By now, we’re getting tired of staring at our walls, and many of us long to add some colour, texture, and interest to our homes. Living plant walls–vertical gardens that hang on the wall–tick all these boxes.
First appearing several years ago in commercial, public, and institutional buildings, residential living walls have become increasingly popular lately. They can be compact or sprawl across an entire expanse, and they’re available at various price points and styles to suit any budget and lifestyle. You can go the DIY route, purchase a ready-made kit, or splurge for a custom work of art. When artificial greenery just won’t cut it anymore, here’s what you need to know about bringing nature indoors by incorporating a living plant wall in your house.
Living walls offer wellness benefits
In addition to punching up your décor, living walls provide positive benefits: a wall of 20 houseplants emits enough oxygen and moisture to purify the air, get rid of toxins, and absorb sound, says Tim Suddaby, chief designer and construction manager at Vertical Oxygen in Calgary, which he runs with his wife, Nathalie Callede, an interior landscape designer. The 11-year-old company specializes in living walls.
“Good health begins with the air we breathe, and living walls work really well to capture airborne chemicals and make the air more oxygen-rich,” says Suddaby. “Plants make us feel better, too. Just the aesthetic of seeing greenery has been proven fairly widely to uplift your mood.”
Go the DIY route
Whether you build your own frame from reclaimed wood, hang some angled plant trays, or string together a system of pockets, you can make your own living wall affordably with some know-how, landscaping fabric and plastic sheeting, and some potting soil. Be sure to watch a few tutorials to make sure you set up your system properly.
Buy a ready-made kit
A variety of self-watering living wall kits can be purchased online or at a local garden centre. They come in all sizes, even for the tiniest spaces. You can choose from systems including waterproof fabric pockets–which look like high-end hanging shoe organizers–or you can purchase a hydroponic system, which comes with a frame, a growing medium, micro plumbing, and drip irrigation. This type of living wall takes care of itself once you install a water pump and encase it in a cabinet. Water and plant nutrients filter down to feed the roots of your plants, which sit in a thick fabric.
Wall-mounted plant units are usually made of wood, metal, or terra cotta, and can be purchased for anywhere between $40 to $150.
Invest in a custom design for your space
Of course, like every other home improvement project, you get what you pay for, and you may want to invest in a splurge-worthy one-of-a-kind living wall, says Suddaby.
“Each hydroponic project we do is custom; we start with an open canvas–it’s a recycled, porous product from the green roof industry that’s extremely strong and it lets water through–and then we draw how the plants are going to be laid out,” he explains.
You can work with a designer to create your own living plant wall that not only fits your space, but also your budget.
Pop in the perfect plants
Suddaby says most tropical plants will work in a living wall, as long as you have good natural light or dedicated grow lights on a timer.
Some tropical plants, like pothos and philodendron, do especially well in this application, as do trailing plants, succulents, snake plants, ferns, peace lilies and spider plants. Vertical Oxygen recommends these 15 plants, which are especially efficient in cleaning the air.
The key is to group plants with similar light, water and care requirements. You can also plant edibles to make a living herb or salad wall!
Take good care of your living wall
Suddaby recommends regular maintenance such as trimming your plants every two weeks, removing any brown leaves, and making sure the water feeding your vertical water includes a small amount of fertilizer.
“You have to take care of it, or you’ll have problems like plant rot which turns to mold, or dying plants,” he says.
With some types of hanging gardens, you’ll want to take the plants out and clean your wall, and inspect for insects regularly, too.
Living walls create an instant focal point to elevate any décor, and with so many options, you can easily find the right one for your space.