DIY Spooky Tree (Or: my houseplant died, so I turned it into a Halloween decoration)

homemade halloween decoration made from a dead tree
One ornamental ficus's journey from houseplant to spooky centerpiece.

Ok, so this is less of a tutorial on how to make a DIY spooky tree, and more of an experience that I want to share (I’m takin it back to the 90s days of blogging, know what I mean?)

This poor tree really went through hell, and I’m so happy that now it has a place in our home as a decoration for my favorite holiday. I’m really so happy with how it turned out! I think the best part about this project is that the finished decoration now sits on the table that the tree occupied in life, appropriately resurrected for the Halloween season.

If you do want to make your own version of this DIY spooky tree, you could probably forage or purchase some branches to use in place of where I used my houseplant’s trunk.

Disclosure: Kiyafries is reader supported. Some of the links below are Amazon affiliate links. This means that, at no cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.


Myrtle, right after we bought her.
Myrtle, losing her leaves for the third time.

This tree began her life with us as an ornamental ficus that we affectionately named Myrtle. Braided trunk, a crown of glossy leaves, expensive, all-around high-class gal.

As soon as we got her home she dropped all her leaves, because apparently some ficus do that when their environment changes. Yikes!
Then I discovered she had mealy bugs. I treated the mealy bugs meticulously for months, and she did eventually bounce back and make a full recovery.

Less than a year later, she started dropping leaves again. Mysterious black spots were on the leaves and I was unable to diagnose them.

We planted Myrtle outside and left her out through the winter (I feel bad, but I was exasperated, and Chris thought she might survive out there.) Unfortunately, she bit the dust! BUT, this meant I could move forward with my spooky plans.

Treating and Sealing the Wood

wood laid out to dry
acrylic clear spray paint for sealing wood

(There’s no photos of the first set of steps because I just plain didn’t know how this project would go, or if I would finish it at all. Apologies!)

The first thing I did was dig Myrtle up and remove her roots with a utility knife. Then, I unbraided the trunk and used the knife to gently scrape off the bark. 
I broke off the small branches because they were so brittle, there was no way they were going to hold up.

Next, I sprayed the wood pieces with a mixture of borax and water. From what I read online, this would help dry out the wood and repel pests.
Then, I left the wood to dry for a few weeks (I don’t know if it really needed to dry for as long as it did, I just didn’t get to the next steps for a while!)

Last, I sprayed the dried wood with a clear acrylic spray paint to seal it up.

Making the DIY Spooky Tree

branches taped together

When the acrylic spray paint was dry, I arranged the wood the way I wanted it to sit and taped the pieces together. I tried to re-braid it but honestly could not figure it out— I’ve never been good at those 3D puzzles— but I’m happy with the way the arrangement turned out.

spray foam, paint can, gloves

I used an old paint can as a pot, and used spray foam to “plant” the wood inside it. 

bricks used as weights

The whole thing was shockingly light and would’ve easily blown over, so I placed two pavers on top of the paint can to hold it down, and to keep the wood from falling over to one side or another.

spooky faux branches for halloween

When the spray foam was dry, I brought the tree inside to attach some faux wire branches.  

using cotton ribbon to attach branches

The branches wouldn’t have stuck to the wood with hot glue alone, so I used some cotton ribbon I had saved (from the packaging of a throw blanket I think?) to wrap around both the wood and the branch.

using hot glue to create faux wood texture

Then, I added some hot glue “wood” texture to blend the two together and hide the wrapping of the ribbon. I was iffy about how that would look, but it worked out well!

a spooky tree decoration that's been spray painted matte black

Next, I spray painted the whole thing, including the paint can, with a paint + primer matte black spray paint. It looked instantly badass.

river rocks spray-foamed into a pot

At this point, the top of the tree with the branches was heavier than the base, so I spray foamed some river rocks into the inside of the paint can. If I were going to do this project over, I would’ve put the river rocks in during the first round of spray foam.

black moss as a halloween decoration

The finishing touch was hot glueing some black moss into the paint can…

base of a decorative tree covered in black moss

…and then placing the can into a decorative black basket. Once I had the tree in my living room, I pulled the moss out to the edges of the basket to look more natural.

a unique ways to decorate with bats for halloween
I’ve decorated Myrtle with a few paper bats I made. You can make your own with these very templates!

I could not be happier with how this project turned out. There are so many ways the tree could be decorated— with lights, ornaments, more moss, cookie ornaments or treat bags, the possibilities are endless. But I love it just as it is too.

Thanks for letting me share this project with you! I hope it offered some inspiration or sparked some ideas. And now, if you ever have an expensive houseplant tree that dies, you know what you can do with it!

Happy Spoooooooky Halloween!

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