Chameleons are exotic and mesmerizing pets, the little wonders living in your home. The bright colors come at a price, though: these lizards need a carefully crafted terrarium with specific temperature and humidity. And just as in their native habitat, suitable and non-poisonous plants for chameleons are a must. We’ve prepared a list of safe plants for chameleons to keep your scaly lizard in a good mood.
Do Chameleons Like Plants?
In nature, chameleons rely on plants for cover, hiding places, and food. And while they live in a terrarium, they need plants because the green friends keep humidity levels in check. So, yes, chameleons do like plants a lot!
What Kind of Plants Do Chameleons Like?
The best plants for the chameleon cage are those that are similar to their natural environments. Woody and leafy plants are great for climbing and hiding, while trailing vines and big leaf greenies can boost the humidity in the terrarium.
What Are Chameleon-Safe Plants?
Not all greenies can be called chameleon-safe plants. These lizards eat leaves from time to time, so sparky and toxic plants won’t make the deal. Here is a tried-and-true list of live plants for chameleons that won’t hurt your scaly friend.
Description: Golden pothos is an incredibly resilient plant that’s easy to care for.
Benefits: Your chameleon can hide under the leaves of pothos and climb on them whenever it wants. Plus, it’s safe to chew a bit!
Care clues: Golden Pothos prefers to be kept slightly on the dry side and can tolerate a wide range of temperatures. They should be watered when the soil is dry to the touch and fertilized every 2-4 weeks during the growing season.
Description: Weeping fig is an easy-to-care-for houseplant that is very adaptable and resilient.
Benefits: Great for hiding and climbing. The leaves are not toxic and remind your lizard of its native lands.
Care clues: Prefers bright, indirect light and consistent moisture. It should be watered when the top inch of the soil feels dry. Weeping figs are sensitive to changes in their environment, so it's important to avoid drastic changes in light and temperature.
Description: Dracaena compacta is a tiny and slow-growing plant that is perfect for your lizard’s terrarium.
Benefits: Easy to maintain, fits in the tank, resilient.
Care clues: Thrives in bright indirect light and well-draining soil. Let the soil dry out before watering the plant again. Overall, Dracaenas tolerate a wide range of temperatures and humidity, but you should avoid overwatering these plants.
Safe Plants for Veiled Chameleons
But what about veiled chameleons: do they have any specific preferences? Here is a list of safe plants for a veiled chameleon to make your lizard’s life more fun!
Description: Rubber Tree is a pretty popular plant for tank setups because of its thick, glossy leaves and undemanding nature.
Benefits: The leaves are ideal for climbing, but the plant can become very large over time. Prune it regularly to keep the growth in check. It’s important to note that Rubber Tree sap can be somewhat toxic to chameleons if eaten in large amounts. Most chameleons won’t bother with these greenies, but if you notice that your pet is eating too much of it, remove the plant from the enclosure.
Care tips: It's a versatile plant that can thrive in partial to full sun, but it can't handle too much heat or light. This plant loves humidity but hates overwatering, so make sure to allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again. To make sure your Rubber Tree stays healthy and lush, use a mixture of soil, bark, and sand as a medium.
Description: The Schefflera Tree, also known as the Dwarf Umbrella Tree, resembles a little umbrella, and loves tropical climates and misting. This is, of course, ideal for chameleons that only drink water droplets from plants.
Benefits: Schefflera Trees are great for climbing and hiding as well. Importantly, while Schefflera plants are safe for chameleons, they might cause skin irritation in humans, cats, and dogs.
Care tips: Schefflera Trees are medium-light plants and need bright but indirect light to thrive. They like a good drink of water but stay away from overwatering. The rule of thumb is to wait until the soil in the pot dries out before watering again.
Description: Sturdy tree-like trunk and spiky green leaves make Yucca one of the real chameleon trees!
Benefits: It's perfect for lizards to climb on, and it's a great way to add a touch of nature to your pet's home. Whether you choose a Yucca with a central tree trunk that supports foliage or a shrub with several stalks that end in foliage, you can't go wrong. The narrow and long leaves of Yucca may not create much of a hiding space, but it's a great air-cleaning plant that ensures your chameleon is breathing fresh air.
Care tips: Yuccas are low-maintenance plants; they prefer partial shade and don't require any special care. Simply put it in standard potting soil, ensure adequate drainage, and avoid placing it directly under a heating lamp. Keep it moist but not wet, and allow it to dry completely before watering it again.
What Plants Are not Safe for Chameleons?
The list of toxic plants for chameleons is not large, but you should take care to avoid placing these greenies in the terrarium:
- Creeping fig
- Zulu fig
- Fiddle-Leaf figs
- Crotons (particularly ones with colorful leaves).
All of these are very poisonous when ingested and can cause a lot of harm to your pet.
What Plants Can Chameleons Eat?
Chameleons are still insectivorous animals, but occasionally feeding them plants is a perfect way to enrich their diet. Pothos leaves, ficus, kale, romaine lettuce, and other dark, leafy greens are safe for veiled and panther chameleons to f.
What Do Chameleons Need in Their Cage?
- Adequate space: Chameleons need a cage that is large enough for them to move around and explore, with enough branches and other structures for climbing and basking.
- Lighting: Chameleons need UVB lighting to help them properly metabolize calcium and maintain healthy bone growth. They also need a basking spot with a heat lamp that provides the correct temperature range for their species.
- Humidity: Chameleons come from humid environments; they need a misting system or a way to increase humidity in the cage.
- Plants: Plants for chameleons are an absolute must. They provide hiding places, climbing structures, and a source of moisture for the chameleon to drink from.
- Water dish: Chameleons need a water dish to drink from and soak in.
- Hiding spots: Chameleons need hiding spots where they can retreat and feel secure.
- Proper temperature range: Chameleons need to be kept within the temperature range that is appropriate for their species.
How to Prepare Plants for Chameleon Cage
So, you’ve made your chameleon safe plant list. Do you need any preparation before putting your greenies in the terrarium? The short answer is yes, but not too much. Here is a short list of steps.
- Cleaning: Clean the plants with warm water and antibacterial soap at least 3 times before introducing them to the terrarium. This will remove any pesticides or other harmful chemicals that may have been used on them. Keep in mind that commercial soil may contain fertilizers that can be harmful to your pet, so it’s best to repot your plant in organic soil.
- Pest control: Check for pests such as spider mites, thrips, or scale insects, which can harm your chameleon.
- Prune: Prune the plants to control their size and to create hiding spots for the chameleon.
- Quarantine: Quarantine the chameleon plants before introducing them to the terrarium. This will allow you to observe them for any signs of disease or pests before exposing your chameleon to them.
How to Set Up Plants in the Chameleon Cage
So, the best plants for chameleons are chosen, cleaned, and quarantined. How to set them up in the cage?
- Place tall plants in the back of the terrarium – this will create a natural-looking background for your chameleon and provide a sense of depth to the terrarium.
- Use a variety of plant sizes and shapes for a more natural and interesting environment for your chameleon.
- Create hiding spots. Use good plants for chameleons to create some places where they can go out of sight. This will provide your chameleon with a sense of security and help them feel more comfortable in their new environment.
- Provide climbing opportunities. Pick plants with sturdy stems or branches that your chameleon can climb on. This will provide them with exercise and a change of scenery.
In general, several foliage plants, one climber greenie that spreads out across the bottom, the hanging basket on the opposite side from the UV lamp, and a few filler plants will seal the deal.
How to Keep Plants Alive in a Chameleon Enclosure
There’s not much difference between caring for plants inside and outside of your chameleon’s home. Live plants for chameleons should be able to thrive in a warm and humid enclosure. Opt for tropical greenies that are used to similar habitats.
Also, if you want your plants to flourish, pay attention to heat! Some plants love basking in the warmth of heat lamps, while others will wilt if they get too close. Arrange your plants accordingly.
Finally, keep your plants fresh and clean by regularly washing their leaves. A gentle solution of water and fragrance-free dish soap will do the trick. Not only will this help keep your plants healthy, but it will also maintain a clean environment for your scaly friend.
Are Snake Plants Safe for Chameleons?
Snake plants are on the chameleon-safe plant list. However, they are not the best choice for the enclosure. Snake plants love drier conditions, and can start rotting in a humid terrarium.
What Are the Best Fake Plants for Chameleons?
Good fake plants for chameleons don’t exist. Fake plants do not provide any nutritional value to chameleons, which require a varied diet of live insects and occasionally leafy greens. On top of that, your chameleon can try to eat a plastic plant, and it won’t end well. Finally, chameleons need a humid environment to stay healthy and hydrated, and fake plants are useless in that respect as well.
What Kind of Branches Can We Put in a Chameleon Cage?
Choose branches that are thick and sturdy enough to support your chameleon's weight, and make sure they are free of pesticides and chemicals. The branches should fit comfortably in your cage and be securely attached to prevent accidents.
Do Chameleons Need Heat Lamps at Night?
A heat lamp is a must for any chameleon enclosure; your reptile won’t survive without it. As a rule, the lamp should be on during the day, and your pet might not need it at night. It all depends on where you live, how cold your apartment or house gets through the night, and other factors. Consult a veterinarian to get professional advice.