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Edible Plants for Tortoises

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Whitney has raised and bred different species of geckos, snakes, lizards, tortoises, and other exotics since 2003.


Plants for Tortoises

If you have a tortoise and you're working on an outdoor enclosure or you're just trying to vary the diet as much as you can, you'll definitely want to consider going outside of the grocery store for greens, flowers, and plants. You'll will want to consider growing a garden or landscaping your home.

Just make sure that you don't use fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. You don't want to accidentally poison your tortoise.

It's easier and cheaper to purchase seeds than it is a potted plant. When you purchase plant seeds, you can pot them and grow them in organic, all-natural soil. When you purchase potted plants from a plant nursery or the home gardening section of a home department store, you'll need to be very cautious of fertilizers.

If you prefer to purchase a potted plant from the store, (when you get home) you'll want to wash off the roots of the plants, getting all of the dirt off the roots. Then re-pot the plant in un-fertilized soil. It's recommended that you let the newly re-potted plants sit for at least 3 months before putting them in your tortoise enclosure or offering them as food to your tortoise. You want to make sure that all fertilizers and poisons have been fully washed off and grown out of the plant before putting your pet at potential risk. Remember that it's better to err on the side of caution.

So, when landscaping your outdoor tortoise enclosure, you want to make sure that you use edible plants and flowers. Below is a pretty comprehensive list of edible plants, although I'm sure that there are a few that have not been listed. You'll also find a list of common plants that are toxic to your tortoise.

Remember that these plants will help create a varied diet for your grazing tortoise. Keep them free of poisons (herbicides, pesticides, etc.) and fertilizers. You can easily grow a small garden for your tortoise, and pick a few plants, leaves, and flowers to change up your tortoises diet.

Day Lilly

Day Lilly

Edible Plants

Below is a pretty comprehensive list of plants, flowers, and grasses that your tortoise can eat. You'll find the scientific name on the left and the common name on the right. You can assume that the entire plant is safe for your tortoise to eat, unless otherwise specified with the portion of the plant that is edible- leaves, stems, and/or flowers- which will be found in parenthesis after the common name of the plant.

  • Abutilon hybridum - Flowering Maple
  • Achillea millefolium - Yarrow
  • Aegopodium podagraria - bishop's goutweed; ground elder
  • Agave sp. - Agave (leaves)
  • Alcea Rosea - Hollychock
  • Alchemilla vulgaris - Lady's Mantle
  • Aloe Vera - Aloe
  • Amoracia rusticana - Horseraddish (leaves)
  • Anthriscus sylvestris - Cow parsley
  • Apium graveolens - Celeriac
  • Arrhenatherum elatius - Tall oat grass
  • Bellis perennis - English Daisy
  • Buddleia spp. - Butterfly Bush
  • Calendula officinalis - Pot Marigold
  • Capsella bursa-pastoris - Shepard's purse
  • Cichorium intybus - Chicory
  • Cirsium arvense - Canadian Thistle; Californian Thistle; Creeping Thistle
  • Comfrey. Symphtum officinale - Comfrey
  • Crepis biennis - Rough hawksbeard
  • Cynara scolymus - Artichoke
  • Cynodon dactylon - Bermuda Grass
  • Cynosurus cristatus - Crested dogtail
  • Dactylis glomerata - Orchard grass
  • Dahlia spec - Dahlia
  • Daucus carota - Wild carrot
  • Echinacea purpurea/pallida/angustifolia - Echinacea/purple cone flower
  • Eriocephalus africanus - Wild rosemary
  • Festuca arundinacea - Reed fescue
  • Festuca pratensis - Meadow fescue
  • Festuca rubra commutata - Chewings fescue
  • Foeniclum vulgare - Fennel
  • Fragaria vesca - European wood strawberry
  • Galium verum - Yellow bedstraw
  • Hemerocallis sp. - Day lilies
  • Hibiscus rosa-sinensis - Hibiscus
  • Hibiscus syriacus - Rose of Sharon
  • Holcus lanatus - Velvet grass
  • Ipomoea batatas - Sweet Potato (leaves)
  • Lamium Album - White Deadnettle
  • Lamium purpureum - Purple Deadnettle
  • Lamium amplexicaule - Henbit
  • Leontodon hispidus - Rough hawkbit
  • Lolium multiflorum - Italian ryegrass
  • Lolium perenne - Perennial ryegrass
  • Lotus corniculatus - Birdsfoot trefoil
  • Lythrum salicaria - Purple Loosestrife
  • Malva sylvestris - Hollyhock or mallow
  • Medicago Lupulina - Black medick
  • Mesembryanthemaceae family - Ice Plants (leaves and flowers)
  • Morus spec. - Mullberry (leaves)
  • Nasturtium officinale - Watercress
  • Opuntia spec - Prickly Pear
  • Papaver pavoninum - Peacock Poppy
  • Petunia hybrida - Petunia

White Clover

White Clover

Weeds and Herb Seeds

  • Phleum pratense - Timothy
  • Plantago lanceolota - English plantain
  • Plantago major - Common plantain
  • Plantago media - Hoary plantain
  • Poa pratensis - Kentucky bluegrass
  • Portulaca Oleracea - Purslane (leaves and stems)
  • Raphanus stivus - Radish (leaves)
  • Ribes nigrum - Black Currant (leaves)
  • Rosa canina - Wild Rose
  • Rosa gallica - Domestic Rose (petals)
  • Rubus fruticosus - Blackberry (leaves and flowers)
  • Salvia hispanica - Chia
  • Salvia offinicialis - Garden sage
  • Salvia pratensis - Meadow sage
  • Schlumbergera bridgesii - Xmas Cactus
  • Stellaria Media - Chickweed
  • Taraxacum offinicialis - Dandelion
  • Tragopogon pratensis - Goat's beard
  • Trifolium hybridum - Alsike clover
  • Trifolium incarnatum - Crimson clover
  • Trifolium repens - White clover
  • Tropaeolum majus - Nasturtium
  • Urticaceae - Nettle
  • Viola arvensis - Field pansy
  • Viola tricolor - Johnny jump-up
  • Vitis vinifera ... Vitis labrusca - Grapes (leaves)
  • althea officinialis - Marsh Mallow
  • ficus carica - Fig (leaves)
  • origanum vulgare - Oregano
  • rubus ideus - Raspberry (leaves and flowers)
  • verbascum densiflorum - Mullien

Toxic plants that you want to avoid!

This is not a complete list of plants that you want to avoid letting your tortoise eat, but it is pretty much packed with common plants that you'll find at a nursery or gardening department. These can be very toxic, and depending on how much your tortoise is able to eat before you spot it, the health problems will vary from mild to severe to even fatal.

When setting up an outdoor tortoise enclosure, you'll want to be very careful of what plants and flowers you have already in your yard. If you notice any plants that are on the toxic plant list, the you'll want to remove them at the roots and find another place for them. You don't want them anywhere near where your pet tortoise will be able to reach them.

  • Iris
  • Ivy (English ivy)
  • Jack-in-the-pulpit
  • Jerusalem cherry
  • Jessamine (jasmine)
  • Jetbead (jetberry)
  • Jimsonweed
  • Jonquil
  • Kentucky coffee tree
  • Lantana
  • Leopard's bane
  • Lily (Lilium atamasco and Lilium gloriosa)
  • Lily of the valley
  • Lobelia (cardinal flower, Indian tobacco)
  • Marsh marigold
  • May apple (mandrake)
  • Mescal bean (Texas mountain laurel, frijo lillo)
  • Mistletoe
  • Morning glory
  • Mountain laurel
  • Nightshade
  • Oleander
  • Periwinkle (myrtle, vinca)
  • Philodendron
  • Pittosporum
  • Poison hemlock
  • Potato
  • Privet
  • Rhododendron
  • Rock poppy (celandyne)
  • Schefflera
  • Spring adonis
  • Spurge
  • Star of Bethlehem
  • Sweet pea
  • Tobacco
  • Trumpet flower (chalice vine)
  • Water hemlock
  • Wild cherry (black cherry)
  • Wisteria
  • Yellow allamanda
  • Yellow oleander (tiger apple, be still tree, lucky nut)
  • Yesterday-today-and-tomorrow
  • Aconite ( monkhood, wolfsbane)
  • Anemone (windflower)
  • Amaryllis
  • Anthurium
  • Atamasco lily
  • Autumn crocus
  • Azalea
  • Baneberry
  • Black locust
  • Bloodroot
  • Bleeding Heart, Dutchman's breeches
  • Boxwood
  • Burning bush (strawberry bush, spindle tree, wahoo)
  • Buttercup
  • Butterfly weed
  • Caladium
  • Calla (calla lily)
  • Carolina jasmine (yellow jessamine)
  • Castor bean
  • Cherry laurel
  • Chinaberry (bead tree)
  • Christmas rose
  • Clematis
  • Daffodil
  • Deadly nightshade (belladonna)
  • Death cammas (black snakeroot)
  • Delphinium (larkspur)
  • Dogbane
  • Dumbcane
  • Elephant ears
  • False hellebore
  • Four o'clock
  • Foxglove
  • Giant elephant ear
  • Gloriosa lily
  • Golden chain tree (laburnum)
  • Goldenseal
  • Heavenly bamboo (nandina)
  • Henbane (black henbane)
  • Honeysuckle
  • Horse chestnut (Ohio buckeye)
  • Horse nettle
  • Hyacinth
  • Hyacinth bean 
  • Hydrangea

Caring for Turtles and Tortoises

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Brianna on August 28, 2017:

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

Hannah on April 23, 2010:

Please note Henbit is TOXIC to tortoises. It looks like you have it under edible..see

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