Need creative ideas: how to MacGyver something that's LIKE a fake plant

I’m looking for ways to DIY something with similar properties as fake plants (a few inches tall, stiff enough to hold their shape but with some bend & give, rather than being a hard surface) and am having a hard time thinking of anything.

Background: I have a couple of reptiles that do better with “clutter” in their enclosures, since they feel more secure than being in a wide open, flat space.
99.9% of pics of other people’s setups have fake plants. I HATE fake plants … but I’m having trouble filling that niche.

Solid hides I have a-plenty, but I’m looking for stuff the animal can crawl through and among.

Live plants come with their own issues (primarily, getting enough light) so what ELSE can I use?

Y’all have wacky ideas sometimes. This is a good place for that!

I’m not an expert on crafting, still less on reptiles, but what if you took a cardboard box of the right size to crawl through, and cut away the ends, and/or parts of the sides?


Action figures.

Green colored paper?

Pipe cleaners + tissue paper. But why all the hate for fake plants?

Real plants, and then a bit later, dead plants.

Sturdy branches. Cutouts made from the kind of foams that are used for model landscapes. Lumps of clay (it doesn’t have to be baked clay). Would they be tromped by a trompe l’oeil placed behind their enclosure? I’m not a lizard but I’d rather have some sort of “fuzzy brown wavy stuff” on my background than a flat white wall; the idea isn’t so much actually making them believe that they’re outdoors (they’re primitive, not stupid) but just breaking the monotony.

Fake cactus??

Aluminium armature wire covered with one of the rubbery varieties of polymer clay (Sculpey Bake&Bend is one brand, CosClay another) or silicone rubber putty (Smooth-on Equinox is one brand). Shape into branches or tentacles or whatever. Can be bent and reshaped to change the environment. Plenty of videos online on how to work with the stuff.

Twigs with felt leaves.

Silk plants? I know they’re still fake plants but they aren’t the awful plastic-y looking ones.

Before you use polymer clays, check the warnings. The ones I’ve worked with are pretty toxic (wash your hands after working with them, not for food use, don’t let kids chew on them…) so might be bad for a reptile enclosure.

I thought about chenille stems, but those loose their hair fairly easily, and I’d worry about the reptiles breathing in the hairs. I may be overly worried though. If you did make things with chenille stems, I’d recommend planning on replacing them fairly regularly.

Florist wire is green, bendy, and you could glue pieces of paper, fabric or “silk” flowers to the wire.
What about making a little ‘Renaissance Faire’ type tent? Or is that more along the lines of an enclosure?

What about some sort of bunting banner? A la this, only in miniature?

  • k’nex or tinkertoy (or similar) sculptures? (plastic, durable, malleable, provides enough clutter for them to hide, but enough open space for you to find them)

  • pots for airplants (e.g., this, without the plant. Weird metal shapes that could be arranged somehow?)

  • executive desk puzzles? (e.g.these types of things) maybe your reptiles are secretly geniuses and you’ve just never given them chances to show off. Or, at least they have interesting things to crawl under.

Get a bag of chenille stems and make some interesting shapes with them.

True enough. Sculpey claim their stuff is non-toxic (“certified by ACMI as non-toxic”), especially the stuff marketed to kids like Bake&Bend, but also admit to not having them certified as food-safe.

The mouldable Smooth-On silicone putty I linked is rated food-safe, however. It would be my preferred option if I were doing this, but not as simple as the Sculpey.

What do you want them to look like? If you want something that doesn’t look anything like a plant, but has the sort of ‘give’ and flexibility of leaves, you might be able to make something out of plastic bottles - by cutting them partially into strands - as shown here:

Chenille stems … ? {googles} oh! Pipe cleaners! Never knew their “real” name.

Mangetout, they don’t have to look like plants at all, just give 'em something to slither through, so that bottle-broom idea could work, assuming the edges aren’t too sharp.
The bunting idea upthread is a good one, too. Thanks!

Not sure what reptiles you are keeping, but most need a light source to convert their vitamin D to D-3. Yeah, I’d use real plants and I’d have them in a BioActive set-up.

ETA, if you are dead-set against live plants, take some egg cartons and cut off the bottoms from the “cup” parts. Stacked, small snakes, anoles, etc will climb through/on them.

Camouflage netting draped over a framework made from twigs?