Spooky Gardens – Dark, Ghostly and Mysterious Plants

Spooky Gardens – Dark, Ghostly and Mysterious Plants by Lilly Browning

It’s the time of year when our minds turn to dark, spooky, and mysterious thoughts. Preparing your home for the festive fall season can include the outdoors as well. Join us as we explore plants that can bring a gothic touch to your landscape throughout the seasons.

Come to the dark side!

Some plants are naturally dusky and mysterious. Some have been bred to bring out their dark side.

Dark purple salvias come in several different varieties and hybrids. They can bring deep, dark color to any pollinator garden, and the spikes will hold on to the black calyxes after the dark blue flowers drop. The tall spikes sway ominously in the wind, bringing a wraithlike vibe to your garden. 

Fountain grass is tall, dark, and charming. It can act as screening around your secret garden or stand as a tall sentry on protective duty. The rustling of the leaves as the wind blows creates a haunting sound in your dusky landscape.

A new character has entered our chilling and thrilling landscape. Black Diamond Crepemyrtle has leaves so dark purple; they appear to be black. This dwarf variety of an old standard is available with red, blush, or pure white blooms. Choosing the white blooms will make a ghostly statement against the black leaves at dusk, and the red blooms will bring a frightening chill in the daytime. As the Crepemyrtle loses its leaves, the empty branches will bring an eerie touch to the nighttime garden. Don’t commit Crepe Murder by over-pruning. You will have a yard full of moaning myrtles, and their shortened life span will come back to haunt you.

With spectral, dark purple bracts that resemble wings, the Bat Flower is a must for any spooky garden. Hanging out in the Florida landscape, this bat-resembling flower will bloom after the plant has produced at least two leaves. The bats keep up their frightening appearances, as this plant can bloom up to 8 times in a season, late summer through fall. This plant likes the same conditions as orchids and prefers to lurk in the murky shadows.

To bring more gothic touches to your landscape, consider Black Mondo grass, Purple Knight Plant, Black Prince Coleus, Black Petunia (cool-season annual), Black Begonia, ‘Black Magic’ Elephant Ears, or Voodoo Lily. Turkey Oaks are called Blackjack Oaks by native Floridians. If you have some Turkey Oaks, their thin, twisted appearance will add character to your dark garden, and when saturated with rain, the trunks will look black and gloomy.

Apparitional Additions

With a dark backdrop to your gothic garden, consider adding ghostly white plants that will bring an unearthly quality to your piece of land.

Dusty Miller is a cool-season annual, which is silvery white and can bring a ghostly feel to the garden. It can also be worked into a winter-themed garden for future holidays.

Saltbush is a native shrub that is covered in white fluff in the fall. Its spindly, gangly frame brings character to the spooky garden, and when covered in white, can invoke a fearsome spirit in the dark of night.

Spider lilies are an eerie addition to any ghostly garden. Native varieties are available, and their arachnid-like illusion will startle your garden guests.

A water feature is a mainstay in any horror book or movie. Bring some phantasmal fun to your pond or water garden by incorporating native White Water Lilies.

An evening garden is simply not completed without some type of Night Blooming Cereus. Queen of the Night (Selenicereus grandifloras) and Hylocereus undatus usually haunt areas to our south, so keep these nocturnal wraiths in pots, so they can be brought in when the cold winds blow. They will need a tree or some type of structure to climb while their blooms haunt the night.

Moon flowers are surely something to howl about. They linger in the dark, shadowy trees and not only resemble the moon; they open when the moon is out, attracting nighttime pollinators. It is possible to find them open in the daytime in a dimly lit and dismal area, or on an overcast, melancholy day. Like any creature of the night, they shy away from artificial light as well as the sun.

Other white, silver, or ghostly plants to consider would be Angel’s Trumpet, Night Blooming Jasmine, and Button Bush.

Garish and Gorey

What’s black and white with splotches of red for an added fright? Your dark gothic garden! Some red accents to consider in your ghostly garden include Hurricane Lily, Scarlet Sage, Turk’s Cap, Fire Spike, Red Canna Lily, Gloriosa Lily, Red Crinum Lily, and let us not forsake the Blood Lily. Dragon Fruit will give you freaky red fruit and a white, nocturnal flower to add to your ghostly group. Dragon Fruit is cold-sensitive, so keep it in a container and bring it inside when the night air brings a chill. There really is a vast array of plant choices when seeking that touch of red to add to your fearsome landscape.

Feed Me!

Carnivorous Plants bring a voracious appetite for the flesh to wetland areas or bog gardens. If you have the right conditions, consider bringing Sundews, Pitcher Plants, Butterworts, or Carnivorous Bromeliads to your wetland or container garden. Even some native orchids and other wildflowers lure in their unsuspecting prey and dissolve them whole. Pitcher plants and bromeliads hold water in their “tanks.” So, take great care that you don’t attract blood-sucking mosquitoes into your thriller paradise.

The Devil is in the Details

Bring out the extra spooky vibrations by adding a large agave plant for an other-worldly feel. A Corpse Plant will not only provide a super name to your Goth garden, but the smell of rotting flesh will also add an extra layer of realism. Brain Cactus will provide a thought to your “Abby Normal” landscape. Keep that cerebral houseplant in a quirky container and bring it outside for special spooky occasions. Added touches would include string lights, dripping Spanish Moss, and black dyed wood mulch. Statues or gargoyles bring watchful eyes to your dark and mysterious garden.

Spanish Moss photo by Alice Mary Herden

It’s Alive!

What ideas do you have to bring a touch of spookiness to your garden of good and evil this season? Remember the first principle of Florida-Friendly Landscaping; Right Plant, Right Place. Check site condition requirements. Not all of these haunting plants bloom at the same time, so you will be able to keep the frightening fun up in other seasons of the year. Check around for the availability of these plants. Some are common to our area, and others might require a bit of intrigue and mystery to uncover. Enjoy your hauntingly spooktacular garden!

Lilly Browning
Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program Coordinator
Hernando County Utilities 352-540-6230
Like us on Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/HernandoFFLProgram/


Interested in seeing a pre-recorded presentation of Lilly Browning’s article? Go to their Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/HernandoFFLProgram/ click on events and set a reminder for October 30 on your calendar!

Categories: Nature Photography

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