Lizard Terrarium Plants from Around the World

Plants from North, Central, and South America

Rainforest Plants
Of the multitude of plants from the tropical rain forests of Central and South America, there is a wide choice wonderfully suited for terrariums available at plant stores and nurseries. So it's easy to find the right ones for any terrarium and also for any taste and pocketbook.

Tropical Terrarium Plants

Dieffenbachia (Dieffenbachia), available in many varieties and forms of culture. Ground plants: only suitable as young plants or for large terrariums with quiet inhabitants; leaves tear easily. The “gold-dust” plant, Dieffenbachia, is toxic to humans and animals.

Philodendrons (Philodendron) available in many species.

Philodendron panduriforme, hanging and climbing plants with medium-large leaves.
Like many other species and culture forms of this family, they put out air roots, which branch decoratively in water and no longer need soil.

Philodendron martianum, firm, decorative single plants; needs a great deal of light.

Philodendron scandens, suitable ground, hanging, or climbing plants. Since leaves are small and firm, can be used for free-standing plantings; easy to increase by cuttings (cutting outer ends of plant). Spatliyphylluin (Spathyphyllum), the smaller forms are well suited to the terrarium. Ground plants; occasionally with white blooms.

Syngonium (Syngonium), offered in many varieties and forms. Climbing plants with leaves somewhat similar to philodendron. Bromeliads (Bromeliaceae), because of their typical growth habits and their usually epiphytical life style, are best for creating small uncluttered landscapes.

Vriesia splendens, a large variety with beautifully marked leaves, but there are forms available that remain small. Epiphytic; leaves grow in the form of a rosette, as do those of most ananas, forming a well in which water collects; thus these plants secure their water and nourishment needs and the wells serve many lizards as drinking places.

Vriesia psittacina, small variety; epiphytic; sensitive to standing water.

Tillandsia, available in many varieties. Model example of epiphytic habit; grows partly without soil, only bound to wood; needs much light and high humidity at night.

Guzmania, many varieties and hybrids available. Various sizes, therefore suitable for many terrariums; epiphytic; sensitive to standing water.

Cryptanthus, available in many varieties. Very decorative; grows mainly on the ground and only occasionally epiphytically. When growing on the ground it will not tolerate standing water; shoots are easily broken off by the animals, so propagation must be done outside the terrarium.

Nidularium, many varieties and hybrids offered; epiphytic; most rather large but without problems.

Aechmea fasciata, Aechmea chantinii, Aechmea fid gens, large, epiphytic-growing ananas; suitable for larger terrariums only.

Billbergia, a number of varieties sometimes available; epiphytic; firm; freely blooming.

Spiderwort (Tradescantia), available in many varieties and forms; ground, hanging, and climbing plants; easy to propagate through cuttings (cutting outer ends of plant).

Marantas (Maranta leuconeura, Calathea makoyana, Calathea ornata), ground plants; except for the first-mentioned variety, suitable only for larger terrariums: needs light.

Peperomia (Peperomia), available in many varieties and forms. Ground plants; some varieties epiphytic; avoid standing water because roots rot quickly. Only suitable for light, not very active lizards.

Phlebodium (Polypodium aureum), epiphytically growing fern for larger terrariums.

Desert Plants
The maintenance of plants from dry areas often turns out to be difficult because the humidity and light conditions in the terrarium are usually inadequate for them. If you install the proper lighting fixtures, the humidity then drops even more. Plants that need dryness must therefore be changed more often so that they can recover.

Agave (Agave), few varieties available; varieties with contained growth habits well suited for the terrarium.

Dyckia (Dyckia), few varieties and seldom available; nonepiphytic anana.

Hechtia (Hechtia), few varieties and seldom available; nonepiphytic anana.

Columnar cactus (Cereus), a number of varieties available; only suitable for high terrariums; avoid varieties with especially large thorns.

Opuntia (Opuntia), many varieties available; grows to various sizes; avoid varieties with especially large thorns.

Echeveria (Echeveria), many varieties available; water carefully because roots rot easily.

Plants from Southeast Asia

Rainforest Plants
A number of commercially available decorative plants are suitable for planting in a terrarium in which lizards from Southeast Asia will be kept.

Aglaonema (Aglaonema), available in many varieties and forms. Ground plants, must be cut back from time to time so that leafy branches will put forth underneath; can be propagated by cuttings (cutting off outer ends).

Pothos (Scindapsus aureus), ground, hanging, and climbing plants; thrives under various adverse conditions. With sufficient humidity produces air roots that branch out in water and then no longer need soil; easy to propagate by cutting.

Ficus (Ficus benjamina), small-leaved ornamental fig; suitable for large terrariums only. Cut back if crown broadens under the terrarium roof and shuts out too much light.

Ficus (Ficuspumila), ground, hanging, and climbing plants; thrives best on damp walls; damaged by standing water. Sword fern (Nephrolepsis exaltata), available in many forms. Ground plants; avoid standing water and floor heat.

Staghorn fern (Platycerium grande), typical epiphyte, only suitable for the large terrarium; outer leaves must be free-standing; root ball should not dry out.

Ginger {Zingiber officinale), ground plant, well suited to background planting.

Desert Plants
The choice of plants for an Asiatic desert terrarium is very small. Sedum (Sedum), many varieties from many different habitats available; can be maintained at a variety of temperatures.

Plants from Africa

Rainforest Plants
Nurseries offer few plants from the tropical rain forests of Africa and Madagascar.

Dracena (Dracaena deremensis), ground plants that quickly grow to large size; must be cut back from time to time; cuttings develop roots easily.

Dracena (Dracaena sanderiana, Dracaena godseffiana), ground plants, more difficult to raise than Dracaena deremensis; Dracaena godseffiana, with tender leaves, only suitable for quiet lizards.

Anubias (Anubias), a few varieties offered from time to time as aquarium plants; also grows in swampy ground.

Stephanotis (Stephanotis floribunda), ground plants, which under favorable conditions will climb up the lizard's climbing branches; blooms occasionally; suitable for small Phelsuma species.

Asparagus fern (Asparagus falcatus), ground plants; injured by standing water; shoots are supported by branches growing in the same direction.

Asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus), hanging plant; provide good drainage.

Chlorophytum (Chlorophytum comosum), ground and hanging plants; must not be kept too warm.

Desert Plants
Many plants from African dry areas south of the Sahara are popular houseplants and on that account are often available from nurseries.

Bowstring hemp (Sansevieria trifasciata), available in various large forms; must be watered more often than crassulas.

Jade plants (Crassula falcata, Crassula portulacea), should be changed frequently because the new shoots develop quickly.

Wolf's milk, Spurge (Euphorbia), many varieties and various sizes available; many can be propagated by cuttings of side shoots; the “milk” that is exuded can be dried up with charcoal powder and the cutting planted a few days later. This plant family is toxic to humans and most animals. Many humans are extremely sensitive to the very presence of these plants in their households.

Aloe (Aloe arborescens), large growing, almost bush variety; especially well-suited for large terrariums.

Aloe (Aloe variegata), considerably smaller than Aloe arborescens; has no thorns; especially suitable for small lizards.

Gasteria (Gasteria), some varieties available from time to time; uncomplicated maintenance.

Haworthia (Haworthia), some varieties available from time to time; well suited to small terrariums.

Plants from Australia

Rainforest Plants
Only a few plants and lizards from Australia and the islands of the Pacific that are suitable for keeping the terrarium are available to us.

Ficus (Ficus rubiginosd), ground plants; only the young plants are suitable for use in large terrariums; injured by standing water.

Screw-pine (Pandanus veitchii), ground plants; as young plants, suitable for large terrariums. Care is necessary in handling as there are sharp thorns around the edges of the leaves.

Blechnum (Blechnum gibbum), ground plants; injured by standing water but the root ball should never dry out.

Staghorn fern (Platycerium alcicorne), typical epiphyte; only suitable for large terrariums; outer leaves must be free-standing; root ball should not dry out.

Desert Plants
Only a few species of plants from the thin savannah-woods of Australia are suitable for transplanting into the terrarium.

False aralia (Dizygotheca elegantissima), ground plants for the large terrarium; not suitable for climbing lizards.

Silk oak (Grevillea robusta), ground plants for the large terrarium; injured by standing water; not suitable for climbing lizards.

Kangaroo vine (Cissus antarctica), ground, hanging, and climbing plants for a bright location.

Plants from the Islands of the Western Mediterranean

Plants from this environment are easy to get but cannot be kept over the summer, especially in a small terrarium. Only during the winter months, when temperatures are lower, will these plants from the islands of the western Mediterranean thrive in the terrarium.

Oleander, rose bay (Nerium oleander), offered in a number of forms. Ground plants, must be cut back from time to time; only suited to large terrariums. Oleander is extremely toxic to humans and almost all animals.

English ivy (Hedera helix), hard ground and climbing plant; colored leaved forms more sensitive than green ones. English ivy is toxic to most animals when eaten.

Sedum (Sedum), available in many varieties; not all originated in the Mediterranean area and the Canary Islands.

House leek (Sempervivum), many kinds available; ground plants.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), ground plants; similar to myrtle but dainty and thus suitable for small terrariums; cut back long shoots.

Butcher's broom (Ruscus aculeatus), is offered occasionally; ground plants; need loamy soil enriched with humus.

Myrtle (Myrtus communis), various sizes available; ground plants; cut back long shoots.

Canary Islands date palm {Phoenix canariensis), ground plants; suitable for large terrariums; water moderately but regularly.

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