With their 360-degree vision, opposable digits, and powerful tongue, chameleons seem a lot more alien than the usual furry friends we’re used to bringing home. Because these animals are so one-of-a-kind, they have a lot of needs that aren’t what you’re used to providing.
Chameleons spend a large majority of their lives in trees and bushes. This isn’t because they love climbing trees as a hobby- even though they do get quite the thrill out of it. Plants are the key to a chameleon’s survival because they provide humidity, clean the air, and give them a safe place to hide when they’re feeling scared. These plant reviews help you understand the benefits of plants for chameleons and help guide you into making the most logical decision for you and your new lizard friend.
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The 11 Best Plants for a Chameleon Cage
1. Golden Pothos
Whether you call it Golden Pothos or Devil’s Ivy, this might be your new favorite plant for a chameleon enclosure. The biggest advantage of growing one of these plants is that they are extremely hard to kill and have minimal living requirements. As long as they grow in well-draining soil and a little bit of sunlight, these plants will thrive in their new environment.
Chameleons love the Golden Pothos because the large foliage provides them with an accessible hideaway for them to go to. They might even enjoy snacking on them from time to time.
Pothos plants grow very quickly. Most come in hanging baskets, and the vines trail down the sides that make it easy for your reptile to climb on. They don’t have the sturdiest branches, but they get the job done. You’ll also be happy that this plant is one of the cheapest on the list.
2. Dragon Tree
Who wouldn’t want to put a dragon alongside their lizard? Okay- maybe not a real dragon. However, the dragon tree is another excellent option for putting into a chameleon enclosure because they have compact versions and are constantly producing new leaves to hide behind, although they aren’t sturdy enough for climbing.
Because the compact sizes stay small, they are easy to fit inside a tank. They grow slowly and last a long time, so they don’t have to be replaced often.
The trunk-like canes on the tree provide plenty of support for your chameleon to climb on and bask under their heating lamp, although we wouldn’t keep the plant under direct light all day long because it might evaporate all their moisture.
3. Rubber Tree
Rubber trees get their name from the sap that is used to make rubber. They may grow 100 feet in the wild, but they adapt well to their environments and don’t grow nearly as tall when kept indoors. Depending on where you keep them, they only get a maximum of 6 feet tall inside, which may or may not work out well for your chameleon setup.
The rubber tree features thick foliage and sturdy branches for your chameleon to climb as high as they desire. They can also easily hide behind the large, thick leaves when they’re feeling anxious.
The sap from rubber trees can be mildly toxic to your chameleons if they eat too many leaves. If you notice them munching on this plant, it might be best to keep it out of your habitat.
4. Jade Bonsai
With their strong, woody stems and meaty foliage, jade bonsai trees are an excellent addition to a chameleon cage. These two factors ensure that your chameleon always has something to climb on and a safe place to hide.
What’s even better is that jade is one of the best plants for improving air quality, increasing humidity, and absorbing CO2. This means that your reptile is almost always going to have an ideal environment surrounding them.
Jade bonsai trees are not fast growers, but they do have the potential to outgrow even large terrariums. Make sure to keep the branches trimmed back so that you don’t have to buy a new one, as they are on the pricier end of all the listed plants.
5. Weeping Fig
The weeping fig is among some of the most commonly used plants for chameleon enclosures despite being more expensive. These plants have extraordinary, leafy foliage and solid stems for climbing. However, if they aren’t maintained properly, the leaves fall off, and soon the lush-looking plant is entirely bare.
Weeping figs require humid conditions so putting them into a chameleon enclosure is ideal for both the plant and your pet. These figs add a lot of humidity to the air and keep everything moist.
Yucca plants rank somewhere in the middle when it comes to price range. They have thick center trunks for your chameleon to climb on, but the thin, spiky leaves aren’t always the easiest to hide in.
The most significant benefit of having a Yucca plant in your chameleon enclosure is that they are one of the most effective plants for cleaning the air. Clean air ensures your reptile is continuously breathing in fresh oxygen as long as you keep the plant alive.
One bad part about Yucca is that they won’t stay alive when placed under a hot heat lamp. Despite them being drought-tolerant, they don’t fare particularly well in extreme temperatures.
Hibiscus plants aren’t overly expensive and often make an excellent addition to a habitat because chameleons love to snack on the bright-colored flowers. Aside from tasting good, they have a healthy dose of vitamin C that benefits your pet’s health.
Hibiscus flowers add a lot of beauty and color to your enclosure, though they probably won’t last long if you’ve got a hungry lizard. One big downfall to these plants is that they are notoriously difficult to grow, so if your plant dies, you may be spending a lot of money trying to replace it.
If you’re interested in beauty, then bromeliads are the plant for you. These tropical plants are unique-looking with spiky foliage and a colorful, central flower that blooms towards the end of their life cycle.
Bromeliads add a lot of color and texture to your tank. While they are sturdy for some chameleons, they won’t be sturdy enough to support them all.
Bromeliads are much easier to grow than a lot of other plants because they do okay placed directly under a UV light. They aren’t toxic to chew on, but it could put the plant in danger.
9. Wandering Jew
This plant is another hanging basket plant and is known for its prolific growth that allows the vines to wander from place to place. This movement keeps your chameleon’s home stimulating without being overwhelming. The vines aren’t as sturdy as other plants, but smaller chameleons have no problem climbing up them.
Wandering Jew plants add a ton of beautiful green and purple foliage to the cage. They are incredibly leafy, and your pet will practically disappear inside them.
One of the greatest advantages to these plants is that they are highly adaptable. They seem to do okay in nearly all environments, so if you forget about them for a little bit, you won’t come home one day to discover that it ultimately died.
10. Boston Fern
If you have a chameleon that genuinely enjoys its private time, you might consider buying a Boston fern. This fern has a lot of dense foliage that allows your pet to disappear. The feather-like leaves are also great for collecting water and keeping the cage moist.
Although Boston ferns are great for cover, they don’t have a lot of other benefits to offer. They are incredibly flimsy, so they aren’t the best for climbing. They also grow quickly and are capable of taking over the entire enclosure if you don’t trim them often. Boston ferns also require a lot of water and won’t do well if you go a day or two without checking on them.
11. Spider Plant
The last plant on our list is the spider plant. These plants are often chosen for chameleon enclosures, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they enrich the life of your lizard friend.
Spider plants have pretty foliage, and a lot of people use them as filler plants to take up some space in the enclosure. The leaves are flimsy, and the plant lacks a central stalk for your pet to climb. Although they seem easy to care for, they are known to turn brown with too much light or not enough water. On top of that, spider plants have to be replanted about once every year or two. Aside from looking nice, they don’t offer a lot to the chameleon or their cage.
Buyer’s Guide: Selecting the Best Plants for a Chameleon Cage
Common Mistakes After Purchasing Plants
You bought new plants to enrich your chameleon’s life, and that means you must also put in the work to ensure that they are receiving those benefits on a daily basis. If you’ve planted any one of these plants in your chameleon cage and they seem to be struggling, there are a few mistakes you may be making.
First, over or underwatering is the number one reason that plants die. You may have good intentions, but you must understand precisely how much water a plant needs in order for it to thrive. A lot of us fear that we are going to underwater them and hold off on watering for too long. On the other hand, underwatering can sometimes be worse. While it is okay for some desert plants, it is going to kill all the others faster than you think.
Second, always do your research so that the plant is getting placed into an environment that is capable of meeting its nutritional needs. Nutrition comes from the soil, and one thing that all soils have in common for successful growth is that they must be well-draining. Try adding rocks to the very bottom of your tank before adding the soil so that you know the excess water has somewhere to go and won’t drown everything in the cage.
Third, light is equally important as the previously listed factors. Most plants come with instructions telling you exactly what kind of light they require. If the plant doesn’t like direct sunlight, then don’t place your UV lamp directly over it. Do your best to envision and create a space that is similar to where they would grow in the wild.
If you don’t give your plants the right amount of water, sun, and soil, then there will surely be problems at one point or another. Signs that there is something wrong include brown tips on leaves, yellowing, dried-out leaves, bugs, or fungus growth. Be observant and check on your plants throughout the week to ensure they get good care, just like your chameleon.
We found that the best overall plant for a chameleon cage is the Golden Pothos because it provides your pet with everything it needs for climbing, hiding, and snacking. Dragon trees are the next best option because the thick stalk and compact size fit perfectly into a cage.
There are a lot of plant options and finding the perfect one for your chameleon and his home is a bit daunting. Hopefully these plant reviews have provided you with enough knowledge to make your own decision and provide your chameleon with the best home on the block.
Featured Image Credit: American Plant Exchange, amazon