Who says all of your houseplants have to have bright flowers and cheerful, emerald-green foliage? You don’t have to be a creature from the underworld to be enchanted by these carnivorous species and sinister-looking blooms. They’re ideal additions to your decor, particularly during this most witchy time of year.
Brain Cactus (Mammillaria elongata cristata)
Anyone can see why the mammillaria elongata cristata is also known as “Brain Cactus”—its dense, oval stems closely resemble the squishy organ in our heads. Typically found in rocky outcrops of Central Mexico, the unusual plant thrives in the sun and never reaches heights above six inches. Yellow or brown spines cover the exterior, and it blossoms with flowers of the same color in the springtime. Brain cactus makes a popular houseplant, requiring little more than minimal water, porous soil with sufficient drainage, and lots of sunlight to survive. Display a brain cactus and you’ll be sure to grab the attention of curious house guests!
Crested Euphorbia (Euphorbia lactea 'Cristata Variegata')
The crested euphorbia is a freak of nature because it’s technically two plants that have been joined together: Typically, a Euphorbia lactea is grafted onto the stem of another succulent, like a Euphorbia neriifolia. This unusual procedure creates a strangely pretty plant with a unique fan shape. Since crested euphorbia is drought-tolerant and requires little water, home maintenance is relatively easy, as long as you don’t mind caring for a succulent that has undergone a surgical procedure.
Shameplant (Mimosa Pudica)
Shameplant. Humble plant. Sensitive plant. There are plenty of nicknames for Mimosa pudica , yet none adequately prepare you for the behavior that makes shameplant such a creepy curiosity. Upon being touched or shaken, the leaves of the plant immediately shrivel, as if the plant were dead and decaying. Wait a couple minutes, though, and the leaves return to normal, as if nothing ever happened. For success growing the tropical weed indoors, plant in loosely packed, well-draining soil, ideally in a spot that gets plenty of light and warmth year-round. If your local nursery doesn't carry it, fear not—shameplant seeds are readily available online.
Black Bat Flowers (Tacca chantrieri)
No, there's no bat swooping out of this garden—it's only a bat flower, with its two largest petals closely resembling the plant's nocturnal namesake in flight. Dark purple and ruffled, the orchid variety blooms in tropical and semi-tropical climates and, fittingly, prefers the shade. If you're brave enough to take on this particular houseplant, be ready to repot it every year because it grows fast.
Medusa's Head (Euphorbia flanaganii)
Evocative of the Greek mythological icon who had serpents for hair, simply the name on this hardy South African native sounds scary! Let run wild, though, Euphorbia flanagani could indeed look more like a patch of snakes than a succulent, quite a surprise if you encounter it under the guise of night. Those gray-green, tentacle-like branches grow from its short, central caudex, winding in any which direction, until the plant spans up to 2 feet across.
Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula)
Charles Darwin once called this creepy carnivore "one of the most wonderful plants in the world," and there is an otherworldly beauty to its showy red and green foliage edged with teeth-like cilia. Contrary to its namesake, the Venus flytrap's favorite snack is spiders, followed by ants, beetles, and grasshoppers. The plant's hypersensitive traps can snap shut in a tenth of a second, so we're glad they don't prefer people.
Monkey Cups (Nepenthe)
A lesser-known cousin of the flytrap, Nepenthe , or monkey cup plant, owes its unusual nickname to the animals who drink rainwater from its bell-shaped blooms. The plants' traps produce a syrupy substance to drown their prey, and their slippery inner walls make escape nearly impossible. Monkey cups have a big appetite, and have been known to feast on animals as large as rats, lizards, and birds.
Oleander (Nerium oleander 'Luteum Plenum')
Don't be deceived by its sweet appearance, the demure-looking oleander is downright deadly. The plant's fragrant blooms make it a favorite for gardens in subtropical locales. while its toxic leaves, flowers, and branches make it resistant to hungry deer. If you choose to cultivate oleander, you won't need to worry about pests, but you will need to keep the plant out of reach of small children and pets.
Cobra plant (Darlingtonia californica)
There's a trick to growing the cobra plant at home: Cold, purified water. Because this Pacific Northwest native grows in waters fed by cold mountain springs, it does best when its roots are kept cooler than the rest of the plant. For a refreshing treat on a hot day, there's nothing this carnivorous plant likes more than a couple ice cubes of purified water placed directly atop its soil. Well alright, then!
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Resurrection Plant (Selaginella lepidophylla)
It’s alive! Just like a zombie, the resurrection plant can come back from the dead again and again. Also known as a dinosaur plant or false Rose of Jericho, this plant is a type of spike moss that can seemingly dry out, die off, and somehow come back to the land of the living. Resurrection plants generally arrive in a dry state. Place them in a wide, shallow dish with distilled water and bright, indirect sunlight. Your dead plant will open up in as little as four hours.
Old Man Cactus (Cephalocereus senilis)
Covered in long silver hair, the old man cactus looks like it’s covered in thick cobwebs. Don’t let this soft-looking hair fool you, for underneath are prickly yellow thorns that can give a rather sharp poke. Native to Mexico, this slow-growing succulent likes full sun and very little water. Keep it under a grow light or in a bright window, as warm sunshine encourages the plant to grow thicker and longer hair.
Black Star Calla Lily (Zantedeschia ‘Black Star’)
Elegant and mysterious, but with an ominous vibe, black star calla lilies are some creepy beauties. These near-black, funnel-shaped flowers like approximately 12 to 18 hours of indirect sunlight per day, and enough water to stay moist. Overwatering may be the death of these calla lilies. Bulbs for these gothic-looking flowers can be planted in pots and containers and kept indoors. Beware if you have pets, though, because calla lilies are toxic to them.
Raven ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia ‘Dowon’)
The nearly onyx raven ZZ plant gives off eerie and unusual vibes, and would look right at home next to a cauldron. A slow grower, this indoor plant has gained in popularity over the last few years because of its intriguing shade and ease of care. It does well in a range of lighting and moisture conditions, providing you don’t water it too frequently. The only time you will see a pop of color on this plant is when it develops new growth, which will change from bright green to purple-black as it matures.
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