Living Walls & Vertical Gardens!

Phalaenopsis Orchids on a Living Wall

We recently completed a really fun install project for a great client. My favorite part of the design was creating 3 “living wall” panels along the entrance path. I love unique projects like this that stretch my creative problem solving and artistic muscles! It turned out beautifully and I hope to do more projects like this soon!

Living walls are a really gorgeous addition to the home landscape and can be made a bunch of different ways. Some walls are designed to hold soil and can grow a wide variety of plants. There is a good selection online of pre-made, living wall containers that can be fixed to any structure for an easy install. Living walls can also be done the DIY way with recycled materials like pallets and old fencing. 

Orchids, Tillandsias, Staghorn Fern & Pele’s Hair

Aside from being aesthetically beautiful, living walls can be used as a visual screen to block views or noise for privacy. They can improve the air quality of your home if used indoors. They can also help cool your home, balancing humidity levels and acting as a natural air conditioner. They can also be a great way to increase your gardening space if you only have a small area or don’t have access to good soil.

The panels we created were made of simple cedar lattice, anchored in the ground with 4”x 4” posts. I tied orchids, tillandsias, staghorn ferns, and other epiphytic plants to the lattice with sturdy hemp twine and tucked coconut husk fiber, orchid bark and some pieces of burlap around the roots of each one to help keep moisture where it’s needed. I left some empty space between each plant to allow for airflow and room to grow.

This Living Wall was built with cedar lattice & 4″x4″ posts.

If you would like to DIY your own living wall, here are a few tips to help you along the way:

  • Use untreated wood
    • Treated wood can sometimes harm the roots of sensitive plants and if you’re putting any edible plants in your living wall ( like strawberries or herbs) you don’t want to be eating those chemicals either.
  • Choose plants with similar light, water & fertilizer requirements
    • Succulents and orchids probably won’t be happy in the same planter together
    • Ferns, tillandsias & orchids are a great combo for a living wall in a shady, wetter area while succulents thrive with bright indirect light, out of the rain and with little water.
    • Herbs, veggies & flowers can all live well together in a living wall as well. Strawberries make a great choice for easy picking of the hanging fruits and herbs like oregano & thyme trail prettily out of their planters.
  • Make sure each plant is getting enough water
    • Vertical gardening requires a different approach to watering
    • Set up drip or mist irrigation to each section of your living wall or create pathways for water to travel down the wall, to each plant from irrigation above it.
    • If your vertical garden is indoors, consider watering it by hand and building it to collect unused water at the bottom to be emptied out. 
  • Think about lifespan
    • Here in the tropics things breakdown pretty quickly. All the heat & moisture is a recipe for decay. 
    • Depending on where a living wall is located, how much water, sun, and fertilizer it gets, its lifespan can vary greatly. Consider if this is something you can fix and upkeep or if it’s something that is designed to eventually break down and become part of the environment.
    • Choose your materials accordingly.
    • Cedar is a good choice for wood and plastic or metal can be used for a longer lifespan.
  • Get creative!
    • Try using recycled materials like old plastic bottles or aluminum cans
    • Turn an old chain link fence into a living wall!
    • Check Out some of these cool ideas here!
Living Walls as an entryway feature.
Written by Zoli, Senior Landscape Designer and Certified Arborist

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