Bearded dragons are great pets that provide you with years of companionship, quirky habits, and plenty of good times. You want to do all you can to make them feel at home, so why not add a few green decorations to spruce up their enclosure?
You probably have rocks and wood to climb on, places to hide, and areas to lounge, but have you thought of adding some plants to help clean the air, add some color, and maybe let them snack on them?
Plants are a great addition to your dragon’s enclosure for all the above reasons and more. They can provide shade, a place to hide, and just overall added enjoyment.
But, since beardies are omnivores, they will probably end up munching on the plants, so they have to be safe and edible.
Table of Contents
|1. Are Plants Safe in My Bearded Dragon’s Tank?|
|2. Pros and Cons of Plants|
|3. Safe Plants for Your Bearded Dragon|
|4. Watch Out for Unwanted Chemicals|
|5. Plants to Stay Away From|
|6. Frequently Asked Questions|
Are Plants Safe in My Bearded Dragon’s Tank?
The bearded dragon’s native habitat is the arid, nearly desolate, desert areas of Australia. While you may think of the land down under as hot, dry, sandy, and rocky, there are plenty of plants that grow well in that unforgiving environment.
Bearded dragons often eat wild plants in their native home when they aren’t hunting for juicy insects, so putting a few plants in their tank at home is a great way to make them feel like they are living in their natural, desert habitat.
Bearded dragons have a natural curiosity, and they explore by tasting and biting things around them, so if you decide to put plants inside your pet’s enclosure, they have to be edible and safe.
Another word of caution, if your beardie forages off the plants in the enclosure more than they eat the normal diet you provide for them, these safe plants could cause unintended harm. If you notice this behavior, you may have to remove some of the plants or replace them with artificial options.
Some plants that are deemed safe, such as aloe can cause diarrhea if your dragon eats too much of it. Aloe contains a lot of water, and the juices inside have a “flushing” effect when consumed in large quantities.
Herbs are another great option to add to your tank, as they can provide nutrients and taste great to beardies, but they shouldn’t end up being a staple for your pets. They may end up eating so many herbs that they end up becoming deficient in other vitamins and minerals.
Plants can be a great addition to your pet’s lifestyle, just be sure to monitor them and limit the plants if they start to eat them all the time.
Pros and Cons of Plants
We’ve already gone over plenty of plant benefits; they can be appealing to the eyes, they offer fun and enrichment to bearded dragons, they can be supplemental snacks between mealtimes, and plants help to clean the air and make the tank smell better.
As with most things in life, if there is something good, there are usually a few negatives as well.
Plants Can be Messy
Plants can shed old, dried leaves, they can break off, and they can become sick and die off. You’ll probably spend at least some time cleaning up after the plants you add to the enclosure.
When you add more living things to your household, it means more things to care for. Plants are no different. They all have differing water needs, and light requirements and some will have to be trimmed because they grow so fast.
Some plants can tolerate the dry, hot conditions of your bearded dragon’s habitat, but others will have to be taken out from time to time to either get enough light, get away from too much light, or the high temps may be too much for them to handle full-time.
You will have to be careful about fertilizers and pesticides which can be harmful to your pet. Some plants will need extra food to keep them healthy, but if your dragon occasionally munches on the plants, you don’t want chemical-laden products that could adversely affect their health.
Dragons Are Tough on Plants
This should come as no surprise, but most bearded dragons will end up eating a few of your plants. You will probably have to replace a fair share of plants unless your beardie doesn’t care much for greens.
Even if they don’t eat them, or their grazing doesn’t keep up with plant growth, bearded dragons could uproot your plants if you set them in the substrate. As you know, beardies like to climb, and small plants can easily get knocked over, or accidentally pulled up by active dragons.
Just keep in mind that you will probably have to replace some or all of your plants periodically. With all this in mind, let’s get into the safe plants you can add to your bearded dragon’s enclosures.
Safe Plants for Your Bearded Dragon
1. Blushing Bride (Tillandsia Ionantha)
You may know the blushing bride plant by a different name, the Air Plant. These popular, easy-to-maintain plants are a wonderful addition to your beardie’s home.
They require no soil, can be positioned, or glued to nearly any surface, and are safe for your beardie to munch on.
They come in many different colors, shapes, and even sizes. Tillandsia Ionantha can be green, silvery, pink, or red, and sometimes they flower, showing off tiny purple or pink blossoms.
They don’t grow big enough to overcrowd your enclosure, and only need a misting every two weeks to stay healthy. They can handle the lighting and heat that is needed to keep your dragon in tip-top shape as well, so they won’t need much extra care.
Blushing Bride and other air plants are my number one choice for beardies because of all these reasons.
2. Aloe Vera
You may know aloe because you’ve used the gel, or maybe the sap directly from the plant to help ease the sting of sunburns. You may have used it to moisturize your skin, or maybe you’ve consumed the juice for better health.
This long, spear-like succulent plant has a multitude of beneficial uses. You can even add them to your beardie’s enclosure.
They are easy to care for and are found almost everywhere you can buy plants. In your bearded dragon tank, they will do best left inside the pot, because they need to have a heavy watering when the soil completely dries out.
Aloe plants require plenty of light, so position them under the lamp. If the aloe plant seems to go dormant, you will have to remove it and set it somewhere it gets 8 to 10 hours of full sunlight a day to break the dormancy cycle.
Some aloe plants have spikes on them, but they don’t seem to bother bearded dragons in any way. They are safe for your dragon to eat as long as they don’t eat too much of it. Aloe vera plants contain a lot of water in them, and they can help to flush the bowels if a lot is consumed.
If your beardie is eating a lot of aloes, he will probably end up getting diarrhea. Remove the plant(s) if you notice this symptom until they go back to normal.
3. Leatherleaf Sedge (Carex buchananii)
This ornamental grass is a great addition to your tank if you are looking to make the tank look authentic. It is very similar to the vegetation found in bearded dragon natural habitats.
The problem with this particular plant is it can be difficult to find already potted and growing, as well as its growth pattern. You will probably have to start this ornamental grass from seeds which could take some time and patience to grow.
Carex Buchananii can grow pretty big, which means if you put one or two in your enclosure, it can quickly crowd out your bearded dragon. You will have to trim it back frequently to keep it from taking over.
It offers great aesthetic appeal and a large hiding spot for your bearded dragon if you have the patience to care for this plant.
4. Ficus (Ficus Benjamina)
The Ficus tree was a very popular tropical foliage tree that you have probably seen in doctor’s offices or lobbies in your day-to-day life. They are bushy, tropical, small trees that do well inside.
They are easy to care for as long as the temperature doesn’t drop too low, and they are watered regularly. They can live for quite a while and are pleasing to look at, which made them such a popular pick among office personnel.
They also work great for bearded dragon habitats. They might also be called weeping figs due to the mounding habits these trees exhibit.
You can usually grow these trees from cuttings so you can create more without purchasing new trees. They don’t require a lot of light, and only need to be watered when the soil dries out.
Ficus trees are safe for bearded dragons to eat, so put them in the tank for some added greenery. This is another plant that will do better in a pot because sand and gravel substrate won’t support the roots well enough for them to stay upright.
5. Haworthia (Haworthiopsis attenuata)
Also known as zebra plants or zebra haworthia is another type of succulent plant you can add to your bearded dragon’s landscape. They are spikey-looking, small, thick-leafed plants very similar to aloe vera except they have raised, whitish stripes across the leaves.
The good thing about the haworthia is they don’t grow very big and will grow well either in a substrate or in a pot. There are over 400 different varieties of this plant. While the majority of these plants are safe for your beardie, just observe them around this plant, if she eats a lot of them, you might want to trade it with something that’s better known.
Also, be careful of buying the ones that have neon, or “unnatural” colors. I’ve seen pink, blue, orange, glitter-covered plants at certain home improvement stores, all of which have been painted or sprayed with who knows what.
There is no telling what chemical compounds could be in the paint, maybe they are safe, but it’s best just to leave these alone if you’re planting them with your beardie. Being drought-tolerant succulent, they don’t require a lot of water, but they do need a good soaking after the soil has dried out.
6. Bromeliads (Bromeliaceae)
These striking foliage plants are in the same family as pineapple plants.
In fact, many look a lot like pineapple plants with their spear-like, long, tough leaves. They can come in a myriad of colors, shapes, and sizes and can be a striking visual in your bearded dragon’s tank.
The tough leaves can withstand bearded dragon nibbling. In fact, your beardie probably won’t try to eat them after they bite it a few times. That is unless they get to the tender new growth, but this plant should be able to stand up to the occasional munching.
Bromeliads need to be watered about once a week and don’t need full sunlight. Some varieties can get rather large so you may have to do some trimming.
7. Echeveria (Echeveria spp.)
These succulents are perfect for your beardie’s setup because they thrive under the same basic conditions as your pet.
They come from the hot regions of Central and South America, but they can live in most Southern/hotter zones in North America. The only real difference is the plant needs occasional soakings to stay healthy.
These plants resemble small, various-colored rosettes. They only grow a few inches in diameter and are easily cultivated, so you can purchase a few one time and grow more from the original plants.
Another more common name for this plant is hens and chicks. The fully grown round plants are considered the “hens.”
They will sprout off small stems with clones of themselves which are called the “chicks.” These can be cut off and planted to start new colonies of hens and chicks.
There are over 150 varieties, and the common varieties are non-toxic to your bearded dragons. There are more rare varieties that haven’t been studied whether they may present health problems to your pets, so stick to the common echeverias you find in larger, bulk-type stores.
8. Dwarf Jade Plant (Portulacaria Afra)
These plants can easily be confused with the Crassula ovata, otherwise known as the jade tree/plant, money tree/plant, or lucky plant. Though they both look very similar and carry similar names, they are not botanically related.
Crassula ovata, or jade plant can be toxic to bearded dragons, pets, and humans, while the dwarf jade plant, or portulacaria afra, is not dangerous at all. In fact, many humans eat this plant in salads and stews.
Both of these succulents have similar, egg-shaped leaves, and fleshy stems, but the dwarf jade tree typically has smaller leaves and a different colored stem. The dwarf jade often has a brown or reddish stem, whereas the toxic jade plant is solid green and can get slightly woody as it matures, plus the leaves get bigger and more paddle-shaped.
The dwarf jade thrives in a succulent potting mix or soil that is gravelly and sandy. This plant will grow perfectly if you use this kind of substrate in your bearded dragon tank.
Dwarf jades are slow-growing, but long-lived plants that can survive for years under the right conditions. They are safe for your pets and will provide a wonderful green “companion” for your beardie.
9. Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia basilaris)
The only reason I have included this in the list is that there are a few spineless varieties available. Otherwise, these cacti have long, sharp spines that could injure your pet or yourself.
The spines can be removed from these plants and put into the enclosure, but as they grow, the spines will come out in the new growth, and you will have to constantly remove them. To me, that’s just too much hassle.
Other than the intimidating needles, if you get the spineless prickly pear, these cacti can be a nutritious treat for your bearded dragon. Humans can and have eaten them since the dawn of time. In certain ethnic stores or shelves, you can often find jarred cactus or prickly pear fruits.
Being a cactus, this plant only needs to be watered once every two weeks or so, and does well in dry, hot, sunny locations. The soil requirements are sandy, well-draining soil, or succulent soil mix.
The broad, paddle-like leaves can grow very large on their own so you will need to trim this plant often or have a sprawling enclosure to grow prickly pears for your bearded dragon.
Instead of listing every single herb that is safe for bearded dragons under its own heading, I’ll list the majority of safe herbs in this one category. Most herbs do better outside than they do inside a bearded dragon enclosure, as the herbs often require a bit more light and humidity.
A great option is to keep a bunch of herbs in small pots, and trade them out every few days or so. This will give your beardie a change of scenery every so often and give them something new to inspect and munch on.
Simply put a few small herb pots inside the enclosure, leave them for about two or three days, then replace them with some different herbs.
The list of safe, most common herbs for bearded dragons include:
- Lemon balm
- Mint (sweet mint, peppermint)
While all these herbs are considered safe for bearded dragons to eat, they shouldn’t eat too many of them at a time.
Some contain small amounts of oxalates that can accumulate and become toxic if consume too much. There’s nothing wrong with providing a salad with a few leaves of basil, parsley, or cilantro if your bearded dragon likes that, but they shouldn’t eat these herbs every day.
A quick word on sage—this is an herb that I could not find a definitive answer on. Some beardie owners report they feed their dragons sage with no ill effects, while some others say you should never feed sage to your pets.
The consensus seems to be an even 50/50 split, so I would err on the side of caution with my bearded dragon. There are so many other herbs and plants that are completely safe with no refuting evidence, I say just leave sage out of your bearded dragon’s diet.
11. Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea Recurvata)
These are good potted plants to add to your bearded dragon’s home. They are small trees with thin leaves sprouting from the top, making them look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.
The stems are a bit bulbous at the bottom because they store extra water there. That’s an indication that they intend to be dried out before watering. Wait for the soil to completely dry before watering them with a complete dousing.
They don’t require a lot of light, but they do better in full sun and grow faster, though they are a slow-growing plant, to begin with. You can find them in small pots and only a foot or less tall, but they will eventually—if given correct care—grow several feet tall.
12. Resurrection Plant (Selaginella Lepidophylla)
Also known as the Rose of Jericho, this plant can survive long periods of extreme drought. When it completely dries out, it will curl itself in a tight ball and stay like that—some reports say up to seven years—until it is rehydrated.
If you got your resurrection plant as a dried-up ball, you can rehydrate it by soaking it in a plate for three to four hours. Then you can plant it in a pot of well-draining soil. A mixture of one part soil to one part sand will work well for this plant.
Leaving it in water will keep it alive as well, but it will require some dry-out time. This plant can resurrect from extreme periods of harsh drought, but it can’t survive unlimited time in the water.
You should give it a day out of the water every three or four days in the water. Also don’t completely submerge the plant, the leaves need to breathe air, so put some pebbles or something underneath it to keep it “floating” on the surface.
13. Hoya Australis
This tropical vining plant will do great in a bearded dragon environment.
It will need to stay in the pot with rich potting soil to grow well instead of sitting on the substrate. It is a climbing plant that can be trained.
If your bearded dragon doesn’t eat the leaves off this plant, you could trail the vines around climbing sticks to make a lush, green, landscape in your beardie’s home.
They are a little expensive at first, but these plants grow well from cuttings, so you could have several growing at the same time.
14. Japanese Sago Palm (Cycas Revoluta)
Another plant that could grow well in your bearded dragon enclosure is the Japanese Sago Palm. They have rounded trunks that resemble a football shape, and have arched, thin branches with upright spikes of green, glossy leaves coming off them.
They come from the subtropical areas of Japan and Southern China and so they will require similar conditions to keep them healthy. Bright, indirect light, warm temperatures, and decent humidity is the way to keep these plants happy.
While these plants can start off small, they can slowly make their way up to ten feet tall. It may take several years for them to reach full maturity though.
15. Bolivian Wandering Jew (Callisia Repens)
This plant is a mounding, almost vine-like plant that grows fast and is easy to reproduce. It prefers to be grown in a rich potting mix and can tolerate full sun to partial shade so it will do well inside a beardie tank.
It’s completely non-toxic so you don’t have to worry about how much of it your pet eats. It grows so fast that she may not harm the plant while she munches.
If your beardie is one that prefers insects over her veggies, then you will likely have to prune this plant to keep it from taking over. It will grow well for a few years but when it starts to grow long stalks without many leaves—some gardeners call this “leggy” when the plant starts to get long and thin—you will probably have to replace it.
To grow more of these plants, all you have to do is cut off about 2 inches of new growth, preferably in the spring or fall, and plant it in the soil. Keep the soil moist, and the plant should start a whole new plant.
You can continue this indefinitely so that you constantly have a supply of wandering Jew plants.
Now let’s get into the outdoor garden plants for when you let your bearded dragon enjoy some natural sunshine.
16. Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum Majus)
These plants may be perennials or annuals depending on the specific variety. They are available in most nurseries where you get your plants, or you can plant them from seeds.
They grow fast and are completely safe for your bearded dragon to eat every day. They go great outside, but you can also leave them in pots and leave them inside your dragon’s home. Although, once he gets a taste of this delicious plant, he may end up eating it up completely.
Go ahead, grow some for your beardie, keep them inside or out and let your little pet enjoy a nasturtium snack.
17. Touch Me Nots (Impatiens)
These colorful annuals are a staple in most gardeners’ flower beds or hanging pots.
They flower all season long until a frost kills them off. There are hundreds of different varieties, but they are all considered safe for bearded dragons.
If you have a bed of them outside, you can let your beardie peruse the mounds and munch a few flowers and leaves. They might even eat some of the insects hiding inside there.
You can also grow them inside your beardie’s enclosure. You will have to keep them in a container and keep the soil moist.
Depending on the light inside the enclosure, impatiens could grow very well with your bearded dragon.
Depending on the color and type of pansy, the scientific name will be different, but they come from the viola family. Pansies on the whole are non-toxic for bearded dragons.
These garden flowers are popular for their bright, constantly blooming flowers, and ease of growth. While most people treat them as annuals as they are not very heat tolerant, they can survive cold temperatures most times.
They do well in pots or in the flower garden, so if you want to plant them for your beardie inside or outside, she will certainly be happy with the beautiful colors that are just as tasty.
19. Hybrid Petunia (Petunia Hybrida)
These flowers will do well in a pot, but they will need frequent watering.
If they get dry, they tend to slow down growth and wilt easily. You can put these in your enclosure, they will need a lot of sunlight for them to bloom properly.
Outside they flourish in full sun, so you might want to keep these plants in the outside play area for your beardie. You don’t have to worry about your pet if he eats the flowers or leaves from hybrid petunias.
20. Phlox (Phlox Paniculata)
The small flowers on phlox plants are perfectly edible for bearded dragons. These plants erupt in blooms of little, trumpet-shaped flowers in summer, and it is a safe treat for your beardies.
These plants come in creeping ground cover or tall spikes of mounding flowers and can come back year after year.
Just like pansies, which are in the same family, violets are safe for bearded dragons. Even the wild variety that can show up in your yard.
The only violets that aren’t safe for beardies are African violets. These fuzzy, but beautiful plants can be very toxic to bearded dragons, so keep those far away from your pets.
Letting your bearded dragon wander in the yard and letting them munch on the little violet wildflowers is perfectly safe.
22. Other Wildflowers
While letting your dragon graze in the yard you might notice her biting on dandelions or clover flowers or the leaves. While we have been taught these are weeds and need to be stamped out to make room for all the cultivated grass, they are really quite beneficial.
Dandelion flowers offer a lot of nutrients and minerals your bearded dragon needs, so as long as there have not been any pesticides, fertilizers, or herbicides sprayed on your yard, let them eat the yellow flowers. The leaves, stems, and even roots are good for bearded dragons as well.
They are a healthy snack, and your pet will thank you for letting the flowers grow in your yard because it means they get to eat them!
Clovers are other flowers that pose no harm to bearded dragons. Whether they are the small white and green flowers, or the big, fluffy pinkish-red clover flowers, your dragon can eat what they want of them.
Even the greens are good for bearded dragons. Just be sure to pick any four-leaf clovers before your lizard eats them…just in case you wanted to save that luck for yourself.
Though these aren’t technically wildflowers; bearded dragons can eat them as part of a healthy diet:
- Rose petals. Only the petals, not the leaves or stems.
- Daylilies. All of these plants are edible
- Hibiscus. Just the flowers
- Mulberries. The leaves and ripe berries are a nutritious snack for beardies. Humans can eat berries too. You can also make them into jams, pies, or wine.
Watch Out for Unwanted Chemicals
When introducing plants into your dragon’s tank, be mindful of pesticides, fertilizers, and fungicides. If you are not 100% sure where the plants came from and what was sprayed on them or added to the soil, be careful before setting them in front of your bearded dragon.
Many nurseries will use fertilizers to make the plants grow big and healthy, and they might be sprayed with chemicals before arriving at the retail store. Unless you know they are completely organic, leave them outside of your bearded dragon habitat for several weeks.
This way, the residue from the chemicals has a chance to weaken and wear off before your dragon starts to munch on the plants.
The same goes for letting your dragon outside. While this is a great way to let them explore, get much-needed natural light, get exercise, and bond with you, don’t let them on the lawn where chemicals have been sprayed. These could adversely affect their health.
Plants to Stay Away From
While this list is pretty extensive and will give you plenty of greenery options for your dragon’s home, it doesn’t include every single plant that is safe for your pet. It would take too much time, and no one would want to read that many plant options.
Most wild animals know with a fair amount of certainty what can be eaten, and what they need to stay away from. Reptiles are able to distinguish most times what they can eat, and what they can’t, but this isn’t always 100% accurate.
Captive bearded dragons probably don’t have such strong instincts as they most likely haven’t been exposed to potentially harmful plants. They may keep away from some plants that could harm them, but their curiosity could get them in danger.
A good rule of thumb is if you’re unsure if it’s safe for your bearded dragon or not, don’t feed it to them or let them eat it, just to be safe. Here are some common plants that can be harmful to your pet.
- Daffodils and jonquils
- Pine trees-needles, sap, anything
- Nightshade (belladonna)
- Any kind of ivy
- Poison ivy, oak, or sumac
- Virginia creeper
- Water hemlock
- Any kind of tobacco plant
Frequently Asked Questions
Can bearded dragons eat grass?
A: Grass offers no nutritional value for bearded dragons and can be hard to digest, so it’s not suggested to let your beardie eat much grass.
Can bearded dragons eat moss?
A: Bearded dragons should not eat moss. Definitely don’t feed it to them. Moss can absorb a lot of toxins that can harm your pet, as well as be difficult to digest, and it offers almost very little in the way of nutrition.
To add a little flair and excitement to your bearded dragon’s home, you can add plants. There are plenty of benefits to adding plants.
They can offer a place to get out of the heat and light, they help to clean the air in the tank and may help it smell better. Plants can also offer a change of scenery to bearded dragons and improve their mood.
But, since bearded dragons regularly eat greens, you’ll have to make sure the plants you add to the tank are non-toxic to your pet because they will inevitably chew on them.
There are a lot of safe options for your beardies such as aloe, air plants, various herbs, and even annual plants that are usually planted outside in flower gardens.
So, if you want to liven up your pet’s tank or make it look as real as possible, set some plants in there. I’m sure your beardie will thank you.