b to 11
Size: up to 8 inches in diameter & 10 ft tall (if in ground)
Conditions: full sun to partial shade