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10 Plants for your Vivarium!

We get many questions about which plants are safe to use in an animal-inhabited terrarium (vivarium). Depending on the climate you’re trying to re-create, the light you have available, and allowing for potential growth, we have a great and varied list for you!

  • Anthurium: Also known as flamingo flowers or spathe flowers, anthuriums have a bushy growth habit that makes them a great plant to form safe hiding places for your animals in a tropical vivarium. Capable of growing both in soil and epiphytically, they can be a beautiful focal point in the middle of the vivarium or climbing the back wall as a screen. The broad leaves are an ideal site for many species of frog and lizard to lay eggs. Anthurium amnicola and Anthurium antioquiense are two dwarf varieties.
  • Croton: A croton in a vivarium can be maintained as a small, bushy shrub by pinching it back frequently. The leaves will be their normal size even though the plant is kept small. This plant is not recommended for dart frog vivariums or any other excessively humid vivariums. Crotons will do well with tree frogs and in less humid vivariums. Water normally and don’t allow the soil to remain wet. Allow to dry between watering.
  • Dracaena: Though even dwarf dracaenas eventually grow tall, they grow so slowly that it’s quite easy to keep them under control with occasional pruning. This plant is not recommended for dart frog vivariums or other vivariums on the wetter side that have high humidity levels, which may cause this plant to rot. Dracaenas prefer drier conditions and can be used in vivariums that are on the drier side, such as with geckos and other reptiles. Leave in pot for easy replacement if the plant does grow too large one day.
  • Ficus pumila: Commonly known as the creeping fig, Ficus pumila is a species of flowering plant, native to East Asia and naturalized in parts of the southeastern and south-central United States. It thrives in the bright, humid conditions of a tropical vivarium and can be planted in the background or mid-ground of a vivarium. If allowed to, it will grow up the background and hardscape. Creeping Fig must be kept damp, and will grow much faster in a high humidity environment. The more intense the light, the faster and more compact it will grow. Small, light green leaves are very attractive on this great filler plant. And a beautiful white and green variegation is available as well.
  • Peperomia: Peperomias will do well in a vivarium as they can tolerate and thrive in a humid environment. It is best to plant upright varieties toward the middle or back, and save the creeping varieties for the foreground. The taller varieties are not recommended for a vivarium with larger animals as the stems are brittle and will snap easily. Plant in a location where the roots will not be sitting in standing water. 
  • Philodendron: Philodendron cordatum, heart leafed philodendron, is a vining plant that will quickly grow up over the background and hardscape towards the light. It can grow in moist to saturated substrate and prefers lower to moderate light. Philodendron cordatum does not require any air flow, but tolerates air flow well as long as it is kept humid. Its broad leaves make great calling perches and egg laying sites for many dart frogs, and sleeping sites for tree frogs. Philodendrons are also known for filtering air pollutants! Their large leaves gather polluting particles and release fresh, clean oxygen. A smart addition to any vivarium.
  • Pilea: Pilea depressa might look delicate but it is sturdier than you’d think. It doesn’t mind being trampled by even the chunkiest frog! It forms a wonderfully dense carpet or plant it on a vertical spot, and you’ll have a lush green wall. Its matting habit lends itself well to being a foreground plant as it doesn’t need air circulation. Pilea depressa ‘Baby Tears’ has a moderate to high water requirement, and should not be allowed to dry out. More intense light will result in a more compact, lower growing habit and lighter green leaves.
  • Pothos: Epipremnum aureum is a vine and should be planted in the back 1/3 of a vivarium, either directly into the background or in the substrate. When planted in the soil it will quickly grow to cover the background and hardscape. Pothos has moderate water needs and will tolerate a wide variety of light conditions. It does best however, when the substrate is kept damp (but not soggy!). It’s a great plant for a naturalistic vivarium, providing egg laying and calling sites for dart frogs and providing cover for all small reptiles and amphibians.
  • Sansevieria: Commonly known as Snake Plant, the reputation of this plant is to grow big! So make sure you are choosing a dwarf variety like Sansevieria ‘Hahnii’ types. These specifically grow in a rosette and stay smaller. Sansevieria requires moderately bright light but can survive in low light environments. It prefers a well-draining substrate as too much moisture can cause root rot.
  • Syngonium: Known as the Arrowhead Plant because its leaves are distinctly shaped like arrows, this beautiful plant comes in a wide variety of colors and sizes. Being a native to the tropics, this plant thrives in the high humidity environment of a well-drained vivarium.  Due to their larger growth habits they can be kept in most vivariums for about a year before replacing them with a smaller one. Or choose Syngonium podophyllum ‘Pixie’ for a super tiny plant that won’t ever outgrow the landscape. Give Syngoniums moderate lighting and water when the top inch or so of soil is dry.  
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