Attracting Native Green Anoles to Your Garden

Here in North Central Florida the most common lizards are called anoles, and commonly referred to as "chameleons".  They are native through most of the southeast United States, and are often seen on screen doors or in the garden.  The baby green anoles have just hatched and
are bright eyed and ready to take on my plague of insects that I was so concerned about. 
Actually, on my last visit I couldn't find any bugs, leading me to believe that they've already made short work of the juvenile katydids and lubbers.  Now, while all anoles help to eat bugs, there are good anoles and bad anoles.

The bad ones are the invasive exotic Cuban brown anoles, which now plague cities like Jacksonville and dart out in front of you on your way to your door.  While green anoles keep insect populations down, its likely that brown anoles have wiped out insect populations from florida completely.  They have little fear of people, are skittish and multiply rapidly, supposedly out competing the populations of native green anoles and replacing them.  

My humble opinion is that the brown anoles are just better suited to the blaring sun, dry conditions and lack of cover in urban centers, while the arboreal green anoles still do just fine where there's a suitable shady habitat with lots of branches to clamber around on.  Brown anoles seem to be dependent on human development, much like the Norway rat and german cockroach.  They reach into preserved areas, but only where the landscape is fragmented by roads and neighborhoods.

Green anoles are still abundant in ecologically diverse forests where there is a combination of sunlight, greenery and protective cover from predators, and my backyard is always full of them. They delicately and cautiously slink around the branches of my tabebuia, hollies and bottlebrush, climb the vines and leap to the shrubs, changing color to blend in.  The green anoles appreciate the water resevoirs in my bromeliads, gingers, alocasias and heliconias, and the birdbath is frequented as well.

The native weeping yaupon hollies are a favorite haunt for the green anoles.

Looking closer, there's a green anole!  Its only changed to brown because its stressed.

Green anoles really like diagonal branches that they can get their feet around.

This one blends in nicely with a tabebuia leaf!

If you want green anoles to thrive, follow these steps:

Plant more trees.  They are arboreal and prefer them to the ground.  Trees also provide more greenery and shade, where they can blend in and cool off in summer.  Anoles in captivity shouldn't be exposed to teperatures over 90F, and they need it places to cool off in nature too.

Provide shrubs and perennials.  Green anoles like to take twiggy paths up to the trees, and stand-alone tree trunks leave them exposed to predators.  This also ensures that you'll actually get to see the anoles at eye level!

Provide water in shady spots.  Water holding bromeliads are ideal, and the leaf bases of bananas and alocasias collect rainwater too.  Otherwise, sink plastic margarine tubs (cleaned out of course!) in the ground so they can easily access their drink.  When I had one as a pet, she would even bathe from time to time.

Refrain from killing pests.  Make exceptions for huge lubber grasshoppers of really bad infestations, but be sure to let nature do its work.  I have been waiting patiently this year for the lizards and treefrogs to come and eat the bugs, and now that the lizards are here everything has bounced back.  I also helped provide food to the anoles, so more will make it to adulthood.

Do not disturb!  By this, I mean not to constantly trample your garden beds, planting and replanting with short lived annuals and perennials.  Keep those to a select area and cordon off your bushes, drifts of ginger and clumps of crinum to the back of the beds and divide only every few years as necessary.  If you're going to do any gardening there, rustle the foliage first to evacuate the premises.

Plant against tree trunks.  Just last year the base of our oak tree was overrun with brown anoles who found the cypress mulch and bare trunk to be perfect camouflage.  I never saw any green anoles.  Since I planted spiky bromeliads and lush ferns at the base, the cubans no longer found it satisfactory and the green anoles have taken over, having better access to the large oak tree and a place to hide beneath the foliage.

Providing spiky bromeliads has helped to thwart the brown anoles, and attract the careful and methodically moving green ones.



  1. Wow!! I've seent these guys in the zoo here....but to actually have them live in your garden would be great. We have geckos and lizards here....but these guys are cool. You have a great blog. Thank you for sharing your stories.

  2. Great advice, RFG! Water and cover and tree branches are just what the green anole ordered! We seem to have an equal abundance of both the green and the brown here, and I'm afraid I like them both. I waste way too much time lizard watching. When I was growing up here in Central Florida, I had never seen the Cuban brown anole. I think it was the 80's or 90's when I saw the first one here. I thought I had brought it home on a plant, and to me, it was cool-looking. It was a male and quite large. I called my husband to come and see it, completely oblivious to the fact that they were spreading haphazardly throughout Florida. Let's hope the green anole population does not disappear because of this.

  3. I'd never seen one before. They are beautiful. Animals like them in a garden give it character and life as well as eating all the nasty bugs. They are definitely worth nurturing. Hope others follow your advice.

  4. Nice post, Steve! Very informative and great tips on keeping those sweet little green anoles in the garden. AWESOME!!!

  5. I'm a bit jealous of those lizards! I'd have to agree. Pushing the bounds on what is hardy is extremely interesting to me. I never want to have plants (inside or out) that other people have or that are just common. I'll make sure to try the tips on getting more Anoles but I have the strangest feeling it won't work for me. ;)

  6. Beautiful pictures of my favorite lizard. We have plenty of the greenies here at My Garden Path probably because of all the shade from the oaks. We have the Cuban anole and the Knight anole that are very numerous as well. I really like your Yauon Holly BTW.

  7. Great post! I have all types that use my tire gardens as refuge centers! They love to lay inside under the lip and to sun themsleves in the edges! Those big brown curly tailed ones are aggressive and ugly!

  8. The note about planting greenery at the base of trees to encourage green anoles is advice I can use. Thanks. I've been told that greens prefer canopies of shrubs and trees whereas browns prefer more open, hotter trunks, walls and sidewalks. If so, perhaps they will coexist. I like shade; my friend likes it sunny.

    A screened porch I had in Gainesville provided habitat for a few greens and many browns, and I noted that the browns were significantly more aggressive about snagging yellow flies and horseflies from the screening regardless of whether the other species was present. Many Caribbean islands harbor more than one species of Anolis.

  9. We have,mainly,the Cuban ones here.Occasionally we see a Green Anole.And that brings us great excitement.Our neighborhood is heavily wooded,but I thing the Cuban has taken care of most of the Green Anoles.Sad....But we have hope.

  10. All lizards are welcome in my garden, most of my population are the brown kind and they are very territorial

  11. I love the green anoles and enjoy seeing them in and around my garden. My cats love carrying around the brown dinosaur looking creatures, but they grow in numbers anyway. Thanks for the tips on providing an inviting habitat for the little green creatures. I will definitely impliment some of your ideas. Very informative.

  12. Nice post, Steve. I've been meaning to do something similar since I've noticed an increase in the Carolina anole recently. You've explained why. Thanks!

  13. NIce pictures, I love seeing the anole lizards in teh garden! We have a good many of them here in South Carolina too.

    You have a nice blog!

    check out my picture,
    Caterpillars, Insects, Lizards and Newts

  14. I just seen my little girl laying on her back in the aquarium habitat I put together for her several months ago. Threw an ice cube in the grassy area and she perked up nicely. I think she is too fat. Too many meal worms. I have to put her on a little diet for the summer. nVery hot here in Ocala.


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