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On Los Angeles' skid row, penny-pinching Gravis Mushnik owns a florist shop and employs sweet but simple Audry Fulquard and clumsy Seymour Krelboin. Although the rundown shop gets little business, there are some repeat customers; for instance, Mrs. Siddie Shiva shops almost daily for flower arrangements for her many relatives' funerals. Another regular customer is Fouch, who eats the plants he buys for lunch. When Seymour fouls up dentist Dr. Farb's arrangement, Mushnik fires him. Hoping Mushnik will change his mind, Seymour tells him about a special plant that he cross-bred from a buttercup and a Venus flytrap. Bashfully, Seymour admits that he named the plant "Audry, Jr.," a revelation that delights the real Audry. From the apartment he shares with his hypochondriac mother, Winifred, Seymour fetches his odd-looking, potted plant, but Mushnik is unimpressed by its sickly, drooping look. However, when Fouch suggests that Audry, Jr.'s uniqueness might attract people from all over the world to see it, Mushnik gives Seymour one week to revive it. Seymour has already discovered that the usual kinds of plant food do not nourish his strange hybrid and that every night at sunset the plant's leaves open up. When Seymour accidentally pricks his finger on another thorny plant, Audry, Jr. opens wider, eventually causing Seymour to discover that the plant craves blood. After that, each night Seymour nurses his creation with blood from his fingers, and although he feels increasingly listless, Audry, Jr. begins to grow. When the shop's revenues increase due to the curious customers who are lured in to see Audry, Jr., Mushnik gives Seymour a raise and unofficially adopts him. Impressed by Audry, Jr., teenaged girls decorating a float for the Rose Parade ask their committee for permission to buy $2,000 worth of flowers from Mushnik's shop. As Mushnik dreams about building a greenhouse for Seymour to breed plants and owning a shop in Beverly Hills, Audry, Jr. wilts. The now anemic Seymour stays up all night feeding the plant his blood, but the plant, which has begun to talk at night, demands, "Feed me more!" Not knowing what to feed the plant, Seymour takes a walk along a railroad track. When he carelessly throws a rock to vent his frustration, he inadvertently knocks out a man, who falls on the track and is run over by a train. Miserably guilt-ridden, but resourceful, Seymour collects the body parts and feeds them to Audry, Jr. Meanwhile, at a restaurant, Mushnik discovers he has no money with him, and when he returns to the shop to get some cash, he secretly observes Seymour feeding the plant. Although Mushnik intends to tell the police, the next day, when he sees the line of people waiting to spend money at his shop, he procrastinates. When Seymour later arrives that morning, suffering a toothache, Mushnik confronts him about the plant's "food." Seymour claims that, based on information he read about the plants he cross-bred, Audry, Jr. should require no more feedings. Placated, Mushnik sends Seymour to Dr. Farb for his toothache, but at the office, Seymour sees other patients suffering and realizes the dentist is sadistic. He tries to flee, but Farb prevents him from leaving and tries to remove several of his teeth. Grabbing a sharp tool, Seymour fights back and accidentally stabs and kills Farb. Just then, a pain-loving patient, Wilbur Force, mistakes Seymour for the dentist and insists that Seymour treat his "three or four abscesses, nine or ten cavities" and other dental problems, and that he not use an anesthetic. Seymour gallantly does his best and Wilbur later leaves happily without several teeth. Seymour is disturbed that he has now murdered twice, but nevertheless feeds Farb to Audry, Jr. At the police homicide division, Sgt. Joe Fink and his assistant Frank Stoolie discover that Farb and the man at the railroad tracks have disppeared. They question Mushnik and Seymour, who acts suspiciously nervous, but conclude that he knows nothing. Audry, Jr., which has grown several feet tall, is beginning to bud, as is the relationship between Seymour and Audry, whom Seymour invites on a date. When a representative of the Society of Silent Flower Observers of Southern California comes to the shop to check out the plant, she announces that Seymour will soon receive a trophy from them and that she will return when the plant's buds open. Unwilling to risk that the plant will eat more people, Mushnik decides to stay at the shop all night to watch it. When Audry, Jr. begins to call out for food, Mushnik refuses to feed it. Because he has no money, Seymour takes Audry home for dinner. Winifred has prepared a first course of cod liver soup garnished with sulfur powder. While eating chow mein flavored with Chinese herbs and Epsom salts, she tries to discourage Seymour and Audry from marrying until he buys her the iron lung he has promised her. When an armed burglar breaks into the shop, Mushnik hides in the refrigerator case, but is soon found by the burglar to whom he offers the contents of his cash register. When the burglar holds a gun to his head and demands more money, Mushnik directs him to look inside the open plant, and when the burglar climbs, he is eaten. The next day, Mushnik tells Seymour that they must destroy the plant after he receives the trophy and orders him to stand guard that night. Because Seymour must work at the shop that night, Audry suggests that they have a picnic there, and while they are eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Audry, Jr. interrupts by yelling, "Feed me!" Unaware that the plant can talk, Audry assumes Seymour is being rude and leaves in tears. Seymour chases after her, trying to explain, but she will not listen to him. Angry, Seymour returns to Audry, Jr. and vows never to feed it again, but the plant hypnotizes Seymour to go out in search of "food." In a trance, Seymour walks through the streets, past beckoning prostitutes, looking for food for the "master." When another prostitute approaches Seymour, he thinks she is "volunteering," knocks her on the head with a rock and carries her to the shop. Still lacking clues about the mysterious disappearances of the two men, Fink and Stoolie attend a special sunset celebration at the shop during which Seymour is to be presented with the trophy and Audrey, Jr.'s buds are expected to open. As the attendees look on, four buds open. Inside each flower is the face of one of the plant's meals: the man at the railroad tracks, Farb, the burglar and the prostitute. Seymour panics and runs through the streets, and police lose his trail later when he takes refuge in a yard filled with sinks and commodes. Seymour eventually makes his way back to Mushnik's shop, where Audry, Jr. is yelling for food. Ignoring the plant's demands, Seymour blames it for ruining his life. He takes a knife and climbs into the plant, intending to cut it up. Later, when Audry, Winifred, Mushnik and the police return to the shop after searching for Seymour, another bud on Audry, Jr. opens, revealing the face of Seymour, who moans "I didn't mean it!"