If you’re interested in keeping chameleons as pets, you should know that they are delicate animals. When building a vivarium for them, you must ensure that it closely mimics their natural habitat. Everything from the temperature, lighting, and humidity levels must be as close to the natural environment of your chameleon as possible.
And a crucial part of a chameleon’s abode is the plants. Chameleon-safe plants are essential for their enclosure for the following reasons:
- Chameleons need plants for humidity, clean air, and hiding places.
- Chameleons use the water droplets that form naturally on plant leaves as a water source.
- Chameleons also nibble on plant matter from time to time.
- Chameleons are arboreal creatures. They spend most of their time in the shade of trees in their natural environment.
Based on these reasons, it is essential that you only choose non-toxic and safe plants for your chameleon’s enclosure. You must also clean and disinfect them before adding them to the terrarium. But figuring out which chameleon-safe plants can take too much time.
Therefore, we have compiled a chameleon-safe plants list for you in this article. These plants are readily available and are easy to care for. They also serve different purposes like improving humidity, providing climbing spaces, and adding color to the terrarium.
Top 11 Chameleon-Safe Plants
1. Golden Pothos
Golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum), also known as devil’s ivy, is a popular chameleon-safe plant, thanks to its sturdy nature. This plant is almost impossible to kill, and adds to your terrarium’s foliage quite well.
Chameleons also nibble on this plant now and then, and the plant can grow back quickly. If you’re using a hanging basket, this plant will look especially beautiful with its vines trailing down the sides of the pot. Your chameleon will also enjoy climbing on it.
- Use organic and well-drained potting soil for better growth.
- Water the plant when leaves start to droop or the soil dries out.
- Keep watering until it starts seeping out of the bottom of the pot.
- Expose to direct filtered light now and then. It can tolerate low-light conditions as well.
- Use a fertilizer specially made for house plants.
2. Grape Ivy
Grape ivy (Cissus alata) is an excellent trailing plant for your chameleon enclosure because of how low-effort it is. It is a trailing vine plant that grows quickly with little input from you. Its leaves resemble the ones on grape vines, hence the name.
This plant provides ample foliage cover for your beloved reptile and is an easy choice if you want to take a different route from the famous pothos.
- Use organic and well-drained potting soil.
- Water when the soil has dried out. Keep watering until water starts draining from the bottom of the pot.
- Exposure to direct but filtered light is preferable. The plant tends to lean towards the light source, so place it accordingly.
The plant needs to feed once during spring and summer. Vibrant green leaves are a sign that the plant is well-fed.
3. Ficus Benjamina
Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) is admired by many as a chameleon-safe plant for its solid stems that chameleons love to climb. The plant also features leafy foliage, making it perfect for adding humidity and shade to your terrarium.
However, this plant is slightly more challenging to care for. It can exhibit extreme leaf drop if moved around too much or not cared for properly. If you can take some time to give this plant the attention it needs, it can serve as a lovely addition to your chameleon enclosure.
- Plant in an organic houseplant mix that is also fast-draining.
- Water consistently and when the soil has dried at least 3 inches deep.
- Overwatering and underwatering may cause leaf drop.
- Prefers bright direct and indirect light. Leaves may drop in low light conditions.
- Use a houseplant fertilizer for feeding once a week. These plants are heavy feeders, especially during the growing season.
- Reduce feeding to once every two weeks around winter and fall.
4. Dragon Tree
Dragon tree (Dracaena draco) is a famous chameleon-safe plant because of its thick trunks for climbing and good foliage cover. Chameleons love to perch on this tree vertically, as it resembles their natural habitat.
The trees are slow growers, so it is best to purchase a more established one from the market. The plants are also quite resilient and look like small palm trees. Their unique shape adds variety to your terrarium.
- Use loosely packed organic potting soil as the planting medium.
- This plant has a complex root system that needs a large pot for proper accommodation.
- Water when the top half soil feels dry. Overwatering is relatively common, so watering once every two to three weeks is a safe schedule for most conditions.
- Use distilled water if possible. Brown-tipped leaves can occur with over-watering, while yellow leaves result from underwatering.
- It can grow fine in dim light but prefers bright light.
- It is a light feeder, requiring a feeding once every spring.
5. Swiss Cheese Plant
The swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa) is a houseplant preferred for its split, big, and glossy leaves. It is a low-maintenance tropical plant that is functional and beautiful simultaneously.
Its huge leaves provide the perfect natural cover to your chameleon while also gathering water droplets on its glossy leaves. It is quick to grow and easy to care for.
- This plant prefers rich organic soil that also drains well. Add some peat moss for better root health.
- The soil should be kept damp but not dripping wet. Water until it starts draining from the bottom, and keep watering regularly whenever the top third of the soil dries out.
- This plant prefers medium to bright light.
- Feeding should be done with a balanced and diluted fertilizer every two weeks.
6. Yucca Plant
Due to its tropical and sturdy nature, the yucca plant is a prevalent choice for chameleon keepers. This plant can easily tolerate high temperatures because it originates from the semi-desert areas of the Southern United States and Central America.
The plant can also adapt quickly to new environments, making it an excellent low-maintenance addition to your chameleon-safe plants list.
- This plant prefers standard well-draining potting soil. However, it is better to use organic soil if possible.
- It is a drought-resistant plant, so light watering once a week is sufficient.
- Water the plant thoroughly at least once a month.
- Partial light is most suitable, and too much direct sunlight can be harmful.
- Feed once every couple of weeks with a liquid fertilizer formulated for houseplants.
7. Rubber Plant
The rubber plant (Ficus elastica) gets its name from its sap that is used to make rubber. These plants can go up to 100 feet in the wild, but as houseplants, they usually grow up to 6 feet in height.
Their thick, green, and glossy leaves are great for providing foliage. The plant thrives in humid and tropical conditions, making it perfect for your chameleon’s drinking needs.
- This plant prefers a potting mixture of bark, sand, and soil.
- Water when the soil feels completely dry to the touch. Delaying watering beyond this point can result in the plant dropping its leaves.
- The plant does well in indirect light, like on a windowsill. Do not place it directly under a heat lamp.
- The plant prefers feeding with a house plant liquid fertilizer once every two weeks.
8. Passion Flower
Passion flower (Passiflora) is a genus of about 550 flower-bearing plants. It can be a lively and colorful addition to a terrarium. These veiled chameleon-safe plants greatly complement your colorful reptilian pets.
These are extremely fast growers and require periodic pruning to keep their growth under control. If other plants in your terrarium provide foliage, passion flowers can make it look more lively.
- This plant prefers a fast-draining and rich soil mixture.
- The plant needs to be watered daily, especially when inside the terrarium, as the warmth inside can cause its soil to dry out quickly.
- The plant thrives in bright light around the clock. Low light conditions can damage the plant.
- It is high in feeding requirements and needs liquid fertilizer once every week.
Jasmine is a prolific flowering climber that is popular among home gardeners for its fragrant, white flowers. However, it is also a chameleon-safe plant. It can make your terrarium smell lovely and is easy to grow indoors.
Choose common or poet’s jasmine if you’re interested in fragrance. Avoid star jasmine, as it can be unsafe for chameleons. Ideally, you should place these plants on the floor around the enclosure.
- Jasmine prefers a well-draining organic soil mix composed of bark and peat moss.
- Water frequently to keep the soil moist at all times.
- The plant prefers indirect light.
- Make sure to feed with liquid house plant fertilizer during the growing season every couple of weeks.
Bromeliad is a popular chameleon-safe plant for many keepers. It is easy to grow and care for, and is mainly preferred for its foliage. It can grow up to 5 feet in height in the enclosure. Apart from providing foliage, this plant gives off stunning blooms that can add much-needed color to your terrarium.
- Bromeliad prefers fast-draining sand-based soil mixed with peat moss.
- Water every week until the plant starts to drain water. Avoid keeping it in standing water. Reduce the frequency of watering during winter months.
- The plant prefers exposure to indirect but bright light.
- Feed with a house plant liquid fertilizer every second week.
11. Boston Fern
Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata) can look stunning as a hanging plant in your terrarium. More importantly, you can place this plant strategically for your chameleon to hide whenever it needs privacy.
Its thick foliage and feather-like leaves are shaped perfectly for collecting water. They don’t have trailing vines like other hanging plants on this list, but they add great variety to a chameleon enclosure.
- Boston fern prefers all-purpose well-draining soil mixed with peat moss.
- Water frequently enough to keep the soil moist at all times.
- The plant prefers indirect light, and placing it under heat or grow lamps can be damaging.
- Feed every two weeks with a reliable house plant fertilizer.
- This plant loves humidity.
More Chameleon-Safe Plants
The chameleon-safe plants’ list can be incredibly long. We have only listed readily available plants, which are also easy to look after. However, here are some other chameleon-safe plants and the features they can add to your terrarium:
- Wandering jew (Tradescantia zebrina): Quick-growing and colorful plant with long stems to climb on.
- Parlor palm (Chamaedorea elegans): Great for foliage and catching water droplets.
- Areca palm (Dypsis lutescens): Sturdy stems to climb on, good for catching water droplets.
- Schefflera tree (Heptapleurum arboricola): A good choice for tropical needs.
- Corn plant (Dracaena fragrans): Sturdy plant well-suited for busy chameleon keepers.
- Ti plant (Cordyline fruticosa): Excellent for adding color and foliage to the enclosure.
- Aspidistra plant (Aspidistra elatior): Sturdy plant that can thrive in low light conditions.
Plants That are Unsafe for Chameleons
Many people assume that since artificial plants are inorganic, they must be non-toxic for chameleons. However, chameleons are known to nibble on plant matter. Consuming plastic or fabric that artificial plants are made of can be highly unsafe for your beloved pet.
Apart from artificial plants, here are some natural plants that you should never add to your chameleon’s home:
- Fiddle-leafed fig (Ficus lyrata)
- Zulu fig (Ficus trichopoda)
- Crotons (colorful leaves are especially dangerous)
- Creeping fig (Ficus pumila)
- Philodendrons (sap varieties are hazardous)
With this list in your hand, you’re all set to give your friendly chameleon an experience as close as its natural home. The key is to pick the plants that will thrive best in your particular circumstances like weather, access to light, and personal preference. Make sure to always do research before putting any plant in your pet’s home.