Live Plants That Are Safe for Reptiles

Updated February 21, 2017

Although artificial plants are easier to care for, live plants in reptile terrariums or habitats add not only visual beauty, but a health benefit, as well. Many live plants are a source of food for reptiles. In addition, they can help filter the water or air, depending on which plants are used. While plants suitable for terrariums can vary depending on the reptile species, a few common plants are safe for all reptiles.

Foliage Plants

The Alocasia species, or elephant ear, is safe for reptiles. This tropical foliage plant is distinctive for its large, broad leaves and should only be used in large terrariums or outdoor habitats. Philodendron plants come in a wide range of sizes and shapes. They are hardy and will grow with minimum care. The Chinese evergreen, or Aglaonema modestum, is a hardy tropical houseplant that thrives in the humid environment of most terrariums.

Flowering Plants

Impatiens are a good choice if you want a splash of colour in your terrarium. These annual bedding plants grow well even in shady conditions, so they are perfect for lowlight habitats or terrariums. The flowers are edible. Nasturtiums also have edible flowers and leaves. Both grow best in a cooler terrarium rather than a hot, tropical environment. Day lilies are almost indestructible, but choose a dwarf cultivar. They spread, so they are best in a large terrarium. Yucca is a suitable choice if you have a very dry, hot terrarium.


The creeping fig (Ficus pumila) is an excellent choice if you want a good background plant. This fast-growing vine will quickly fill in the back of your terrarium and provide your reptile with plenty of places to hide. Devil's ivy (Scindapsus aureus) is a similar creeping vine with larger leaves. Syngonium podophyllum, or the arrowhead vine, has arrow-shaped leaves and is very hardy. This one is vigorous, and is best used in larger terrariums or habitats.


Ferns add a lush, prehistoric flair to reptile habitats. The button fern (Pellaea rotundifolia) has delicate, round leaves. The resurrection fern (Polypodium polypodioides) is an epiphyte: It needs no soil to grow, which means you can set it on a rock, but it does need high humidity. The rabbit's foot fern, or Humata tyermanii, has long, classic fronds that droop gracefully to the ground and provide the perfect hiding place for a reptile. This plant can grow quite large.

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