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Make this Halloween Tree and decorate it with your favorite ornaments, spiders and cobwebs every year. It all starts with a dead branch - the deader the better.

Halloween tree photo
(click here for a larger
Halloween Tree image)
Do you remember going out before Christmas to pick out the Christmas tree? Searching through dozens of shapes and sizes, to find the one, perfectly shaped tree? Well, picture your search for the perfect Halloween tree: "Nope, not dead enough... Not twisted enough... Not quite ugly enough... "

That's what we found ourselves saying as we hiked through the overgrown acres of a local park. We pulled out plenty of dead branches, but only one was the perfect, gnarled, twisted and very dead branch we wanted for our perfect Halloween Tree. Trust us. You'll find yours, too. And you'll love potting it in this hand-cast Plaster of Paris Jack O'Lantern base.

And for the final vintage touch - Halloween Pumpkin Lollipops!

Materials for the Halloween Tree

  • Crafts & Supplies at joann.com!
    Vintage images (FREE PDF download) for the Halloween Pumpkin Lollipops, printed on lightweight photo paper.
  • Dead tree branch, about 3' high when standing on end, including a "trunk" of about 10".
  • Plastic Jack O'Lantern trick-or-treat bucket (see Tips).
  • Plastic water or soda bottle, 1.5 liter.
  • Plastic dish or plate about 7" in diameter (black) (see Tips).
  • Florist foam (see Tips).
  • Felt or sheet cork (for the bottom of the pumpkin).
  • Plaster of Paris (at least 20 lbs) (see Tips).
  • 5/8" or 3/4" ribbon with Halloween colors or design.
  • Primer paint (tinted orange if you can) or Gesso.
  • Acrylic craft paints (light, medium and dark orange, black).
  • Matte acrylic varnish.
  • Artist oil paint (burnt umber or dark green).
  • Paint thinner or turpentine.
  • Spray paint (flat black).
  • Paint brushes (various sizes).
  • Natural sea sponge.
  • Old toothbrush.
  • Nubby rag, like terry cloth.
  • Tacky craft glue (like Alene's).
  • Duct tape.
  • Double-stick transparent tape.
  • Masking tape.
  • Rubber bands.
  • Sandpaper (fine).
  • Hacksaw or other fine-tooth saw.
  • Craft knife.
  • Scissors.
  • Self-healing cutting mat, if using a craft knife.


  1. Remove the handle from the trick-or-treat bucket. With a hacksaw, cut the bucket down each side and across the bottom, separating the front and back halves. Lightly sand the rough edges of the plastic. Tape the two halves back together tightly with duct tape. This is your plaster mold.
  2. Halloween tree craft, step 1Place the plastic water bottle in bottom of the mold. Mark a line around the bottle, even with the top of the mold. With a craft knife or scissors, cut off the top of the bottle above that line. Fill the bottle with sand or gravel, put some double-stick tape on the bottom, and place it in the center of the bottom of the mold (the gravel will keep it from floating up when the plaster is poured around it). Keep it centered with several pieces of masking tape across the opening of the bucket.

  3. Halloween tree craft, step 2Mix Plaster of Paris and water (see Tips) and pour it into the mold around the plastic bottle. Don't worry if a little goes in the bottle. You want the final poured plaster to be level with the top of the bottle and the top of the mold. Let it dry for two days.

  4. Halloween tree craft, step 3When the plaster is dry and hard, empty the sand or gravel from the bottle. Remove the tape and gently pull apart the two halves of the mold. Lightly sand off any imperfections on the plaster (it will be very imperfect, which is fine, but sand off big bumps or ridges left by the mold). Wipe it gently with a damp cloth.
  5. Paint the entire pumpkin with primer paint or Gesso, and let it dry.

  6. Halloween tree craft, step 4Paint the entire pumpkin with medium orange acrylic paint and let it dry. Sponge on highlights of light orange acrylic paint down each of the ribs of the pumpkin and let it dry. Sponge on dark orange acrylic paint around the cheek areas and let it dry.
  7. With a small brush, paint the eyes, nose and mouth openings with black acrylic paint and let it dry.

  8. Halloween tree craft, step 5Mix a little black acrylic paint with an equal amount of water. Use an old toothbrush (or other stiff bristled brush) to splatter tiny black "fly specks" on the pumpkin (see Tips).
  9. Brush on a coat of matte acrylic varnish and let it dry.
  10. Antique the pumpkin with dark brown artist oil paint thinned slightly with a little paint thinner. Brush it on in small vertical sections with a wide brush, then immediately wipe it off with a nubby rag. Try to leave the dark paint in the indentations, with very faint streaks on the smooth surfaces. Let it dry overnight.
  11. Apply two coats of matte acrylic varnish.
  12. Cut a circle of felt (or cork) to fit the bottom of the pumpkin and glue it on.
  13. Halloween tree branch photoTake your perfect, ugly branch and  spray paint it flat black (if it is really dirty, hose it off and let it completely dry first).
  14. Wrap the base of the "trunk" with two pieces of florist foam, trimmed to fit snugly in the base, secure the foam with rubber bands, and "pot" your Halloween Tree (see Tips).

  15. Halloween tree craft, step 6.Starting at the rim of the candy dish or plate, cut a straight line on the radius to the center, then cut a round circle in the center of the dish, large enough to encircle the tree trunk. Twist the dish and slide it around the tree trunk. Center it on the pumpkin (you may have to make some cutting adjustments if the trunk is off-center). Tape the cut edges of the bowl together at the rim.
  16. Cut a piece of ribbon to fit around the outside of the dish and attach it with double-stick tape or glue. Fashion a bow from the ribbon and attach it to the front.
  17. Now, hang your decorations on your Halloween Tree, like black garland, plastic pumpkins, fuzzy spiders, bats, and handmade treasures like our Halloween Clown Ornament, Halloween Witch Ornament, Halloween Pumpkin Ornament or the frisky Halloween Chenille Figures.
  18. Halloween lollipops photoFill the bowl with candy, like the Vintage Pumpkin Lollipops below. Eat some until it all fits. Wait for trick-or-treaters to dig in!

Vintage Pumpkin Lollipops

  1. Halloween lollipops, step 1Print out the vintage images on lightweight photo paper.
  2. Cut out the pumpkin heads with small scissors. Optional: wrap the lollipop heads with squares of orange or black crepe paper.
  3. Using double-stick tape, stick the pumpkin heads on lollipops or Tootsie Roll Pops.
  4. Stick the lollipops, heads up, in the candy bowl under your Halloween Tree.


  • Halloween treat pail used for plaster moldRigid, molded plastic trick-or-treat buckets are in stores a couple months before Halloween. Try Dollar Stores and thrift shops before you pay full price. You might even have one in the attic somewhere. You want a pretty small one (ours was about 7" deep), with distinctly molded features and vertical ribbing you can feel on the inside.
  • We used florist foam to secure the tree trunk in the base. Go thrifty, and wrap the trunk with plastic shopping bags and rubber bands until the trunk fits snugly in the base. Or, place your branch in the base and stuff foam packing peanuts around the trunk until it is firm.
  • Plaster of Paris. Sounds romantic. Looks easy. Can make you hate the whole city and start you ordering "freedom fries." Do not panic, mes amis:
    • Accept that it is messy and prepare your workspace and personal clothing accordingly.
    • Know how much plaster to make. Fill your trick-or-treat bucket with water and pour it in a large calibrated container. That is your water measurement. Follow the P of P package instructions for the appropriate quantity of plaster to add (usually double the volume of the water).  Yes, you'll have some leftover plaster, but that is better than too little.
    • Don't shovel the plaster into the water: measure the plaster into another (old) bucket, and stir in the water a little at a time until it is as smooth as very thick gravy.
    • Fill your mold quickly because the plaster sets up in 10 minutes. Jiggle and tap the mold after you pour the plaster to eliminate air bubbles that will mar your plaster surface. Do not pour leftover plaster down your drain - put it in the trash. Wash your hands now or they will get very irritated.
    • Let the plaster harden for several hours before you remove the mold. Let it dry for a day and lightly sand off imperfections.
  • Ah, "fly specks." An entire industry of country-style crafts is based on this technique. Easy enough. Protect your work area with newspapers and wear painting clothes. Set your project up on a stand so you can get to all visible sides. Dilute black or brown acrylic paint 50/50 with water. Dip in an old toothbrush (or small stiff-bristled brush) and tap off excess paint. About 10" from your project, hold the toothbrush in one hand with your thumb on the bristles and aim it toward your project. Pull your thumb back against the bristles as you slowly move the brush, and paint will splatter in tiny blobs onto your surface. Practice a little first on newspaper to get the brush loaded appropriately and to perfect your splatter dispersion plan. Then splatter with confidence, remembering that less is more with this often overused technique.
  • For the plastic candy dish, you can use almost anything that is thin and flexible enough to cut, twist and slide around the tree. Since we love "recycled" crafts, we used a plastic dish from a microwave dinner. You can see in the photo that it is a divided plate, which is just fine for this craft. You can also use foam dinnerware or a disposable aluminum cake pan.
  • We designed this Halloween tree base to make the branch removable. We thought it would be easier to store the base and tree separately, and figured that over the years, twigs would get broken, or you might find an even more perfect branch in the future. You could, of course skip the water bottle insert and just embed your tree trunk in the wet plaster. If you do, remember that a solid ball of plaster is very, very heavy (VOE - Voice of Experience).
  • We topped our Jack O'Lantern base with a candy dish, making this a multi-purpose Halloween tree. But there are many other options: heap on some florist Spanish moss for straggly hair, wrap Halloween garland in spiral around the tree, make a little tree skirt from Halloween fabric, or cut a funny old hat to fit around the tree trunk. Why not do them all and change it every year?
  • This Halloween tree base makes a perfectly wonderful vase for flowers, too. Arrange a Halloween centerpiece with pussy willows, spiky grasses, and perhaps some blood-red roses.
Don't forget: For some Halloween ornament designs for your Halloween Tree, see our Halloween Witch Ornament, Halloween Clown Ornament, Halloween Chenille Figures, and Halloween Pumpkin Ornament!

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