Choosing live plants for your reptile or amphibian enclosure is not as simple as it might seem. You must choose plants that will survive in the environmental conditions that the reptile or amphibian requires. You should also recognize that your reptile or amphibian may damage, uproot, eat, or otherwise destroy live plants. And most importantly, if you have a herbivore or omnivore or your pet just likes to sample the plants, you must choose non toxic plants.
Answer: Where the reptiles and amphibians do not eat the vegetation, some plants that are often recommended for terrariums include:

  • Pothos
  • Spider Plants
  • Bromeliads
  • Snake Plants (Sanseveria sp.)
  • Ficus
  • Dwarf Schefflera
  • Orchids
  • Peperomia
  • Ponytail Palms
  • African Violets

Melissa Kaplan has assembled a more extensive list of plants suitable for terrariums, which can give you a good starting point (again, for non-herbivorous species).

But are they Edible?
This is not as simple a questions as it seems. Different references tend to list different plants, and there are species differences in tolerance as well. There are some plants listed above that are considered safe for herps to eat, but if you have a herbivore or omnivore, it is a good idea to double check any live plant choices against the toxic plant lists above. You can also see Kaplan’s list of edible plants for guidance.

Some plants may be classified as toxic if their sap is an irritant. With these you need to use your discretion: for reptiles and amphibians who don’t nibble plants these might be okay, though some people prefer to avoid them (e.g. in case broken branches lead to skin or eye irritation). However, if you have a herbivore or omnivore, these may be best avoided as they can be irritating to the digestive tract as well.

Other Resources
If you go to a knowledgeable nursery or plant shop, you should be able get help in choosing safe plants suitable for your terrarium conditions. Some other lists and resources you might find helpful are:

Plants to Avoid:

  • Plants Dangerous to Your Reptile or Amphibian (Animal Planet’s Reptile Guide)
  • Toxic Plants – also by Scientific Name (University of California Davis)
  • Harmful Plants – compiled from “The Reptile Keeper’s Handbook” on Melissa Kaplan’s site – this very extensive list is broken down by A-G, H-N, O-Z, and Plants Causing Mechanical Injury.

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Filed under: Reptiles Terrariums