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What are the Different Types of Garden Lizard?

C.B. Fox
C.B. Fox

The name garden lizard can refer to a number of different species of lizard. The species most often called by this name is the Oriental Garden Lizard, though the name can refer to other members of the Agamidae family as well. There are also many opportunistic species of lizard that can be frequently found living in gardens, in close proximity to humans, including geckos and skinks and countless other species.

Lizards in the family Agamidae, commonly called agamas and belonging to the genus Agama, are endemic to Africa and Asia. Quite common, these lizards seek out habitats that are relatively dry, such as deserts, rocky steppes and forest edges. Agamas are primarily insectivores, but may also feed on small rodents, other reptiles and some fruits and vegetables. In captivity, agamas are usually fed crickets and day-old mice.

Garden lizards seek out dry climates, such as deserts.
Garden lizards seek out dry climates, such as deserts.

Agamas also are sometimes called dragons or dragon lizards. These lizards are muscular in appearance, with strong legs and wedge-shaped heads that, in many species, are large compared to body size. Unlike many lizards, agamas cannot shed and regenerate their tails. Many of these lizards have a limited ability to change color, giving them another nickname, the Fake Chameleon. The most common agamas kept as pets include the Oriental Garden Lizard, tree dragon, common garden lizard and brown garden lizard.

Many species of lizards may be referred to as garden lizards.
Many species of lizards may be referred to as garden lizards.

The Oriental Garden Lizard is a widespread species of Asian lizard. Its natural range is from Iran to Malaysia, and it adapts well to life alongside humans, both as a pet and as a garden visitor. This species can grow to lengths of up to 17 inches (about 43 cm) and has a large head, wide shoulders and a long, thin tail. Nocturnal and arboreal, these lizards are not easily observed in the wild, though they are gaining popularity in the pet industry. During the mating season, male Oriental Garden Lizards display a red throat to attract a mate, giving them the inaccurate nickname "the bloodsucker."

Depending on the region and climate zone in which a person lives, any number of lizard species may be found living in a garden area. Some of the more commonly observed lizards include geckos and skinks. Geckos are fat-bodied lizards that can be found in deserts, tropical rain forests and in houses around the world. Skinks are also commonly observed in gardens and are distinguishable from other lizards by their small and sometimes absent limbs, making them appear more snake-like than lizard-like.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most common types of garden lizards?

Common garden lizards include the Green Anole, often found in the southeastern United States, and the Western Fence Lizard, prevalent along the West Coast. The Eastern Fence Lizard and the European Wall Lizard are also frequently spotted in gardens, providing natural pest control by feeding on insects.

How can I identify a garden lizard in my backyard?

To identify a garden lizard, look for key characteristics such as body shape, color, and behavior. For instance, Green Anoles can change color from green to brown, while Western Fence Lizards have spiny scales and a blue belly. Observing their habitat preferences, such as whether they favor trees or ground cover, can also aid identification.

Are garden lizards beneficial to have around?

Yes, garden lizards are highly beneficial. They act as natural pest controllers by eating insects that can harm plants, such as beetles and caterpillars. According to a study by the University of Georgia, lizards play a significant role in insect population control, which can help maintain a healthy garden ecosystem.

Do garden lizards pose any threat to humans or pets?

Garden lizards are generally harmless to humans and pets. They are not venomous and typically avoid confrontation. However, it's important to supervise interactions between lizards and pets, as some pets may try to chase or play with the lizards, potentially causing stress or injury to the reptiles.

What do garden lizards eat, and how can I attract them to my garden?

Garden lizards primarily feed on insects, including ants, flies, and spiders. To attract them to your garden, create a hospitable environment by planting a variety of foliage, maintaining a source of water, and avoiding the use of pesticides, which can deplete their food sources and harm the lizards directly.

How do garden lizards adapt to different environments?

Garden lizards are highly adaptable and can thrive in various environments. They can regulate their body temperature through basking and seeking shade, and they can change habitats based on food availability and seasonal changes. Some species, like the Green Anole, can even change color to blend into their surroundings for camouflage and temperature regulation.

Discussion Comments


@Mykol - As far as I know, lizards are vegetarians, so they might eat some fruit and vegetables. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the food scraps left behind is one reason you saw the lizards hanging around.

Eating something like a piece of fruit or a leafy vegetable would not be uncommon for some lizards. Most of them eat bugs like crickets and small insects, but it also depends on the type of lizard.


I really don't mind seeing lizards in my garden. They are helpful to have around because they eat a lot of bugs and don't do any damage to my plants and flowers.

Usually when I see a lizard, it is trying to hide or get away. They don't seem to be any more interested in me than I am in them.

I live in the Midwest, so don't have nearly as many of them as someone living in a warmer climate. My daughter lives in California, and she has had lizards in her garage and house before.

Even though they aren't harmful, I wouldn't handle seeing one in the house very well.


When we were on vacation in Florida, I had a hard time getting used to seeing all the lizards around.

If we were eating in an outside area, they were not shy at all and got too close for my comfort. We saw one lizard on the back of a chair, and no matter what we did to scare it away, it never moved.

We ended up moving to a different table because my daughter was scared it was going to jump on her. It is really kind of funny to think that a whole family picked up their stuff and moved to another table because of one small lizard.

The area we were eating in was surrounded by flowers and vegetation so I am sure that was one thing that was a draw for the lizards. I don't know much about lizards, but wonder if they would eat human food?


I have seen oriental garden lizards on my rosebushes before. They look very exotic, and their coloring reminds me of a parrot.

Though they turn different colors at various times of the year, I have seen them with mostly red heads and bodies, while their faces are light yellow, and their legs are black. At other times, they were mostly gray and brown.

I know that some people keep these as pets, but to me, they are much more interesting roaming about my garden. It's a pleasant surprise to find one as I'm weeding, and I know they are much happier when they are free to live in nature.


Lizards that can change color are really sneaky. I have some bright blue and pink garden ornaments, and I can't even tell that the lizards are on them until I get up close.

It startles me to see something bright blue separate itself from the ornament and dash away. It gives the illusion that the glass ball itself is suddenly falling apart.

I tried something one time to test a theory of mine. I figured that if the blue and pink balls were placed side by side and a lizard could stretch across both surfaces, it might be able to turn both blue and pink at once. This theory turned out to be true, and it made for an interesting photograph!


@lighth0se33 – I hate to see lizard tails lying around. I feel bad for the poor creatures who have lost them.

I have unknowingly run over lizards before in just the right location for them to shed their tails and escape. I know that this is a good quality to have, but it still saddens me to see a tail with no body, and vice versa.

I have cats that hang around my flower garden, and I have seen them out there swatting at lizards before. I know they are probably the reason I keep finding lizard tails around the base of my rosebushes.


There are some small gray lizards that hang out in my garden and carport. They move lightning fast, and my dogs love to chase them around.

I believe they are able to change colors. I have seen them on the soil, where they appeared brown, yet when they are hiding in my carport, they are as gray as the concrete.

At first, I thought these were two different types of lizard. After a gray one lost its tail in my carport, though, I saw the same tail-less lizard in my garden, sporting brown skin.

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    • Garden lizards seek out dry climates, such as deserts.
      By: surasaki
      Garden lizards seek out dry climates, such as deserts.
    • Many species of lizards may be referred to as garden lizards.
      By: Volodymyr Tsyba
      Many species of lizards may be referred to as garden lizards.