Turtle Safe Vegetation: Growing Plants For Turtles To Eat

By: Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden

Maybe you have an unusual pet, onethat’s more out of the ordinary than a dog or cat. For instance, what if youhave a turtle for a pet? How do you care for him or her? Most importantly, whatdo you safely feed the turtle that is both healthy and economical?

If you (or your children) have apet turtle that you somehow acquired, you’ll want to keep it healthy and happy.According to most resources, there is a specific diet for the turtle. The goodnews is you can grow some of the food. Get the kids involved and learn moreabout properly feeding your pet turtle.

Growing Plants for Turtles

If you have a turtle as a pet, youmight’ve noticed that he/she always seems hungry. The experts say a turtle is a“voracious eater” and “always begging for food.”

Turtles arebasically carnivorous (meat protein eaters) when they’re young and begin toenjoy more vegetables as they mature. Apparently, just like humans, the turtleprefers a balanced and varied diet. Sources advise changing the diet regularlyand they stress the importance of variety.

The carnivorous portion of theirdiet can be supplied by purchasing “trout chow” and small fish (goldfish, etc.)from the pet store. Minnows used for fishing are an option. As mentioned, wecan grow much of the vegetative part of their balanced and varied diet.

Plants Safe for Turtles

Research shows that your pet turtlewill eat the same vegetables that are good for you. Depending on your climate,you are likely growing some of them in your summer vegetable garden. If not,they can easily be included.

Vitamins and minerals are importantfor turtle health. Light preparation is needed before feeding some vegetablesto your pet. Suggestions for vegetable or fruit may include:

  • Carrots (shred them first)
  • Sweet potatoes (best if shredded and cooked before feeding)
  • Irish potatoes
  • Green beans
  • Okra
  • Bell peppers
  • Cactus pad and fruit (remove all the spines if you use this option)

Other Plants Turtles Can Eat

Turtles can consume the same saladgreens you grow for the rest of your family. Spinach, kale and Swiss chard, amongothers, are appropriate. These grow easily in cool weather when temperaturesare above freezing. Start them from seed for an economical way to feed yourselfand your turtle.

Other turtle safe vegetationincludes clover, dandelions and collards. You mayalso feed the turtle corn, cauliflower, beets, tomatoes, and broccoli.

Have fun with feeding your turtleand teach your children this prudent and economical way to help care for theirpets.

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Plants that are Poisonous to Turtles and Lizards

Of course we can't list every plant that could have a bad
effect on the health of your turtles or lizards. But, we will tell
you about some of them that people more commonly plant in
and around their homes. More thorough lists are available in
several places on the Internet, as well as in books. The
list below is simply to help you check what is already
planted or to wisely choose the plants you add to your home.

Some Human Food Plants that may be Dangerous to Reptiles:

Edible But Quantities Should Be Limited:

* Brassicas - vegetables in the Brassica family, such as
broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, bok
choy etc. can cause metabolic problems if they comprise too
much of the diet. Since most of these are high in good
vitamins and minerals, don't avoid them feeding only a few
times a month should be fine.

* Carrots, parsley, beets and beet greens, spinach, chards,
bananas, beets, romaine lettuce, celery stalks, grapes, if
eaten as the bulk of the diet, can cause damage such as
blocked calcium absorption or thyroid problems. If eaten a
few times a month as part of a varied diet, they are fine.

Seriously Dangerous to your Turtles, Tortoises, and Lizards:

* Onions and Garlic Family - Can cause digestive upset in
small quantities and serious illness if eaten in bulk.

* Avocado - can cause cardiac failure and death.

* Rhubarb - Even small amount causes the formation of
calcium oxalate crystals which damage or destroy the

* Potato - green potatoes, raw sprouts and foliage are
fatally toxic to animals and humans.

Some House/Yard Plants that are Toxic in even small
quantities to Turtles and Lizards:

* All plant bulbs - most are poisonous, be safe rather than
sorry and keep them away.

* All fruit seeds - most contain small amounts of cyanide.

* Anemone - all parts can damage the gastrointestinal tract.

* Bird of Paradise - seeds and leaves damage
gastrointestinal tract.

* Bluebonnets - leaves are toxic.

* Boxwood and Yew - (common for hedges) - leaves cause
nervous system and gastrointestinal damage.

* Cacti - besides possible physical damage, some cacti are

* Castor Bean - contains a toxic protein that can do major
damage or even kill animals and humans.

* Chrysanthemum - all varieties and parts can be toxic.

* Crocus - all parts are toxic.

* Elephant Ears - plant and fruit are toxic.

* Four O'clocks - the whole plant is poisonous.

* Hyacinth - Water Hyacinth is edible, but the garden plant
is entirely toxic.

* Hydrangea - all parts are toxic.

* Ivies - all parts are very toxic.

* Kalanchoe - this flowering succulent can cause heart

* Lilies - nearly all are toxic.

* Lobelia - all parts of all types are dangerous.

* Marijuana (Cannabis sativa) - leaves, flower bracts are

* Milkweed - leaves and stems contain toxic resins.

* Mistletoe - berries cause liver failure in animals and

* Morning Glories - all parts are poisonous.

* Mushrooms - many wild mushrooms contain toxins that
destroy the liver, and are lethal.

* Oleanders - entire plant is poisonous to animals and

* Poinsettia - leaves and flowers can be toxic.

* Redwood - bark chips are toxic to aquatic animals.

* Rhododendrons and Azaleas - leaves and nectar can cause
heart damage.

* Sago Palm - all are parts poisonous, especially the seeds.

Please note, however, that this is not an exhaustive list of
all plants known to be toxic, but simply a list of the most
common to us. Also be aware that not that much research has
been done on reptiles and plant poisons so we advise that
you not feed your reptiles anything that you don't already
know is safe for them. Additionally, don't plant anything in
their enclosures (or around your home if you let them out of
their enclosures) without at least considering whether it is
safe for your pets and your family.

Why aquascaping?

Keeping plants in your turtle tank helps to filter the water and oxygenate it. Both of these things reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and algae. Keeping the water clean and free of unintentional growth fosters a healthier environment for your turtle, which spends most of its time in the water. Having live plants in the aquarium will also provide hiding spots for your turtles, which is necessary regardless of whether you provide live or artificial décor.

Caring for Turtles and Tortoises

Brianna on August 28, 2017:

Tortoises should not have Lilly of the Valley, do not feed them it!

www.thetortoisetable.org.uk for a list of foods to feed all tortoises

Whitney (author) from Georgia on August 15, 2011:

Rose of sharon is safe to feed tortoises.

teri on August 12, 2011:

I did not see Rose of Sharon is it safe for Tortoises?

TGT on January 09, 2011:

thanks, this helped a lot when I was researching tortoises when i was saving up for one.

Whitney (author) from Georgia on November 15, 2010:

These are safe for all tortoises.

Michelle on November 14, 2010:

Are these safe for all tortoises?? Specifically Hermann's tortoise?

Listerino on September 25, 2010:

Thanks very handy information. When my turtle grows out of his current terrarium I plan to make a bigger one and grow some plants in there for him.

Whitney (author) from Georgia on April 23, 2010:

Thank you for your concern, but all of my resources all list the plant as safe.

I guess it is something that people should use with caution. Your resource says it's bad, but I used several when composing this, all have it as safe.

15 Best Plants for Kids That Are Easy and Safe to Grow

Want your child to get outside more often? Grow things together!

If you're looking for a way to transition your kids from screen time to green time, gardening might be just the answer you're looking for. It’s such fun to watch plants grow from a tiny seed or starter plant, and bonus points if you grow flowers that attract butterflies and flowers that attract hummingbirds in your garden. Plus, fresh air, sunshine, and getting your hands dirty might just lead to a clearer mind—it’s worth a try, right?.

When picking plants, consider your kids’ interests. Have a future chef in the house? Let them try their hand at growing snap peas, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, or herbs. Does your child love color and art? Try planting bright and cheerful flowers like marigolds, sunflowers, and some of the best flowers that bloom in summer. Many adult gardeners keep journals about what works and what doesn't—challenge your kids to document the progress of their flowers and plants in their own garden journals.

Whether you have a large piece of land with lots of play space, a small backyard that makes a big statement, or a set of steps for a few containers, there’s always room for growing pretty, low-maintenance plants and flowers. Not only will they add a lot of life to your outdoor space, you can also cut them and enjoy the blooms of your labor indoors as well.

We’ve rounded up the 15 best plants for kids that are safe and easy for budding gardeners to care for. Now, get growing!

Succulents are super easy to grow, and they come in a rainbow of colors and hundreds of shapes and sizes! They prefer mostly sun, drought-tolerant once established, and many types tolerate extreme cold. Some can be grown indoors as houseplants too.

Varieties to Try:
Lemon Coral Sedum
Burro’s Tail

These bold, sunny-faced flowers come in an array of sizes ranging from a foot tall to 15 feet tall! Plant seeds directly in the garden or in pots in full sun after the last frost. Many types have large edible seeds you can enjoy with your kids, or share them with the birds.

Varieties to Try:
Fire Catcher

Many tomatoes are actually long vines that require staking, but newer cherry tomato varieties have been bred to be compact and tidy so they grow best in pots. Plant a few different kinds so you’ll have a rainbow of colors to harvest.

Varieties to Try:
Sweetheart of the Patio Hybrid
Yellow Pear

Fast-growing mint is a fun and rewarding plant to grow. You can grow it outside in the ground, in an outdoor container, or inside on a windowsill. It's a great addition to brewed tea and kicks up the freshness in desserts and savory foods alike.

Varieties to Try:
Chocolate Mint

These easy flowers to grow, with blue-green leaves and gorgeous blooms, grow in climbing or mound forms. They come in an array of colors from peach and red to coral and rose and show off all season until frost. But the coolest thing about both the flowers and the leaves is that they're edible, so kids can toss them on summer salads and tasty no-bake desserts.

Varieties to Try:
Baby Rose
Peach Melba

The sweet potato vine's claim to fame is its starring role as an ideal "spiller" in containers and window boxes. But did you know that this eye-catching chartreuse stunner is also the result of a super fun science project your kids will love?

To grow a vine from a whole sweet potato:
Take a whole sweet potato (pointy side down) and poke four toothpicks around the middle, then rest the potato on the lip of a clear glass (a Mason jar works great). Fill the glass with water to cover the bottom of sweet potato. In 7-10 days, a single root will begin to form in the water and sprouts will begin to show on the top. Watch it grow, then transplant to a pot or into the ground.

Varieties to Try:
Sweet Caroline Sweetheart Lime
Sweet Caroline Bewitched After Midnight

Long, spiky flowers in shades of red, white, pink, or purple on this hardy bush attract oodles of butterflies and hummingbirds all summer long. This shrub likes full sun and comes in a variety of sizes, from two to five feet tall, so read the plant label to make sure you give it ample space.

Varieties to Try:
Pugster Blue

Leaves that grow bigger than their heads? You kids will be amazed by the size of elephant ear plants. (Also be sure to point out that they're shaped like hearts.) Bonus: These bold, jungle-like perennials come back year after year.

Varieties to Try:
Fordhook Giant

Is there any flower happier than a daisy, with its bright yellow center and crisp white petals? With the right amount of water and sunshine, it's easy to grow daisies. To keep blooms coming and plants looking neat, teach your kids how to "deadhead" (remove old flowers).

Varieties to Try:
Snow Lady Shasta
Crazy Daisy Shasta

Pumpkins take up a lot of space in the garden, with vines that may stretch up to 20 feet long, although newer varieties are more compact. That’s a relative term though, as smaller types may still require about six square feet of space! But they’re awfully fun to grow because they come in every size and hue, from the palest white to bright orange. Plus, they’re versatile: Eat them, decorate with them, roast the seeds, or try your hand at these easy pumpkin-carving ideas.

Varieties to Try:
Kandy Korn Plus Hybrid

This hardy, best perennial for your garden with an adorable name has velvety, silver foliage (that resembles lamb’s ears, of course!) and unique flower spikes. It’s not particularly fussy and tolerates drought and poor soil. Kids will love the unique texture.

Varieties to Try:
Big Ears
Cotton Boll

Kids love picking bright berries fresh off the plant. New strawberry varieties are pretty, compact plants that produce fruit all season long and thrive in containers and hanging baskets. It's possible to grow these from seed, but it takes time. Look for plants, which will bear fruit the first season.

Varieties to Try:
Berried Treasure

These sturdy annuals are likely a familiar sight to you, and there's a reason Grandma always grew them. Known for their heat and drought tolerance and natural insect-repelling characteristics, they're cheerful little fellas too, making them an old-fashioned favorite. Pro tip: Save dried flower heads for next year's seeds.

Varieties to Try:
Endurance Yellow and Orange Hybrids
Queen Sophia

Beans are incredibly easy to grow, and the more beans you pick, the more your plant will produce. Plant seeds in a sunny spot once the danger of frost has passed. Some types, such as the heirloom variety Scarlet Runner, attract hummingbirds too.

Varieties to try:
Scarlet Runner

This lacy-looking annual plant has a sweet fragrance that’s easily carried on in the breeze. Pollinators love it. Plus, it’s a sturdy plant that looks wonderful cascading out of window boxes and hanging baskets alongside other plants. And because it can withstand a light frost, it lasts a long time in the garden.

Varieties to Try:
Royal Carpet
Carpet of Snow

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