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Toxic Plants to Avoid in Bioactive Enclosures


One of the best things about creating a bioactive enclosure is combining herp keeping with a beautiful indoor garden. Both you and your exotic pet get the benefits of some greenery in your home.

If you’re new to bioactive setups, however, it’s a good idea to know which plants you should not put in a reptile or amphibian habitat.

The plants discussed here are all toxic to herps and should not be planted in an bioactive terrarium.

Fruit trees

I know it’s not likely you’ll plant a fruit tree in your animal’s habitat, unless you have a really big enclosure, perhaps for a green iguana or sulcata tortoise. Just in case you think to try it out, though, the leaves and bark of most fruit plants are toxic to reptiles and amphibians and should not be put in their enclosures.


Additionally, many pits and seeds, and some stems on these plants are also toxic. This includes plants not commonly thought of as fruits, such as avocados.

Many flowers

Lots of plants produce flowers, and although it may be tempting to put some nice flowers in an enclosure, some of them are not a good choice. Flowering plants that are toxic include:

  • Azalea
  • Belladonna
  • Buttercup
  • Calla lily
  • Easter lily
  • Daffodil
  • Hyacinth
  • Iris
  • Laurel
  • Peony
  • Periwinkle
  • Poinsettia
  • Poppy
  • Tulip
  • Wisteria
  • Ragwort

Azalea flowers

That being said, some flowers are perfectly safe, even if ingested. Watch for next week’s article on which plants are safe in your animal's enclosure.

Devil’s ivy (and other ivies)

Devil's ivy money plant

Devil’s ivy causes mouth and tongue irritation if eaten, and it can cause swallowing difficulties and vomiting.

Holly and mistletoe

Holly plant

Holly and mistletoe are common in homes around the holidays, but they’re not a great decoration for reptile or amphibian terrariums. The leaves and berries of holly and mistletoe are poisonous and cause digestive distress that can lead to vomiting and diarrhea.



Milkweed produces a sap that irritates the skin and eyes. It is also dangerous if ingested and can disrupt muscle function, including that of the heart. Although this plant is often used to lure monarch butterflies into an area, it’s not good for the majority of pets.


Johnson grass

As the name suggests, this is a grass plant. Tortoises love grass, and you may be tempted to grow some for them, but beware this variety. It can build up toxic amounts of cyanide and nitrate, which are dangerous if eaten.

This is not an exhaustive list of toxic plants, so your best bet is to check the safety of each plant before putting it in an animal’s enclosure by making sure it’s on a list of safe plants for exotic pets.

Check out The Tye-Dyed Iguana’s Bioactive Guide for more tips.