Interested in safe and unsafe chameleon plants? This guide is for you!
Before you bring your chameleon home, you have to think about how to make his home safe, interesting, and comfortable.
In this, plants steal the show. Plants can transform an ordinary chameleon habitat into a palace. But this will happen only if you choose the right plants.
The safest plants for your chameleon habitat are live plants without toxic chemicals. Although artificial plants are not harmful per se, live plants have irreplaceable qualities your pet will love. In addition, you can create variety by blending hanging plants with foliage plants and climbers.
However, before introducing any plant into the terrarium, confirm it is not toxic. Chameleons are known to chew bits of plants in the enclosure.
At the same time, these plants should be disinfected before introducing into the terrarium. This removes parasites, pesticides, and herbicides that might cling to the plant.
Can I Use Artificial Plants for My Chameleon Enclosure?
Some chameleon keepers use artificial plants because they are safe, cheaper, and easy to maintain. However, advanced keepers know the benefits of using natural plants in the chameleon enclosure.
The most important thing about using live plants is that they must be free of toxic chemicals.
The benefits of using live plants outstrip those of false plants by far. For example, real plants can help create an environment conducive to your pet’s growth, while artificial ones cannot.
Live plants regulate the humidity of the cage and purify the air by absorbing carbon dioxide and giving out oxygen.
While your chameleon can get any nutrition from fake plants, he can chew on the leaves of live plants to get some much-needed supplements.
However, your pet should get these supplements from his regular diet. Chewing on plants could give rise to digestive problems.
Granted, artificial plants add to the beauty and décor of the terrarium. But the truth is that live plants have their own irreplaceable appeal.
Here are additional benefits of using live plants:
- First, they provide cover that makes your chameleon feel safe and secure.
- Second, the trees’ fresh green leaves are a good catchment for the drops of water your chameleon needs to stay hydrated.
- Third, they regulate the humidity of the cage. Live plants breathe and thus keep the air from getting too dry.
- Provide good, solid limbs for the chameleon to climb. This is important considering that chameleons are arboreal, spending nearly 99% of their time on branches and twigs.
- They purify the air by taking in carbon dioxide and giving out oxygen.
- Live plants give the chameleons a feel of their natural world.
- Your chameleon is better off chewing the leaves of the live plants than those of an artificial plant. There’s the real danger of impaction if your pet eats plastic.
What Are the Safe Plants for My Chameleon?
#1 – Grape Ivy
These vine plants grow pretty fast and don’t require many maintenance practices. Its leaves are similar to those of grape vines – giving it the name grape ivy.
It has a thick foliage cover that will make your chameleon feel safe and well-protected.
How to help Grape Ivy thrive:
- Keep in rich, well-drained organic soil. Ensure it is firmly packed in the pot to give your chameleon extra anchorage.
- Water it until the water starts draining out of the bottom. Don’t water it again until the water from the previous watering has drained.
- Feed it only once during the spring and summer months. However, its rich green leaves show it is well-nourished during these months.
- Expose it to soft direct sunlight. If the cage does not receive adequate sunlight, this plant will tend to lean toward the light source. As such, position the pot with this in mind.
#2 – Yucca
Yucca is a hardy plant that does well in arid and semi-arid areas. However, you can plant it in your reptile’s case regardless of where you are on the globe, as long as the enclosure conditions are right.
This plant is highly adaptable. It can survive in any environment to produce robust, thick foliage for making oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide.
The tree-like trunks are pretty appealing to chameleons and other lizards. However, we cannot say the same about the big, thick, and spiky leaves.
Your chameleon will enjoy chewing the leaves of Yucca and drinking water drops from the trees.
How to help Yucca thrive:
- Put it in well-drained soil to prevent root rot.
- Use organic soil in the pot, which is safe for the plant and the chameleon.
- Keep the tree at 210 C (700 F) and above. Also, this tree needs high humidity. These conditions are perfect for your chameleon pet.
- Don’t expose this tree to too much sun, as it may turn yellow.
- The tree does well in partial shade. As such, position the plant to enjoy the morning sun without placing it in direct sunlight.
- Yucca plant regenerates when cut. This means you can shape it however you desire without fearing harming it.
#3 – Wandering Jew
This hanging plant accentuates the beauty of your pet’s terrarium significantly.
It got its name from its ability to grow and spread prolifically. This is reminiscent of the Biblical Jews moving from Egypt into the Promised Land.
This plant has green stalks and purple leaves that make the enclosure beautiful and provide your chameleon with all the footholds it needs.
The wandering Jew is pretty hardy and does well in diverse environments.
How to help Wandering Jew thrive:
- Keep it in organic, well-drained soil. Organic soil is relatively safe for your chameleon.
- Water it deeply at least once weekly. However, don’t add more water until the water from the previous watering is dry.
- Avoid watering the plant crown, as this could lead to root rot.
- Feed this plant with general liquid and houseplant food at least twice monthly.
- Expose it to bright but indirect sunlight.
- Mist it regularly because it enjoys the same humidity levels as your chameleon.
#4 – Rubber Trees
This tree gets its name from its big and extremely flexible leaves. Its scientific name Ficus elastia, references this tree’s leaves because they really stand out.
The huge leaves provide the ideal hiding ground for your pet, especially when he wants to avoid the limelight.
These leaves have a strong structure, giving your chameleon a sense of safety, and he climbs to the lofty heights of the plant.
The Rubber Tree is quite hardy, which is good because it doesn’t require much care.
Ensure your chameleon does not chew too many leaves from this tree, as they may turn toxic. However, chewing a few leaves is not bad.
However, his digestive tract will be overwhelmed if he does it constantly.
How to help Rubber Tree thrive:
- Provide it with proper humidity so its leaves can remain fresh and sturdy. However, the humidity levels should not be too high as the leaves will turn yellow.
- This tree does well in filtered light or indirect sunlight. However, avoid exposing it to direct sunlight.
- Trim the Rubber Tree often as it can grow too big – after all, it is a tree!
#5 – Weeping Fig
Also known as Ficus benjamina, this plant is known by almost every chameleon keeper worldwide. In addition, almost everyone that has kept a chameleon for some time knows about this plant.
Under the right conditions, it has great leafy foliage that makes the entire plant look awesome. However, its leaves tend to fall often if it doesn’t get enough water.
From the frequent falling of leaves, this plant got its name: weeping Fig.
Make plans to water or have it watered at least once weekly. Don’t add more water to the plant before the water from the previous watering has dried.
It also loses leaves a lot if you keep moving it around. On the brighter side, though, this plant provides your chameleon with a firm platform to carry out his activities.
How to help Weeping Fig thrive:
- Keep it in fast-draining soil. Choose good organic potting soil for the sake of your pet’s safety.
- Water it about once or twice weekly. However, only do this when the water is completely dry.
- Don’t water it directly on the leaves because this might drop.
- Feed it once weekly with liquid house plant fertilizer. This heavy feeder needs lots of attention during the growing season. However, you can cut back on heavy feeding during the fall and winter.
- Provide tropical and humid conditions for this plant. This should not be a problem considering you have to provide the same conditions for the chameleon.
- Expose the Weeping Fig to direct and indirect sunlight. Otherwise, the plant will lose leaves if the light is low.
- This plant does well in a high-temperature environment. Fortunately, so does your chameleon.
#6 – Parlor Palm
Parlor palm is a most welcome addition to your chameleon enclosure because of its thick foliage. Within a relatively short time, this plan spreads its foliage to cover the entire terrarium.
This is good news for your chameleon – which thrives in this environment. The Parlor Palm also adds to the aesthetics of the enclosure.
Since this plant is a slow-grower, buy one already established and nurtured to the correct size.
How to help Parlor Palm thrive:
- Water regularly and evenly – but only when the top inch of the soil is dry.
- Don’t give it too much water too often, as the leaves might lose color.
- Feed it once or twice a year with light fertilizer. The best time to do so is during the growing season.
- This is a low-light plant that does well under filtered light. Do not expose it to direct sunlight or any other harsh light source.
- Keep it in good organic soil that’s a bit compacted
#7 – Dracaena compacta
This is a tree-shaped plant that adds to the beauty of the terrarium. Its leaves grow from the trunk, giving it a uniqueness that makes the enclosure look exotic.
This is a low-maintenance plant that grows rather well.
Although this is a tree, the Dracaena compacta grow slowly. This means you don’t have to worry about cutting it to size every now and then.
How to help Dracaena compacta thrive:
- First, allow it to access indirect sunlight every day.
- Then, water it about once in 10 days. Watering it more regularly than this could lead to root rot.
- Even if you don’t water it regularly, you should maintain a high level of environmental humidity. The best way to do this is through misting.
- Tend to the health of the plant the moment it starts showing problems. Otherwise, its health issues deteriorate too fast.
- Keep it in well-drained soil to protect the roots from rot.
#8 – Schefflera Tree
This tree also goes by the name Dwarf Umbrella. Its leaves are shiny and green and stride the tree giving it an umbrella look.
Since these plants originate in tropical lands, they are right at home in your chameleon’s enclosure.
How to help Dwarf umbrella thrive:
- Keep in loose sandy soil that’s well drained.
- Water it weekly and only when the soil is completely dry. This plant withers easily if it is over-watered.
- Feed it twice weekly with liquid houseplant fertilizer.
- Avoid feeding this plant during winter as it does not need food then.
- Expose this plant to bright, indirect sunlight. Putting it in direct sunlight burns its leaves.
- Mist it as regularly as you mist your chameleon.
#9 – Bromeliads
Many chameleon keepers are drawn to the beauty of this plant. It is a welcome addition to an enclosure where aesthetics are prioritized.
It is also a safe plant, and chameleon can chew on it as much as it wants.
The Bromeliads stay green, fresh, and healthy-looking as a young plant. Later in life, this plant blooms and the flowers are a sight to behold.
It is pretty easy to take care of this plant – it requires no specialized care.
Besides its beauty, the Bromeliads provide the perfect cover for your chameleon. It is hardy and strong enough to support your chameleon’s forays into the foliage.
How to help Dwarf Bromeliads thrive:
- Expose this plant to intense UVB light or direct sunlight as often as possible. Bromeliads do well in bright environments.
- Provide deep humidity for this plant to remain fresh and healthy. This should not be a problem because your chameleon requires the same humid conditions.
- Bromeliads require no specialized care.
#10 – Golden Pothos (Devil’s Ivy)
This is one of the most popular plants among chameleon owners. It goes by different names in various regions of the world.
The Golden Pothos has many advantages that make it immensely likable. It does not require specialized care, and it is almost impossible to kill it.
Its hardy nature makes it even more appealing. Most chameleon owners do not want to constantly change terrarium plants – the Golden Pothos provides the perfect solution.
Another advantage is that if you want more of this plant, you just chop off a part of the old one and replant it.
The only issue with this plant is that it can be toxic to your chameleon if eaten in large quantities. As such, devise ways to stop your chameleon from chewing on this plant regularly.
The good news is that cases of poisoning by this plant have been extremely rare. This means you can confidently use it in your chameleon’s tank.
How to help Golden Pothos thrive:
- Although this plant can handle any kind of light, it does well in bright, indirect sunlight.
- Water it once in a way to prevent withering. This plant recovers fast if it languishes.
#11 – Hibiscus
This family of plants is quite popular among lizard keepers. The hibiscus provides your chameleon’s terrarium with a fresh and colorful look.
Its tropical look fits in very well with the chameleon’s preferred lifestyle. Apart from its beauty, this plant supplements your chameleon’s nutrition.
It is loaded with the goodness of vitamin C, which creates an excellent balance for your pet’s insect-based diet.
The hibiscus is a solid bush that provides a good hiding spot for your pet.
However, some species of hibiscus don’t do very well in indoor terrariums. Although they can make the enclosure look awesome, they’ll give you a headache.
All the same, seasoned hobbyists have discovered that the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis (Chinese hibiscus) does well both indoors and outdoors.
How to help hibiscus thrive:
- Hibiscus needs bright light to grow well indoors. Therefore, put this plant in direct sunlight to aid in its growth.
- Cut this plant once a year to improve its growth potential in the following year. This may not look like such a great idea when the plant is young, but it works out very well in the end.
- Provide the hibiscus plant with plenty of nutrients, such as potassium fertilizer. This plant needs these nutrients during summer to maintain its beauty and strength.
- Consider having more than one hibiscus plant in the terrarium. They do better when planted in a cluster of several plants.
- Planting many plants lets you put some out to the sun while others are in the enclosure.
#12 – Aspidistra Plant
This plant also goes by the name Cast Iron Plant. It features strong, long, green leaves that add to the beauty of the terrarium.
This is one hardy plant; it can tolerate very low light conditions and is not easily affected by cold, dust, heat, too much water, too little water, and general neglect.
How to help Aspidistra thrive:
- Keep it in rich, well-drained organic soil.
- Regularly moisten the plant by lightly watering it. Don’t allow this plant to dry out too long; it might wither and die.
- These plants grow slowly; you need tons of patience. Alternatively, get a well-established plant that you can place in the enclosure right away.
- Feed Cast iron plants with a liquid fertilizer every three months.
- The Aspidistra can tolerate both light and dimness. As such, you won’t have any problem putting the plant in the same conditions as your chameleon.
Plants to Avoid for Chameleons
Toxic plants should never find their way into your chameleon’s enclosure.
Although these plants add to the home’s beauty, they should not be near your chameleon.
Because of its big, colorful leaves, you may be tempted to put this plant in the vivarium. However, things may turn fatal if your pet ingests this plant.
Actually, the toxicity of crotons affects all animals.
2. Poison Ivy
When humans touch this plant, they get swollen, reddish blisters all over the body. Poison ivy has an almost similar effect on chameleons.
Your chameleon’s skin will start behaving erratically within 3 to 4 hours after exposure.
3. Fig Plants
The fig plants we’ve covered in the list above are safe. However, some particular species of fig plants are toxic and may cost your lizard’s life.
These include creeping figs, fiddle-leafed figs, and Zulu figs. These plants poison your pet if ingested.
4. Dumb Cane
Humans lose their power of speech – albeit temporarily – when they come into contact with the dumb cane.
This plant can cause your chameleon to have a bloated stomach if ingested. This juice of the plant is also corrosive and may cause stomach ulcers.
These are some of the most popular plants in our homes. They are much sought after because of the beauty of their leaves and unique shape.
But, unfortunately, its dense foliage can mislead you into thinking this plant would make an excellent addition to your chameleon’s enclosure.
Sadly, philodendrons can be very toxic. The plant’s juice will irritate the chameleon’s eyes, mouth, and skin.
Other plants unsuitable for your chameleon’s enclosure include dead nettle, stinging nettle, and milkweed.
How to Prepare Plants for Your Chameleon
Plants from big stores are not always ready for use in our chameleon enclosure. They have probably been grown and treated with chemicals and pesticides, making them harmful to the lizard.
This is not to say that such plants are bad or unsuitable. However, you must adequately prepare them to introduce them to the tank.
The best way to prepare these plants is to soak them in water – like your own vegetables bought from the local grocery store.
If you are so inclined, you could also soak the plants in soapy water, as this would remove bacteria. But not every keeper is inclined to do this.
Regarding the soil, repot the plant with well-drained, organic soil. Organic soils are free of chemicals and fertilizer. Therefore, they do not pose any danger to the health and wellbeing of your chameleon.
How to Set Up Plants in the Terrarium
To make your chameleon enclosure look good, appealing, and practical, you should blend three types of plants: hanging, climbing, and foliage.
You can have a simple yet effective setup using the three. For example:
- Hanging plants on a basket can be placed on one corner of the enclosure, opposite the heat lamp. This utilizes all available space without blocking the source of the heat.
- One climber plant from the center of the floor. Get it to spread evenly before climbing the enclosure from as many sides as possible.
- Two to four foliage plants to provide a leafy feel in the tank.
Being delicate animals, chameleons require close monitoring and care. The plants you choose for your chameleon’s home accentuate his beauty.
Remember to choose plants that remind your little friend of his original home in the rainforests and deserts of Africa.
These plants should also be safe to avoid accidents jeopardizing your pet’s life.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Are Hibiscus Trees Safe for Chameleons?
Hibiscus plants look good in your chameleon’s enclosure. These trees don’t threaten your lizard because they are not toxic.
The hibiscus enclosure would be an excellent place to start if you’re thinking of a good plant for your reptile’s tank,
Can Chameleons Eat Fruits?
Although chameleons thrive on insects, they can indulge in the occasional fruit. Fruits provide your chameleon with optimal supplements.
Choose fruits high in calcium and low in phosphorus. These include bananas, peaches, blueberries, melons, and apples.
Remove the seeds from the fruits before feeding them to your chameleon.
What’s the Best Live Plants for Your Chameleon Enclosure?
The best plants for your chameleon’s tank should incorporate beauty and safety. These qualities include hibiscus, rubber trees, yuccas, golden pothos, Ficus elastic, and Ficus benjamina.
Is a Fiddle Leaf Fig Good for My Chameleon’s Enclosure?
Fiddle Leaf Fig is highly toxic and unsuitable for your chameleon’s enclosure. Ingesting the leaf of this plant leads to poisoning.
Also, your chameleon’s skin will be irritated if it comes into contact with this plant.
What Plants Can Chameleons Eat?
Chameleons can safely eat romaine lettuce, kale, pothos leaves, and other leafy greens. But, of course, your chameleon’s main staple is insects.
Feed your pet leafy greens only occasionally.