It’s always a good idea to keep your scaly pet’s life colorful and engaging. And the best way to do that is with plants for bearded dragons. But before you start making your pet’s habitat overflowing with complicated fauna, there are a few things you need to know.
Keepers have always relied on barks, plants, and rocks to make their pet’s tanks homier. While choosing a bark or rocks is easier, plants bring a different allure that makes them more attractive. Of course, this option has its pros and cons, but, more often than not, it’s worth it.
If you’re serious about sprucing up your pet’s home, you must know which plants are safe. You also need to know which plants are harmful to bearded dragons. This article will discuss these topics and more. Let’s get started.
Can you put live plants in your bearded dragon’s tank?
Short answer, Yes. It’s okay to install real plants in your dragon’s enclosure. However, there are a few things you need to know before choosing which plant to buy. Before everything else, you need to answer a few questions:
- Are you experienced in caring for houseplants or planting from scratch?
- Do you have the time, energy, and desire to simultaneously care for your pets and live plants?
- Are you willing to accept the small chance that these plants could harm your pet?
Each time you introduce something new to your beardie’s habitat, the chances of something going wrong increase too. This is why you must commit to keeping a close eye on your pet as soon as you add these plants.
They may be enjoyable for you and your pet to look at, but as a keeper, you must weigh the factors before deciding. If you still feel like adding plants to their habitats after thinking about these issues, read on to learn which plants are safe for your bearded dragons.
Safe plants for bearded dragons
These are a few plants known to be safest for bearded dragon enclosures. Besides giving a great aesthetic touch to their habitats, they are often considered the best-suited plants for terrariums.
- Echeveria (Echeveria spp.)
These plants are native to arid regions, specifically the Americas. This plant’s genus is large, with over 150 named subspecies under its name. Over the years, botanists also created several cultivars and hybrids, making them easier to find and care for.
These plants are harmless to bearded dragons, and they thrive in terrariums. Compared to other succulents, these plants can live in dimmer conditions.
- Haworthia Plants (Haworthia spp.)
This succulent came from the arid regions of South Africa. And they are the most popular terrarium plants for owners who keep desert-dwelling pets.
Unlike an Echeveria, there are only a few dozen species in this plant’s genus. But each one is considered a perfect companion for bearded dragons in their enclosures. Not only are they harmless, but they are also very easy to maintain.
Their small size makes them perfect for any enclosure, and their small rosette leaves only grow to a couple of inches long. They also have brightly colored leaf tips that are attractive for bearded dragons.
- Prickly Pear Cacti (Opuntia spp.)
Prickly pear cacti are known natives of the Americas, but humans spread them worldwide. They were originally grown as human food but are more commonly used as ornamental plants today.
Other than being perfect for desert terrariums, these are also edible for bearded dragons. Several keepers keep even keep them as snacks or treats. While these cacti are usually green, some versions are colorful and perfect for bearded dragon enclosures.
While the spines can injure or irritate your dragon, removing them is easy. Just remember to prune these cacti often if you plan to add them to their tanks.
- Dwarf Jade Plants (Portulacaria afra)
Native to the dry and rocky parts of South Africa, this plant usually grows like small trees in the wild. You can keep it small with regular pruning – perfect for keeping in terrariums. The leaves of this plant are not toxic to dragons; people even eat them in salads, making them perfect for your beardie’s enclosure.
However, it would be best if you made sure not to confuse dwarf jade plants with similar-looking jade plants. While the former is harmless, the latter is slightly harmful.
- Aloe Plants (Aloe Vera)
This plant is well-known for its medical benefits for humans, and they’re great for bearded dragon habitats too. Despite being historically native to arid regions in the Indian Ocean, other cultures have adapted this plant and made it available almost everywhere.
Unlike other plants in this list, Aloe Vera leaves can grow larger than a human’s arm. These larger species also have spikey leaves, so get a smaller cultivar when buying it.
- Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
This culinary plant is a great option for bearded dragon enclosures. If set up properly, parsley can grow indoors without issue. But it’s best to keep backups growing under direct sunlight to ensure a steady supply for your tanks.
With proper care, this plant is relatively easy to grow and maintain. And it is edible for bearded dragons; it is highly nutritious too. With most pet keepers including this plant in their dragon’s regular diets, having it in their enclosures will save you time.
- Oregano (Origanum Vulgare)
Oregano is another safe herb for your bearded dragon to eat and keep in its enclosures. Oregano is safe and edible, but most dragons are not very interested in it. Plus, it is thorn-free and can spread quickly.
Make sure to trim this plant regularly and remove leaves that are relatively bigger than others to control its growth. If you can’t, do not water it often instead. It can survive in relatively drier tanks if you keep an eye on it.
If you plan to keep a backup plant outside the tanks, remember that this can reach 3 feet tall under direct sunlight. Cut a few leaves and put them in water until they have roots before you add the leaves to the enclosure.
- Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
Another popular kitchen herb, this is also a safe plant for bearded dragon habitats. This grows best outdoors but can thrive in tanks with high-quality lighting and enough care. This grows best when kept in a relatively warm environment, similar to your bearded dragon.
While this originally came from humid places, its roots don’t like being flooded with water. Ensure proper drainage in your habitat’s substrate before adding basils. Occasionally spraying this plant with water should be enough to keep it alive. While this plant is not toxic to lizards, there’s a chance that your dragon eats it faster than it can grow.
- Mulberry (Morus spp.)
Unlike the other plants in this list, mulberries are woody plants that grow into proper trees. This means that it requires constant pruning to fit the enclosure. If your bearded dragon’s enclosure is large and tall enough, this plant should be the perfect addition to their home.
Since it grows into a proper tree, it needs more water and moisture than the plants previously listed. It’s best to have a separate pot for these instead of using the enclosure’s substrate. This will make moving the plant outdoors easier since it needs direct sunlight to grow properly.
This plant has fruits that your bearded dragon can eat, but it won’t bear fruit if it stays indoors. Regardless, if your bearded dragon wants, it can eat the leaves without worrying about consequences.
These are just some of the safe plants to add to a bearded dragon’s enclosure. Depending on the size of your tank, you can even choose to put different plants from this list to make it more appealing for your dragon.
Remember to keep these plants at an appropriate size and leave space for your bearded dragon to move around. While some do not need to be cared for often, some grow quickly and require constant pruning.
Dangerous plants for bearded dragons
Let us discuss the plants you should never add to a bearded dragon’s enclosure.
As there are safe plants for bearded dragons, there are also several plants that you should never add to their enclosures. Letting them eat some of these plants may be possible, but without sufficient data, it is best to keep these away from them.
Among many others, here are twenty plants you shouldn’t let your bearded dragon have:
- Angel’s Trumpet – Datura spp.,
- Coral Plant – Jatropha mutifida
- Laurel – Kalmia spp.
- Tobacco Plant – Nicotiana spp.
- Tulip – Tulipa spp.
- Milkweed – Asclepias spp.
- Poppy – Papaver spp.
- Narcissus – Narcissus spp.
- Morning Glory – Ipomoea violacea
- Peyote – Lophophora williamsii
- Primrose – Primula spp.
- Elderberry – Sambucus Mexicana
- Baneberry – Actaea spp.
- Four o’clock – Mirabilis jalapa
- Ragwort – Senecio spp.
- Wood Sorrel — Oxalis spp.
- Wisteria – Wisteria spp.
- Shamrock Plant – Medicago lupulina
- Locoweed – Astragalus spp.
- Tomato Plant – Lycopersicon esculentum
- Spurges – Euphorbia spp.
- Peach – Prunus persica
- Oxytopis — Oxytopis spp.
- Juniper – Juniperus spp.
- Marijuana – Cannabis spp.
- Avocado – Persea americana
- Plum – Prunus spp.
- Bittersweet – Celastrus spp.
- Yew – Taxus spp.
- Virginia Creeper – Panthenocissus quinquefolia
There are several more than people would add to this list. It’s better to research other potentially harmful plants to your breaded dragon to be safe.
While some of these plants are technically safe for bearded dragons, there are certain parts dragons shouldn’t eat. There are also some documented instances of a dragon eating some of these plants and not experiencing issues.
But, as an owner, it’s always better to err on the side of caution instead of inviting unnecessary and avoidable risks. Not choosing any of these plants may be the best decision you can make on behalf of your scaly friend.
How to install plants for bearded dragon enclosures
Now that you know which plants are safe and which are not, you need to learn how to install them. There are two ways you can choose from. Each of them will require different levels of effort if you want to pull them off.
To help you decide, ask yourself these questions before reading on:
- How experienced are you at taking care of plants?
- How large is your bearded dragon’s tank?
- Is your substrate suitable for the plants you want to add?
- Can the plants you chose survive under the same conditions as the tank?
- Are you willing to monitor the plant’s health often?
Now that you have answered these questions let’s discuss the options in detail.
Installing the plants directly to the substrate
This is usually the approach you would want to go with if you want to make the enclosure more aesthetically pleasing. However, this approach is also more challenging than the other choice.
You have to find a suitable substrate for the plants and your lizard to pull this off. It also needs to be deep enough to host the plant’s roots. And this makes maintaining a habitat more difficult, especially if you’re inexperienced in caring for plants.
But if you’re willing to try and experiment, the results will be stunning. You may lose a few plants here and there, but your bearded dragon will enjoy living in its enclosure thanks to your patience and determination.
Leave the plants in small pots
This approach is easier. Like adding a new plant to your home, just stick them in a pot and place them in the habitats. It won’t always look fantastic, but with enough creativity and other decorative items, you can pull it off.
This will also make maintaining the plants easier. You’ll be able to rotate them easier and add more variety to the enclosure.
If you’re inexperienced with plant care, this option is better. You’ll have more agency when caring for these plants.
Make sure to re-pot the plants into appropriately sized pots for your terrarium, and they should be good to go.
Can you use artificial plants for bearded dragon enclosures?
Using real plants may be too intimidating for some. The challenges of using real plants and caring for your pet can be overwhelming. So, can you use artificial plants instead?
Plastic plants provide benefits that are too good to pass on. Here are a few of them:
- You don’t have to worry about taking care of these plants.
- Your bearded dragon can knock them over without harming the plant.
- You can move them around as often as you like.
- They do not require any water or lighting to stay “alive.”
- You can easily wash them off if they get soiled.
Attractive benefits, right? But are plastic plants safe for your bearded dragon habitats?
Like live plants, you can guarantee that these plants are safe for your bearded dragons. But, with many dragon keepers already using them, you can rest assured it is possible. Again, your decision to use these instead of real ones will depend on your comfort with the risks involved.
Plastic plants are safer in some ways. But they also bring bigger threats to your dragons. It would be best to weigh the pros and cons of using these instead properly.
On the one hand, plastics may not be safe for your bearded dragons, and you shouldn’t encourage them to eat any; they are technically not considered “toxic.” This is also why other keepers opt to use plastic plants instead. After all, these are not as reactive as other real plants.
That said, cheaper plastic terrarium plants have higher chances of contamination with other toxic substances. As long as you make sure to purchase high-quality plastic plants, you probably do not have anything to worry about.
Regardless, if your bearded dragon eats these plants, they will likely cause blockages. Plastics will not break down while inside your pet’s stomach and can get stuck in their intestines if they’re too large.
However, experienced keepers still believe plastic plants can be used on dragon enclosures. According to them, they are yet to see bearded dragons eat plastic plants. After all, even the most expensive plastic plants don’t smell and taste like the real deal.
If you decide to incorporate artificial plants into your pet’s habitat, keep your pet well-fed and give them plenty of real vegetables. This should prevent them from trying to consume the fake plants in their tanks.
Plants are a great way to make your bearded dragon’s habitat more attractive and enjoyable for your pet to live in. The increased complexity in their enclosure will keep them entertained and happy for a long time.
Some risks come with trying to add plants to their enclosures. But if you’re willing to put in the extra effort, it will all be worth it.
Ultimately, the decision falls to you. Always have all the facts you need before deciding on the plants for your pet. After all, information is the key to gaining the needed experience to keep your bearded dragon happy and healthy.