Living wall plants

A sampling of planting ideas for a living wall

Vertical gardening is also referred to as planting living walls. Building up instead of out is turning into one of the more popular concepts in the world of gardening today. Creating a garden that climbs up the wall of a building or a solid fence, or constructing vertical panels covered with decorative plants offers opportunities to garden where gardens never went before. This landscaping technique is catching on to literally liven up dead surfaces, to increase insulation and to create lovely gardens in spaces ordinarily too small to sustain a typical flat garden. It’s a great way to turn a dull wall into something eye-caching, to absorb heat on a sunny vertical surface or to make the most of a limited vegetable garden space.

The living wall is an ecological way use otherwise wasted surfaces while adding natural temperature controls for heating and cooling structures. But vertical gardening is also very decorative. This kind of garden actually is built UP a wall with the surface designed to be planted. Water naturally drains downward with gravity. As a result there is little waste of water.

Vertical gardens are built from scratch or from kits. Or you can build a living wall yourself or have yours designed or constructed for you. There are many ways to design them. They can be built up supported by strong fencing (these structures are very heavy) attach to block, structural or retaining walls, or be created on independent panels used either indoors or outdoors. Usually they are formed of steps or tiered pockets that will form footings for the plants to grow. When grown up the wall of a building or other structure, it is important that there should be an efficient waterproof lining between the planting area and the supporting structure to keep water from seeping into walls. The living wall functions like a thick, insulating wall. There are construction and insulation similarities between the building of a green roof and the building of a vertical garden.

A few years ago these systems were new and hard to find. Now there are many modular kits on the market that you can assemble yourself. These are being sold in garden centers, big box stores and on the Internet, so you can choose you style and price range.  

Plastic plant forms

Forms for plants that can be used in one kind of vertical wall or a green roof.

Walls can be planted with exotic plants in protected areas, cascading colorful trailing flowers, lush green foliage, drought tolerant plants, or even vegetables and fruits. Imagine the decorative effect you can get from planting a living wall or think about picking a dangling strawberry, snapping off a few tasty beans or popping a cherry tomato into your mouth as you pass by your vertical garden. Or in our hot sun, you can now plant a sunny wall with a decorative wall hanging of sun-tolerant plants like succulents.

There are also fiber-constructed ‘pocket’ gardens that can be hung like a living tapestry. The watering system is made of tubing that waters each of the drainable fabric-like pocket that holds soil and a growing plant.

The concept of vertical gardening is not new and has been used for centuries by simply growing vines over a fence or trellising climbers up walls. Steep hillsides have been held in place by cast cement blocks or natural stone with the gaps planted so roots keep soil from leaking out while adding a decorative effect.

The difference of the new systems available now is that they tend to be modular and can be stacked or hung on a ninety-degree surface with root footings built in all the way up. This way many small plants can be planted close together, designs can be patterned into the flat surface, and even edibles like small-growing vegetables and fruits can be grown on the upright surface

If you have a small space that would benefit by being able to grow your garden upward, or if you want a beautiful, ecological wall for natural insulation, or if you just like the decorative idea of growing your own vertical garden or living wall, check into building a vertical garden or living wall.