~Katy Shook, Area Agent
Fall is known for nights full of fright, but don’t worry. These plants won’t bite! Try incorporating these ghoulish plants into your landscape and provide frightful fun for kids of all ages.
Spider flower, Cleome hasslerana, is a low maintenance annual that performs best in sun to partial shade and moist soil. Purple and white blooms are produced summer to frost with 1-inch long petals and extended stamens that curve to give the plant its spiderlike resemblance. Plants reach a height of 3 to 4 feet with a 2-foot width, making them suited for the back of the garden. They also make great cut flowers.
Eyeball plant, Spilanthes oleracea, is sure to be a conversation starter in the garden. The globular, golden-yellow flowers are centered with a red “eye.” A low, spreading growth habit occurs when eyeball is planted in full sun to light shade. Blooms are produced in the spring along the ends of extended stems that are surrounded by olive-colored leaves. This annual is thought to have been used in folk medicine as a toothache remedy, but it is best used today as a groundcover or in containers.
Ghost fern, Athyrium sp. ‘Ghost,’ derives its name from the silvery fronds of foliage that are produced through the entire growing season. The clumping fronds will reach an average height and width of 2 to 3 feet with little maintenance and care. As a woodland plant, however, ghost fern prefers moist soil and part to full shade.
Bloodtwig dogwood, Cornus sanguinea, drips with color throughout the year. Creamy-white flowers are produced in late spring, followed by purple fruit and red fall foliage. The color continues through winter as stems fade from yellow to red. Use in mass plantings for impact. This medium to large shrub prefers sun to part shade and well-drained soil.
Devil’s walking stick, Aralia spinosa, will provide year-round fright with its stiff, thorny branches that reach an average height of 15 to 20 feet in the landscape. This deciduous tree species will tolerate a wide range of soil conditions and sun exposure, and its leaves will produce yellow to red-orange fall color. In summer the tree is highlighted by clustered, creamy-white flowers that are followed by purple to black fruits. Besides attracting onlookers, the plant also attracts bees, butterflies, and birds.
Skullcap, Scutellaria incana, is a native perennial that prefers moist soil and sun to light shade. Stalked, purple to blue blooms are produced summer to fall against small leaves covered with silvery hair. The plant will reach an average height of 2 to 4 feet in the garden. You can enjoy teasing garden visitors with its frightful name while they enjoy its delicate blooms.