12 Flowers That Would Make Eerily Beautiful Additions to Your Halloween Décor
Flowers set the mood for any occasion, and Halloween is no exception. As our editors and favorite florists have demonstrated to memorable effect, you can always use flowers to create an autumnal atmosphere in your home. "Anything in season works," suggests Clover Chadwick, owner and lead designer of Dandelion Ranch. "And dried pods of flowers from the end of summer are also great because they are kind of creepy and interesting." The fall harvest season provides a bounty of inspiration: heirloom pumpkins, gourds, flowers, and edible crops. For floral arrangements, focus on dark, moody colors and textures that play into the spooky season.
That doesn't mean you are restricted in your creativity to the traditional black and orange tones—think American bittersweet and sunflowers—in your arrangements. Opt for subtlety in the spook factor of your flowers. Katherine Anderson, floral designer and co-owner of The London Plane, advises against using strong oranges in your flower palette. "Do off-tones," she says. "Soft gray-greens instead of trying to go black." But it all depends on the overall look and atmosphere that you are trying to create. Carnivorous cobra lily, black calla lilies, and quicksand roses—with their one-of-a-kind hues—are showstoppers in their own right. Varieties known for their unique texture—sorghum grain heads or scabiosa pods—are perfect for a wispy, haunted look.
For Halloween tabletop arrangements and centerpieces, try pairing your flowers with sculptural vases and decorated pumpkins, using your best floral arranging tools. You can also include other parts of plants to set the mood. Chadwick recommends adding a branchy element to your centerpiece. "Shaping the centerpiece with branches will give it that spookiness," she says. And your creepiest pumpkin could be the focal point in your arrangement. Plants that have unsettling features like spider mums and "Love Lies Bleeding" heirloom amaranth are also great for setting the spooky atmosphere. It'll be as if the flowers have a mind of their own during the witching hour if you're not too careful.
Carnivorous Cobra Lilies
Similar to Venus flytraps, the carnivorous cobra lily enjoys a live snack. Its serpentine shape and bright green coloring gives the top of the bulbous trap a snake-like look—hence, its name—with a forked tongue that's ready to strike. Pair them with a bouquet of Black Beauty roses and allium out of a human skull (as we did pictured here) for a Halloween arrangement that's certainly deadly both in metaphor and otherwise.
Black Calla Lilies
In lore, it is said that people give black calla lily blooms when they want to convey the idea of mystery and elegance—and this rarity does it well. Black calla lilies are recognizable by a singular trumpet-shaped bloom on a long, smooth stem. Despite their ominous connotations, they have a dramatic appearance that is strikingly modern.
Trigger your trypophobia with a select number of lotus pods. At harvest, the bitter-tasting germ of most seeds is removed and the dried lotus seeds past their prime oxidize to a rich brown color. Our fear of weirdly clustered holes—as seen in dried lotus pods—is said to be an instinctive association with potentially poisonous or dangerous threats in the wild. So what could be more apropos for Halloween? You can pair them with dark-toned roses or a centerpiece of pumpkins (as our editors did here for newly-hatched "dragons") but remember: "Your arrangements should definitely focus on the pods," as Chadwick advises.
With a common name like that, it's no wonder the Amaranthus caudatus plant is recommended by florists for Halloween arrangements. Their tassel-like panicles contain small red flowers that look like bloody tentacles about to grab a passerby. Pair these with black baccara roses and big branches, as Chadwick suggests.
Black Baccara Roses
Unlike others in summertime hues, these roses are intentionally cultivated to appear autumnal in tone. "Black Baccara" roses unfurl velvety, dark-red petals and they can be added to almost any Halloween arrangement to hauntingly beautiful effect. Perched on a chair in the dramatic arrangement pictured here, a matte-black vase mixes several odd varieties: black poppies, smoke bush, dried Italian ferns, Scabiosa pods, and branches with decrepit-looking lichen. A single ostrich feather pays homage to a Hitchcockian thriller befitting Halloween: The Birds.
Apropos to its name, gardeners have long despised bittersweet as it often kills trees and are difficult to eradicate from the outdoor landscape. But during the fall season, the vines put on a display that few other plants can rival as the deep yellow skin of their berries bursts to reveal a bright orange hue. They're innocuous in arrangements like the ones we crafted here showing a large greenish Hubbard squash paired with bittersweet branches and a white "Baby Boo" pumpkin with bright orange mums—feel free to mix and match as you wish with heirloom pumpkin varieties.
On their own, you wouldn't think of sunflowers as spooky at all. "But they look great at the end of October," Chadwick says. Sunflowers add some autumnal yellow to your mixed bouquets, or burnt orange or burgundy red. Look for especially rich varieties like "Prado Red," "Moulin Rouge," and "Red Sun." They look especially robust as displayed here in this vintage Albany slip-glaze pitcher.
Sorghum Grain Heads
Not every flower screams for attention in autumn. In the days leading up to Halloween, this tall plant with tawny-gold seed heads transitions well into the fall harvest and Thanksgiving. These plants produce seed heads in a variety of colors. Pictured here: this mellow bronze, russet, and green grouping of oak and sweetgum branches cut from the yard is tucked into a vase with a few spider mums and sprays of sorghum from a floral shop.
Find beauty in the unexpected at season's end. Roses bloom in spring, but turn to seed in the fall. And the rose hips, in result, change colors to become red and orange. Plants that are past their prime can be stunning. Their imperfections—the dramatic shapes, colors, and textures not found in just-bloomed plants—are part of the appeal. To create this arrangement, we tapped our gardens for rose hips (plus, seed heads from coneflowers and asters). See what catches your eye in your yard.
Scabiosa pods are often considered a filler flower that is nonetheless perfect for a Halloween arrangement. And the name itself is a clue as to why: With their ball-shaped heads, also known as pincushion flowers, they add one-of-a-kind texture to an arrangement. Pictured here: A block of floral foam is placed into a shallow pewter dish and created a dome of sedum flowers, filling in the spaces with purple Queen Anne's lace, mauve hydrangeas, round star scabiosa, fuzzy foxtail grass, and spiked sea holly.
In late fall, nature's shapes become stark and geometric. Enter spider mums, a type of chrysanthemum, that have distinctive spindly petals that stretch out freely and loosely like spider legs atop the stems. These often overlooked flowers can be highlighted by placing a few stems of one or two types in their own eclectic vases. Pictured here: These ghostly white stems are placed amid black-leaf millet grass, snowberry, dusty miller with spider mums, bayberry, and ivy berries.
Quicksand roses are so named for having powdery, off-white petals with a hint of pink. These gentle hues are sought after by florists for their beauty. And at Halloween time, they often look like ghosts among a bouquet of darker flowers like Black Baccara roses. Add them to your arrangements for a ghostly presence, as shown in this draped centerpiece that makes a showstopping impression.