Sulcata safe plants?

Daniel Freel

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Would like some advice from sulcata owners on landscaping an enclosure. I'm interested in perrenial cold tolerant plants for zone 7. The plants must also be safe and something they're not interested in eating. Looking to make the enclosure more aesthetically pleasing instead of baron ground. Also, I'm no botanist so I'm looking for common plants that can be purchased from a big name store that are commonly available. Thanks
 

Tom

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You've got a great idea, but there are a few problems to solve first.
  • Any decorative plant bought at a nursery will be grown with systemic pesticides. These chemicals remain toxic in the plant's tissues for a year.
  • Any plant they are not interested in eating will be toxic. If its not toxic a sulcata wants to eat it. Hell, they want to eat some even if it is toxic. We just can't let them.
  • Anything smaller than a tree will be trampled if not eaten. Again, were talking about sulcatas here. Driving a 4 wheel drive car around inside the enclosure will do less damage.
I would plant safe-to-eat, pesticide free plants shrubs and trees around the outside of the enclosure, and inside the enclosure you can build barriers to make "safe zones" for plants. Anything that grows within reach or hangs down will be eaten. Rose of sharon do great in your area. Grape vines too. You can plant spineless opuntia in big pots, but you'll have to wheel those inside come winter.
 

Daniel Freel

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Yes, I have thought about that so I planned.on rinsing all soil away from roots before re-planting and was planning on using barriers for this summer. I was thinking of using some big plastic planters or 5 gallon buckets with bottoms cut off as a barrier. I already have the rose of sharon growing and plan on eventually planting anthat in the middle of the enclosure. I also plan on growing the grape vine as well. I purposely left 2 of the 4X4's holding the fence up nice and long and didn't trim the extra off so I can attach lattice to it for the vines to grip on to. This way it will provide food and some shade. I was thinking of possibly planting some ornamental grasses but was wondering if there are any that Sulcatas don't care for the taste of.
 

Tom

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Yes, I have thought about that so I planned on rinsing all soil away from roots before re-planting...
Rinsing the soil away does not remove the toxins that are already taken up by the plant and contained within the plant's tissues.
 

Turtulas-Len

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Hey Daniel, I'm in zone 7 also, east of Wash DC. Like Tom suggested rose of sharon and grape vines do well here. I have a large wild grapevine that doesn't make edible grapes but has large leaves all spring and summer. With a few years of growth the rose of sharon are big enough to stand up to a large sulcata so they can be planted in with the tortoises and wont need protection after time. Make sure what ever you plant that there is enough space for a large tortoise to pass by them or between them when both the plants and tortoises are mature.Sulcatas can be bull headed and most times will push forward instead of backing up when something is blocking their way. Mulberry trees are another good food source and do well here. I believe what I grow are white mulberry trees, I trim them back during winter so they don't produce fruit, just large leaves on the new growth. crepe myrtle do well also. they grow fast are sturdy and safe for tortoises. can't say it's a good food source because mine don't eat it. Larger yucca plants do good and they don't eat them. I grow a lot of opuntia many different kinds that survive our winters outside planted in the ground and in pots above ground. some grow tall and some spread out across the ground. At least 5 different types are spine-less. At this time of year I feed the new growth pads from the ones with spines before they get spines which usually happens at about 10 inches in size. and feed the spine-less later in summer and through the winter months. Other things that I grow in the yard wherever they want to grow are several types of thistle, wild violets,plantains,clover,chick weeds of different types and any grass weeds that may show up. Banana trees do good here. I started growing them years ago when I had mountain tortoises. My sulcata doesn't really care to eat the leaves but some other forum members tortoises do eat them.
 

Maro2Bear

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Hey Daniel, I'm in zone 7 also, east of Wash DC. Like Tom suggested rose of sharon and grape vines do well here. I have a large wild grapevine that doesn't make edible grapes but has large leaves all spring and summer. With a few years of growth the rose of sharon are big enough to stand up to a large sulcata so they can be planted in with the tortoises and wont need protection after time. Make sure what ever you plant that there is enough space for a large tortoise to pass by them or between them when both the plants and tortoises are mature.Sulcatas can be bull headed and most times will push forward instead of backing up when something is blocking their way. Mulberry trees are another good food source and do well here. I believe what I grow are white mulberry trees, I trim them back during winter so they don't produce fruit, just large leaves on the new growth. crepe myrtle do well also. they grow fast are sturdy and safe for tortoises. can't say it's a good food source because mine don't eat it. Larger yucca plants do good and they don't eat them. I grow a lot of opuntia many different kinds that survive our winters outside planted in the ground and in pots above ground. some grow tall and some spread out across the ground. At least 5 different types are spine-less. At this time of year I feed the new growth pads from the ones with spines before they get spines which usually happens at about 10 inches in size. and feed the spine-less later in summer and through the winter months. Other things that I grow in the yard wherever they want to grow are several types of thistle, wild violets,plantains,clover,chick weeds of different types and any grass weeds that may show up. Banana trees do good here. I started growing them years ago when I had mountain tortoises. My sulcata doesn't really care to eat the leaves but some other forum members tortoises do eat them.

Ditto everything that Len had to say. Our Sully loves banana leaves. We have about 7 or 8 hardy banana trees in a very large container that produce wonderfully large leaves all Summer long. When they start looking ragged, I trim a few leaves and feed them to our Sully.

Same goes with Rose of Sharon, Hibiscus, Mulberry Trees.

Good luck.
 

Markw84

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Agree with all the good advice so far. I too use Rose of Sharon and grape vines extensively. Just have to protect them until they are good size, or plant them overhanging the enclosure as Tom suggests.

I do also use rosemary bushes in my sulcata enclosures. They grow well and the sulcata are not interested in eating them at all. In the 28 years I've had dozens of sulcatas, none have ever eaten the rosemary. It grows fast enough where it gets to a size that won't get trampled very quickly. The sulcatas do love to push under it and use it for daytime resting spots out of the sun.
 

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