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Viv Plants for Temperate and Semi-Arid Setups

Here are some of the plants we recommend if you're setting up a vivarium with lower ambient humidity! Many of the species we commonly keep as pets are from climates with moderate to low humidity and precipitation, and suitable plants for their enclosures can vary significantly from what you'd use in a tropical setup.

This list can be a great starting point for:

  • Lizards: Bearded dragons, leopard geckos, fat-tailed geckos

  • Snakes: Ball pythons, rosy boas, sand boas, garters, hognoses

  • Mammals: Hedgehogs, gerbils, dormice, hamsters

  • Inverts: Many spiders, beetles, scorpions, etc.

  • ...and many more not listed here!

The plants you choose will largely come down to size/durability (will the inhabitant break/trample them?) and safety (could the plants be a danger to the inhabitant?). Always double check the toxicology of plants you plan to add, to be sure they're safe in the context you plan to use them.

In general, it's extra important to provide quality full spectrum lighting when adding plants to your setup. Not enough light is one of the main reasons plants fail to thrive - although overwatering, poorly suited substrate, etc. also contribute.

I haven't gotten photos collected yet, but wanted to post the article for reference. Pics will be up soon!

Since grasses often don't do well in bioactive setups (they like a lot of light, and lots of deep damp root space), these are three safe options for a "grass effect" in an enclosure! Ponytail palm and mondo grass are much more durable than spider plants.

Generally considered safe, even for leaf-nibblers:

Ponytail Palm

A tried-and-true staple for desert and semiarid setups. Hardy, sturdy, and they add great texture. You can get them as little pups that look like grass, or larger durable specimens.

Haworthias Pretty plants, though prone to breakage if trampled and root rot if overwatered. Great for lower "traffic" inhabitants like inverts and small reptiles.


Cheap and beautiful texture! They don't often thrive indoors without a deep root system and lots of light, but even if it dies off, they still look nice and add enrichment!

Spider Plants

Spider plants are fairly tolerant of limited watering, but fragile - best for low traffic inhabitants or placed higher up out of harm's way.

Bromeliaceae Family

Earth stars are a type of bromeliad that can do well with low humidity and look gorgeous in desert setups.

Also popular, but check toxicology:

Most of these are generally safe in vivaria, but can cause irritation/GI upset if chewed on or eaten.


Some species like Ficus benjamina and Ficus elastica enjoy lower humidity and lots of light! They can provide a nice "mini tree" aesthetic in an enclosure.


Dracaenas are hardy, widely available houseplants. As the plant grows (and experiences water shortage), the older leaves will die off, leaving a "trunk" that can add climbing opportunities. It also means the leaves are less likely to get trampled!

Snake Plants (Sansevierias)

There are a wide range of species of snake plants, as well as unique cultivated varieties. If you need something durable, choose a variety with thick leaves - they're sturdy and less likely to get damaged.

Pothos (Epipremnum)

Pothos prefer higher humidity, but are very tolerant to more dry habitats. They can work well on the cooler side of the viv - they might sunburn if too close to a basking spot.

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