Chameleons can make for amazing pets. They can be a delight to have or to show around to your guests. Whether you are a new chameleon owner or have a chameleon for a long time and are looking for a change of habitat for your little one, you must have wondered what kind of plants for chameleons are safe and suitable.
Golden Pothos, Ficus Plants, Dwarf Umbrella Trees, Hibiscus Plants, Grape Ivy, Wandering Jew, Dragon Trees – are some plants that are completely safe to use in chameleon enclosures.
According to the needs of your pet and also the kind of environment you are in, the most suitable plant for you can vary. Listed in this article are 20 different kinds of live plants for chameleons along with any relevant facts you might need to know to make an informed decision.
There are dozens of plants that you can use to decorate your chameleon enclosure. Obviously, talking about all of them won’t be possible. So, I picked 20 of my favorite ones and shared some details about them. I’m sure that you will find something you like from this list.
Here’s the list of top 20 safe live plants for Chameleons:
Perhaps the most common choice of plants for chameleon terrariums is the Golden Pothos, which is a beautiful, green, houseplant you can get very easily from any local plant market. It is very easy to care for and does not need much maintenance and has often been called the easiest plant to grow.
It can creep up around your cage and end up covering it, thus making it perfect for chameleons as they like to hide in the greenery of the Pothos. They will easily make the chameleon’s home very tropical and cosy. It is also very easy to reproduce and can be used in many different areas around the house. I have previously mentioned this plant in another post about plants for leopard geckos.
Lighting Conditions: It requires very little sunshine and will grow quite well on its own. Try to keep it away from direct sunlight as this might kill them. If the leaves of your Pothos are turning yellow it means that it is getting too much light, so try to keep it in moderately shaded areas.
Watering Needs: Thrice a week or every two days is a good measure of when to water your Pothos. But every Pothos can be different, just look for signs of overwatering, i.e. if the leaves are turning yellow that means it is being over-watered. Leave time for the soil to dry. Pothos loves moist soil.
Hardiness:12-13. Though Pothos are notorious for growing in a wide variety of environments, they will grow best at temperatures between 60 to 90 F.
The Ficus Benjamina or simply Ficus plants are an amazing addition to your chameleon cage, as they grow strong and tall and can stand on their own. They can be used as the perfect centerpiece for your chameleon’s home. They stick to themselves and are very sturdy and thus can easily hold the weight of a chameleon. Your pet will love climbing on its branches.
This green leafy plant usually tends to grow up to a maximum height of 6 feet or 180 cm. They are one of the most popular options for safe plants for chameleons and will grow pretty well in moderate lighting conditions, near windows. You can also grow vines and other creeper plants on it to give your cage a more “forest-like” look.
Lighting Conditions: These plants grow well in low-moderate lighting conditions and will even be fine under UV bulbs. You can keep them near windows or inside well-lit rooms.
Watering Needs: Ficus plants do like moist environments, so it would be a great idea to get an automatic misting system for your chameleon cage. This will keep the environment nice and humid. You could also spray the leaves daily yourself. But they do need constant watering, in small amounts. So be sure to keep spraying them, if you do not own a misting system
Hardiness: 11-12. As Ficus plants are used to tropical conditions, ensure that the temperature does not fall below 50-60 F.
Dwarf Umbrella Trees
Native to Taiwan, the Dwarf Umbrella Tree or Schefflera Arboricola, is another tropical tree that can make a great habitat for your chameleon. Named after its adorable shape of an umbrella with beautiful green leaves sprouting from the stems. They are also often called Octopus Tree and Parasol Plant.
These are, however, known to be slightly toxic to some pets and people. Be careful to keep any dogs or cats away from them, but they are perfectly safe for chameleons. They can also be slightly itchy to some people if they are allergic. So be careful while handling them.
Lighting Conditions: This one needs a lot of light to grow properly, so make sure your chameleon cage gets plenty of sunlight on a daily basis. If your house does not get a lot of sunlight, this might not be a good option for you. It is a great option if your cage is outdoors.
Watering Needs: The Dwarf Umbrella Tree also requires high humidity to thrive. But surprisingly, it can tolerate drought and negligence quite well. Water the soil on a semi-regular basis, be careful to check if leaves are responding well. Be sure not to over-water. Also mist the leaves, for better humidity.
Hardiness: With a hardiness of 13+, the Dwarf Umbrella Tree likes its heat. Keep it at temperatures between 65 – 85 F.
If you are looking to impress guests and add a beautiful floral display to your chameleon’s cage, the Hibiscus Plant is a great option for you. With dark green leaves, and beautiful red flowers this one is perfect for a more colorful theme.
Although Hibiscus plants can get very tall and reach up to 18 feet in height, when grown in captivity they will remain small enough to fit inside your pet’s cage. They also come in different colors, and so your chameleon can change colors to match the flowers’ mood. They can also be very easily pruned, so you can shape and style them to fit perfectly with any other plants inside.
Lighting Conditions: The flowers of the Hibiscus do like plenty of sunshine to grow to their full glory. It is best if your chameleon cage is outside, where it would get direct sunlight. If not, keep it near windows where they can catch at least 6 hours of sufficient glimpses of the sun.
Watering Needs: In full bloom, the Hibiscus needs a lot of water. Water them daily in the summer. But when in winter, you can water them much less, about every other day. Be sure not to overwater them, as too much water can kill them.
Hardiness: 12-13. Will grow best at temperatures of 60-90 F, and will die if temperatures fall below 32 F.
Grape Ivy can be the perfect foliage to add to your chameleon cage if you already have some sturdy ones in there. They are thin and Viney and will grow quite quickly. You do not have to fuss over them too much and they are easy to care for. They look like the vines found on grapevines, and hence the name.
It may not be as thick or sturdy as other plants, but you can use them to add a little variety to your chameleon cage. They can be grown in different directions and can be manipulated with light to grow according to how you want them.
Lighting Conditions: Keep it in direct light, but not too bright. They will grow pretty well even in low-light conditions. Less is more when it comes to Grape Ivy Plants.
Watering Needs: Keep checking the soil to water them and only water them when the soil has dried out. Keep a place for water to drain out the pot.
Hardiness: 13. Grape Ivy prefers temperatures between 60 to 80F. They will die at temperatures above 80F.
If you are looking for something to hang inside your chameleon terrarium, the Wandering Jew Plant is a great, colorful option with green and purple leaves with beautiful patterns. These leaves look like they were taken straight out of a painting.
Their name comes from their great adaptability to different environments. This means they are very easy to care for and do not require a lot of effort. They grow very quickly and will produce long healthy stems on a regular basis. Your chameleons will love this splash of color inside their homes.
Lighting Conditions: These plants require bright but indirect light. Like with most plants, the color of the leaves will tell you if they are getting sufficient light. If the light is too dim, or not bright enough the leaves will lose their patterns.
Watering Needs: The soil should have sufficient moisture but refrain from watering directly into the crown of the plant. This might cause your Wandering Jew to rot. You should also mist them regularly to keep conditions humid.
Hardiness: 11-13. While the Wandering Jew prefers warmer climates, they will do pretty well at temperatures from 50 to 80 F. They will even tolerate 45F during winters, but not for too long.
Dragon Trees look like miniature versions of palm trees and usually have two or three sturdy trunks that your chameleon can climb on. They have thin, long leaves that stick out from these trunks. Since chameleons love to climb up high trees and surfaces, Dragon Trees are great options for your chameleon cage.
These grow rather slow, so it is better to get one that is already tall enough for your cage. They are very strong, tolerant plants and even if you make mistakes, they will not die on you. They grow year-round and are drought tolerant.
Lighting Conditions: These will thrive in bright light, so try to expose it to sufficient light. But they will also survive under partial shade. But low light conditions will slow the growth process even further and leaves might not be as vibrant and long. As their leaves can burn, try to keep them away from direct sunlight.
Watering Needs: Once every two to three weeks is enough for drought-tolerant plants like the Dragon Tree. If the leaves have tips that have discolored or have turned brown that means you are putting in too much water. If the leaves are yellow, it means the plan needs more water.
Hardiness: 13+. Dragon Trees prefer temperatures of about 70 to 80 F.
All chameleons love to climb. In the wild, they spend most of their time in trees, and their claws have adapted to hold on to stems. As a result, even ones in captivity love to climb. It is in their genes. So getting plants that have trunks and branches that your pets can climb on is the way to go.
One such option is the Corn Plant, with its thick tree-like trunks. These are perfect for climbing and are sturdy enough to hold your chameleon’s weight easily. They have narrow leaves, similar to those that are seen in cornfields, with bright yellow stripes down the middle.
Corn Plants are very popular among the chameleon petting crowd, as they are very easy to care for. If you are a beginner and have no idea how to take care of plants, these are very good for you, as they will grow pretty well even if neglected.
Lighting Conditions: These grow very well inside cages, and your best bet is to expose them to filtered, indirect sunlight.
Watering Needs: Use distilled water for Corn Plants, if possible. If the leaves are turning brown, it means it needs to be watered more.
Hardiness: 11-13. They will grow best between 50-75 F, but can also withstand very high temperatures of about 105 F.
This one is like the Corn Plant and the Dragon Tree had a plant child. The Yucca Plant has thick trunks like the Corn Plant, while its leaves are more like a mix between those of the Dragon Tree and Corn Plant. These have slender, sword-like leaves which will add a splash of green to your chameleon’s home.
Just like the other two, your chameleon can easily perch itself up against the trunk of the Yucca Plant. These can get as tall as a toddler and will fit perfectly inside your cage. They are not difficult to grow and prefer a little negligence over too much attention. Over time, they can lose their lower leaves, and start to droop. This ends up giving them a skirt around their trunk.
Lighting Conditions: Yucca plants love their sun, and will thrive in direct sunlight. Place them near windows. They will also grow pretty well in indirect but bright sun as well. They will also grow in low light conditions as well, albeit rather slowly and with smaller leaves.
Watering Needs: You have to water your Yucca plants regularly while ensuring there is proper drainage. These will not sit well in a tray full of water. In Winter, water them sporadically. In summer and spring, they are growing the most so provide them with sufficient water.
Hardiness: 9-13. Since these were originally from the desert, they can adapt to pretty extreme temperature changes, from 30 to as high as 90 F.
Originally from the Asian regions of Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, the Aralia or Japanese Aralia is a beautiful, lush green option of safe plants for your chameleon. They have thick, large leaves, and chameleons love them.
These are hardy and pretty easy to take care of. They grow very well in containers, and hence are perfect for chameleon cages. Japanese Aralia usually leans to one side because of the weight of their leaves. They also bloom bright white flowers and shiny blackberries in the fall.
Lighting Conditions: These plants like medium to full shade. And will grow well in low-lit rooms. Too much sunlight can often damage the leaves and burn them. So keep them away from windows and direct sunlight.
Watering Needs: Keep the soil moist at all times, and water accordingly. Check the soil regularly as it can dry out pretty quickly in enclosed spaces.
Hardiness: 13. The Japanese Aralia prefer cooler temperatures of about 60 to 70F.
The rubber plant is notorious for the sap it produces which is used to make rubber. But it can also make a great addition to a chameleon’s cage. Its large, thick, dark green leaves are beautiful to look at. They can grow up to 100 feet tall, but ones kept at home will only grow to about 5 or 6 feet.
The thick glossy green leaves look beautiful no matter where you place them. Their trunks are also sturdy enough to hold chameleons, and the lush greenery allows them to hide perfectly under their shade.
Lighting Conditions: The rubber plant grows well in indirect sunlight, so near a window is fine. But do not place it directly facing the window. Inside the cage, be careful not to place it directly under the UV lamp.
Watering Needs: The soil will tell you when it is time to water these plants. Check to see if it is dry to the touch, that is when you should be watering them. Ensure that the soil does not get too dry as this will lead to the leaves falling off and dying.
Hardiness: 12-13. The ideal temperature for rubber plants is about 60 to 65 F.
Also known as the Butterfly Palm, the Areca Palm is a great choice if you are looking for palm-like trees for your chameleon. They look like your everyday common house-plant or the ones you can find in offices with thin green leaves and stems. The stems grow close together, providing the perfect place for your chameleons to sit into all cozy.
Getting a full-grown one might cost you a lot of money, so it is better to buy them small, tabletop plants. They will grow rather slow but can reach heights of 6 to 7 feet. They are not difficult to care for, but they will die out if you completely forget about them. They do require constant attention.
Lighting Conditions: Lighting Conditions are very important for your Areca Palm to grow well. Bright, indirect light is perfect for them, so place them near windows. Too much direct sunlight and the leaves will lose their beautiful green color.
Watering Needs: They do like moist soil but will not tolerate overwatering. Remember to let the soil dry out after each watering. It is also best to use distilled water.
Hardiness: 10-11. Will grow perfect at 60 to 75 F.
Split Leaf Philodendron
The Split Leaf Philodendron comes from the likes of Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil. These photogenic plants are beautiful with dark green long-stalked leaves. These leaves are glossy and divided, hence the names.
They can grow up to 10 feet high and 15 feet wide. Grown in captivity, they are much shorter and hence these lush green leaves make them perfect for chameleons. They even grow berries.
Lighting Conditions: The Split Leaf Philodendron prefers bright, indirect light. Keep them close to windows, or in front of covered windows. The midday sun can burn their beautiful leaves, so remember to shelter them from harsh lights.
Watering Needs: They like their soil to be moist, and humid conditions. Water them when the top parts of the soil feel dry to the touch. Wait for the water to drain to the bottom and let them dry out.
Hardiness: 12-13. Warmer temperatures are great for these plants, growing well at about 65-80F.
The Aspidistra Plant or the Cast Iron Plant is known for its long, green thick leaves. They resemble the texture of leather and are just as tough and strong. They are very tolerant of neglect, so if you are a beginner at plants this is a great choice for you.
Their leaves are always green and can be used to introduce some color into your chameleon cage. They seem to grow better when left alone, so you do not have to worry about them. Their upright leaves give chameleons the perfect place to hide. The plant even has small purple flowers, which you can’t see as they grow near the roots.
These are pretty easy to grow, and can even be rejuvenated from dead-looking leaves with proper care. They can be easily affected by other bugs in the cage. So keep them away from the plants. Mealybugs, scale insects, and spider mites can damage their leaves.
Lighting Conditions: They grow well away from direct sunlight, away from windows. If your cage is outdoors, put your plant in a relatively shaded area.
Watering Needs: They do need some water, even though they are drought tolerant. Like with all other plants in this list, be careful not to overwater as this can kill the roots. Leave the soil moist, but not too wet. Give them time to dry between each watering session.
Hardiness: 8-10. They adapt to different temperatures of 45 to even 85F.
China Doll Plant
With small, green leaves, the China Doll Plant is fast becoming popular with plant owners and chameleon owners alike. It is very easy to get and is very attractive with its glossy, mild green leaflets. These are a little hard to take care of, but their beauty makes it all worth it.
These plants do not adapt well to change and need to be kept at consistent temperatures and lighting conditions. They want their environment to be a certain way, and will “throw a fit” if sudden changes occur. They do not tolerate drafts or heavy winds. They will drop their leaves whenever something goes wrong or there are changes in their living conditions.
If your leaves do droop, it is possible to nurse them back to health. So do not worry too much. Reduce watering, and check for any rots developing in the roots. Cut the healthy stems back to two-thirds, to keep them healthy. Try not to re-pot them.
Lighting Conditions: These are pretty fussy and they want exact lighting conditions. They like a lot of light, but make sure the light is not direct. They will need up to 5 hours daily of sunshine. You can get artificial light for plants inside the cage if you do not get sunlight in the cage.
Watering Needs: Use well-drained, moist soil. Be very careful that you do not leave the China Doll plant bathing in too much water. Water it only when the soil is dry.
Hardiness: 12-13. They are also very specific about the temperature they like, growing at ranges of between 65-75F.
If you want to add a hanging basket inside your chameleon terrarium, then the Boston Fern which offers great foliage is a good choice. With tonnes of thin, small leaves from long thin stems, these are more like vines and will flow well in the cage.
Its long stems provide the perfect shade for your chameleons to hide behind. They do not grow very long like other vines, even though they look similar. But the dense growth is a great place for chameleons to chill on.
Caring for Boston Ferns can be tricky, as they require specific light and humidity conditions. But once you get the hang of it, it is not too difficult. Try to use the pebbles in the pot you introduce them in and soak them in water.
Lighting Conditions: Place it in indirect light. Do not place it directly under the basking lamps or UV lights in your chameleon’s cage.
Watering Needs: Boston Ferns require watering fairly often. Keep the soil moist and ensure that it never dries out completely. But also be careful not to make the soil soggy. The leaves will change color if overwatered or underwatered.
Hardiness: 12-13. These plants have an optimum temperature of 60 – 75 F but will tolerate lower temperatures.
The Money Tree plant will give your chameleon’s cage a tropical feel. The amazing thing about this plant is its beautiful braided stems. Chameleons will love climbing this intricate stem. Furthermore, its bright green palm-tree-like leaves also provide shade for your chameleons.
These plants are known for their good luck and are believed to bring positive energy to their surroundings. They also can greatly help reduce the stress levels of your chameleon, and even you. They do not grow too tall and will fit perfectly at a corner of your chameleon’s cage. Since chameleons like high altitudes, try to place the plant at a lifted setting.
A new Money Tree can shed a few leaves in a new environment, so do not be scared if your plant is losing leaves. It will soon become accustomed to its environment.
Lighting Conditions: Money Trees tend to like medium to bright lights. But make sure it is not direct sunlight, as this can burn the leaves. Try to turn the plant to face the light source, every now and then. These plants will also grow very well under fluorescent lighting, and under the lights inside your chameleon’s cage. Just make sure it is not direct.
Watering Needs: They want deep water that reaches down to its roots. But you do not need to water your Money Tree frequently. Once the water starts to flow down the bottom of the pot, that’s your sign to stop watering. Try to let the soil dry out up to two to 4 inches before watering again. In winters, it needs even less.
Hardiness: 12-13. Optimum temperatures are between 65-80F.
Also known as the Fig Ivy and Creeping Ficus, the Climbing Fig is a great creeper that covers walls and grounds and can be used to cover your chameleon’s cage. It can be hung or kept in a pot at a corner of the cage. It will grow, creeping up the edges of the cage and covering the cage. It can be a great source of fresh oxygen for delicate chameleon lungs.
They can be easily propagated, so you can also use them in different areas around the house as well. It grows great kept outside, with enough rainwater. But be careful of where exactly you are placing it inside the cage so that it does not cover any lighting equipment. Once it grows, it can be very difficult to get rid of and it can even damage the surface of whatever it attaches to.
They have small, green leaves and long thin stems. These do not usually hold the weight of a chameleon, but can be a great addition to existing plant foliage and can be used as a decorative item. They will also be a great surface for your chameleon to drink water from.
Lighting Conditions: It needs bright, indirect light. Keep it away from direct sunlight, and in moderately shaded areas.
Watering Needs: The soil should be moist and not too wet. The best practice is to put your finger and check the condition of the soil before you water it. If the top is dry, water it, otherwise don’t.
Hardiness: 8-13. Though optimum temperatures are between 55-75F, they will survive at much lower and higher temperatures as well.
An interesting option of live plants for chameleons is the Goldfish Plant. From far away, the bright orange flowers of this plant can look like Goldfish. They add an amazing pop of color to your chameleon cage, and also have amazing thick green leaves that are perfect for hiding.
The leaves are usually 2 to 3 inches long and thick with a waxy texture to them. Though there are other varieties of this plant with hairy leaves. The overall plant can reach heights of about 3 feet and therefore are perfect for most chameleon cages or terrariums.
This one, though colorful and attractive, can be quite difficult to take care of. This is for more advanced plant owners, as these plants can be fussy over their very specific needs. These grow in nature over other plants, so it is a good idea to have other plants in the cage as well.
They get most of their food and nutrition from photosynthesis and only use their roots for perching and hanging on to their habitat. Their Goldfish-like flowers bloom mostly in spring and summer. These plants are very susceptible to pests and fungi, so regularly clean them and be careful, as these fungi can cause skin irritation for your chameleon.
Lighting Conditions: As these plants get their main source of nutrition from photosynthesis, lighting conditions need to be optimum for at least 13 hours daily. They need bright, but indirect light.
Watering Needs: They should be mildly sprayed with room temperature water regularly, as they are used to humid environments. Do not use cold water. Water them regularly during spring through fall, and cut back during winters.
Hardiness: 13. As these plants usually grow in canopies in nature, they do quite well at normal room temperatures of 65-75F.
One of the most versatile and vibrant options on this list is the Ti Plant with its rich dark brown and bright maroon/magenta leaves. It is strikingly beautiful and will light up any cage you put it into. It is a great, colorful option for your chameleon, and its large leaves give them the coziest places to hide. They look great with chameleons, with their amazing contrast in colors.
They come in a variety of colors ranging from chocolate, pink, orange, red to green and chocolate. They can be kept with other plants as well, for a lavish, tropical theme. They do not like drafts, so keep them away from windy places. These plants are fairly easy to care for and are perfect for amateurs with plants.
Lighting Conditions: These Hawaiian plants do well in bright to medium light. But the more colorful, or variegated ones will do even better in brighter lights. But remember to keep it away from direct sunlight as this can discolor the leaves. They do like warmth though, so keep it close to the basking lamp inside your chameleon’s cage.
Watering Needs: Water the plant often enough to keep the soil nice and moist. Let the soil dry between each watering. And you can also spray with warm or room temperature water now and then, along with your chameleon as well.
Hardiness: 11-13. These plants will not survive temperatures below 50F. So keep them from cool areas.
Chameleon Species and Their Plant Preference
Three species of chameleons are most common among pet owners. These include the Panther Chameleon, the Veiled Chameleon, and the Jackson Chameleon. As these originate from different regions of the world, their preferences can slightly differ.
The Panther Chameleons are usually known to like to stay at temperatures between 75 to 85F, and so plants that do well in that temperature should be perfect for their cage. Options include Ficus Plants, Pothos Plants, Corn Plant, etc.
The Veiled Chameleon prefers temperatures ranging from 70 to 85 F, and so plants like Pothos, Dragon Tree, Grape Ivy, etc are all good options. As for the Jackson Chameleon, similar plants work for them as well, since they thrive in temperatures of 70- 80F. Hibiscus, Dwarf Umbrella Tree, Golden Pothos, etc are all good choices.
Though suitable temperatures for different chameleon species may differ, all the plants listed can work for them as temperature ranges are similar for most of them.
Getting plants for chameleons is a great choice, as it will make them feel more comfortable and reduce stress levels. As some chameleons can eat the leaves, be sure to get non-toxic plants so that they do not cause any health problems. Once you have decided on which one to get, it is time to head out and brighten up your chameleon cage.
Have you ever used any of the plants listed in this article for your chameleon or any other reptile enclosure? Or which do you think would be best for chameleon enclosures? And why? Please share your experience and thoughts with us in the comment section below.